“The best people.” That’s what our friend Kevin called Karen and Steven. He didn’t just say that, he said, “You HAVE to meet Karen and Steven, they are the BEST people.” I was looking for some theatre advice for my aspiring actress, and Kevin said Karen was the person to know, she managed one of the busiest theaters in the region and she would be happy to help. I thought Kevin was being naive that this incredibly busy woman would have time to help someone she had never heard of but I was wrong.
Karen immediately posted my question to her hundreds of Facebook friends, and was warm and humble in the process. In the following years I saw her from a distance, before the start of shows at North Shore Music Theatre, welcoming the huge audiences.
When I was in the midst of creating the I Am More exhibits, I was looking for locations that would impact the most people. With nothing to lose, I emailed Karen my idea and she enthusiastically agreed to host. She didn’t just offer up the space, she got it, and she had ideas to offer.
When Covid-19 hit Massachusetts early last year it was fast, confusing and terrifying. While most of the country carried on normally, the Biogen super spreader event devastated our state. Dylan shared with us the news from Facebook that Karen and Steven had both been hospitalized with Covid. Then Steven was gone. His father was gone, and Karen was in the fight of her life in the ICU. Every day brought new updates from her sister. That was the pandemic for us.
Karen wrote about her relationship with Steven and their hospitalization in a piece for WBUR which you can read here. It is sweet and quirky, but what I wasn’t expecting was what happened when she came out of her coma:
When I woke up my sister said to me, “You know, KK, I’m never going to lie to you.” And I said, “I know that.” And she said, “Steven didn’t make it.” And I said, “I know that.” And she said, “Well, how do you know?” And I said, “Because he was with me the whole time I was in the coma.”WBUR Cognoscenti FacesOfCovid
This winter I was dozing in a chair when a thought literally shook me out of my stupor. You have to do a portrait of Steven for Karen. I began scouring the web for photos and in the process did a virtual tour of their life together. I found what I was looking for. This week I finished my time with Steven and told Karen I had something for her. We scheduled an outside rendezvous and as I drove to our meeting I thought, What the hell am I doing??! What right do I have? What if she’s horrified? What if I’ve invaded her privacy?
But Karen is one of the “Best people.” It was the first time I had seen her in person, bundled up and masked, and she could not have put me more at ease. She shared with me some of her experiences, asked about my family and followed my instructions to open her package at home. It turns out the image I chose was at their “favorite spot in the world.”
Dylan opened up Facebook tonight and saw this: