My dear friend and “sister” Karla Cooper Barbrey went home to her mountain yesterday.
It’s funny how people find their way into your life and you don’t realize at the time the impact they will make. That’s Karla. Little did I know how much she would come to mean to me when she first friended me on Facebook.
Karla had a severe back injury. She lived every day in intractable pain, taking high doses of painkillers just to get through the day. She hated taking them because they dulled her thinking and creativity. She loved to write poetry and stories, but she’d complain that the drugs made it difficult for her to do what she loved.
She had a close connection to Colorado because of a mysterious mountain. You see, Karla had a poster of a mountain. When times were tough, she’d stare at that poster and imagine what it would be like to be there, not knowing what or where it was or if it even really existed.
Every day, Karla dreamed of being on her mountain, even though she had no idea what mountain it actually was. One day a friend on Facebook recognized it and identified it as Pikes Peak in Colorado. Karla was so excited to finally know that her mountain was a real place that she might actually visit someday.
In the spring of 2012, Karla made her way to Colorado to see her mountain for herself, up close and personal. She came alone because her husband wasn’t able to get away from work to accompany her. That may not seem like a big deal until you realize that Karla had never ventured far from her little town in South Carolina. She’d never flown on an airplane. And she’d certainly never done anything like this alone. But she was brave and determined not to let her disability interfere with her dream. So she came.
If I was in her situation, I wonder, could I have done that? Could I have been so brave? I’m not so sure.
Although it was exhausting, Karla had a wonderful time in Colorado. She saw buffalo and deer. Her friend Deb took her to The Fort where she got to meet a “real” mountain man! Best of all, she rode the Cog Rail all the way to the top of Pikes Peak! She did it! She was there! Her mountain was “for real.”
I finally met Karla face-to-face the day before she returned to South Carolina. Up until then, we only knew each other from Facebook and a few phone calls. Deb brought her to a little restaurant called Sunrise Sunset so we could meet. The three of us talked and laughed and hugged like we’d been sisters forever! It was a very happy day!
Karla was loving and giving. She always had a dozen or more projects going at the same time. She knitted and crocheted and quilted, always a gift for someone else. Of all the things she made for me, I’m so grateful for the wrap she crocheted. She called it my “hug.”
Karla suffered every day. She was kind and courageous and forgiving in ways I can only hope to be. But she called me her hero. Whenever I felt that I wasn’t getting through or I was doubting my own strength, I could always count on Karla for encouragement. I’ll miss her voice telling me in her slow Southern drawl, “Aw Sis. You done good!” Oh how I long to hear that now.
Every day I worried about Karla. I wanted her to have legal access to medical marijuana in her state of South Carolina so badly! I knew that if she could augment her treatment with cannabis, she could reduce the amount of painkillers she was taking. Medical marijuana could give her some of her life back, without potentially-lethal side-effects.
The governor of South Carolina recently signed a high-CBD law. When I told Karla that this law wouldn’t help her because she needed THC too, her response was simple. “It’s a start.” She was always hopeful.
Even though Karla’s no longer in pain, I still want South Carolina to pass a real medical marijuana law, not one that only helps a very select group, so that others in SC won’t have to suffer like my dear Karla did. I will continue to fight for Karla, and all those suffering because they can’t get legal access to the benefits of cannabis.
Karla is one of the most beautiful souls I have encountered in this life. She has been and will continue to be my inspiration. I strive to be more like her. More loving. More kind. More courageous. More creative. More accepting. She will live on in my heart and in the hearts of more people than she realized.
I worry about her husband David. He has a rough road ahead. Karla was the love of his life. So we’ve taken him into our hearts as a brother and wrapped him in our love. I look forward to the day he comes to visit Colorado so he can experience the beauty and the mountain that was so important to his bride.
So hold your loved ones close. Appreciate their presence in your life. Never miss an opportunity to tell them you love them. Life can change in an instant.
I love you Karla. Thank you for being my Southern Sister. You will NEVER be forgotten.