Little did I know that the scholarship meeting at my church would produce a gift that I would come to love and ultimately find priceless. At this meeting, I met a young woman, Karla Denyce Smith. She had recently moved to the DC area and we were attending the same church but different services. This meeting brought us together.
After talking for a while to each other, we realized a mutual friend had told both of us to contact the other. But until this meeting, neither of us had- each busy settling into new jobs. After our meeting concluded, we decided to go to brunch and continue getting acquainted. And that became our Sunday routine for years- church and then brunch. We had so much in common- only children whose fathers were deceased; close relationship with our mothers whom we cherished; active members of the A.M.E. church since children; earned doctoral degrees (Ph.D. and J.D.); committed to serving; loved to eat out, shop and travel; both single and never married.
I became the “big sister” and we did life together- professional growth, faith building, matters of the heart, social activities, holidays, and community service. We each stood by the other at our weddings.
Then one day we started down an unchartered path together. Karla was diagnosed with cancer. There was surgery and chemo. There was good news… remission. Then there was recurrence … radiation … more chemo. Through it all, Karla continued to ‘smile’ and maintain her positive attitude. During our last visit together, she said, “Just because you are sick, you don’t have to look sick.” And she didn’t. No one would know just by looking at Karla that she was fighting for her life.
This weekend was one of my most difficult. I had to say “see you later” to my dearest friend of 35 years. When I think of Karla, I think of a friend whose spirit was kind, caring, generous, and loving. When I close my eyes, the image I have of Karla is one of beauty, grace, professionalism, and excellence. When I reflect on what I know about Karla, I know that God was the head of her life and in Him she trusted. I know she had found her soul mate, Byron Fuller, and loved doing life with him. I know family was important and always at the Center of her life. I know she gave unselfishly to all that she committed to… her church, sorority, professional associations, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Links, Incorporated. I know that she never failed to reach back and lift others up or reach out, cheer, and encourage others forward. I know she ran her race well, never gave up and faced her challenges with a positive outlook. Karla lived life to the fullest. Through my tears, I was able to smile, know that all is well, and one day Karla and I will get to spend more time together in our heavenly home with our Father.
Karla’s friendship became a priceless gift!