We shall steer safely through every storm, so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God. -St. Francis de Sales
This is a recent photo of my treasured friend, Karen Volpe, with her youngest son, Mitchell, who is a recent engineering grad from (my alma mater) Purdue University. You can see she’s beaming with pride here, as well she should.
You see, Mitchell is incredibly bright, independent, respectful and kind. He shares those same qualities with his stunningly beautiful sister Sam as well as his oldest brother, William. All three of the Volpe children are truly some of the most well-adjusted, loving and terrific young people I have the pleasure of knowing. I credit their mother, but how she was able to accomplish the task of raising young people like these is just one of literally thousands of examples of her unrivaled courage and faithfulness in my life.
Defining Karen by the fact that she is quite literally a professional patient would be utterly unfair. That is a prominent fact in her life, though. You see, when Mitchell was in kindergarten, she was diagnosed for the first time with leukemia. In the past nearly 20 years, she has endured multiple bone marrow transplants, cancer surgeries on parts of the body I barely knew existed, lumbar punctures out the ying-yang, chemotherapy, radiation, scans and tests of every variety ad nauseum….I could write more on this and you would simply not believe me that one person could undergo such extensive physical and emotional trials and still be smiling over there on Garden Gate Way, but she is indeed. Her handsome husband, Mark, is damn fine human being as well and I don’t want to neglect saying so.
In her presence, I truly feel as though I am sitting with a living saint. Her wisdom, guidance and advice on everything from dealing with suffering to why one might consider ordering McDonalds french fries without the salt (they’ll be forced to make a new, piping hot batch, ha!) is without a match for me. Her parenting guidance makes me laugh and it makes me cry. She’s unafraid of offering fraternal correction to any doctor or nurse who isn’t treating her (or her fellow patients) with compassion. She’s even more generous in praise of those who are clearly working hard to glorify God in what they do. She’s the one who taught me to notice the drive through gal, the janitor, and the quiet child sitting by herself….by her own witness.
Once, I questioned her on why she felt it was a good idea to keep her daughter home to make candy during the holidays. She said “how can it NOT be a good idea to spend the day with your mom and grandma? This is more important than math today.” How true.
We were long time carpool partners. When she was the pick up person, the school office complained that she always came late. She wasn’t late by much, simply a few minutes. But by the time she arrived, the long line of cars had gone. The school asked me to speak to her. I told them, “Well, you’ll need to take that up with Karen.” I knew well that they would not. Her thoughts were this. You see, time is valuable. The children should wait for me, I should not wait for them”. No child in her carpool care ever complained, by the way. Kids knew chances were pretty solid they were getting an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen on the days Mrs. Volpe was feeling up to carpool duty.
I’m a rule follower and she has often challenged me to see the big picture and live life more fully.
She has taught me that everyday we should make an intentional effort to do something which glorifies God, because tomorrow isn’t promised. Also, her words are spoken so articulately and with such love that I often feel as if Christ himself is speaking them through her. That’s quite a feat considering she’s a Buckeye. Ha?
Karen Volpe is a petite woman in very fragile health if you simply glance. If you look a little closer? You’ll discover she’s a spiritual giant, with a quick Irish wit, and the most fierce warrior I have ever encountered.
I can’t begin to do her justice in a few paragraphs, but today I needed to try. I LOVE YOU, KAREN. Just thank you… for showing me what God means us to be. I am praying for you always.