Kari's Family's Letter
October 27, 2001
Dear Steve and Laura Lung,
This letter is way over due, and for that we apologize. We think about you often and hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits. I truly believe that until we worked through some of our grief and came to terms with our new way of life we just couldn't write. We have all been on quite a roller coaster ride this past year and a half. One that seems to never end, yet one that seems to get a little easier with everyday. We have read and reread your letter a million times. It has given us great strength to move forward and has eased our pain tremendously. We are so grateful that you took the time to write us about your illness and miraculous recovery. A recovery we all expected based on the high quality organs you received!! (We may be a bit biased). Your letter meant everything to us as we struggled to understand the cards we'd been dealt.
We live in a small rural community in North Central Iowa with a population of about 6,000. We have lived here all our lives. It is a wonderful community to live and raise children in. We are a very tight knit family and always have been. This is one of the foundations holding us together and helping us through this ordeal.
We were a family of four, with two beautiful daughters! It was as if our life was so perfect, so much we had taken for granted but didn't realize it until it was too late. Kari our youngest daughter is your donor. She was seventeen and a junior in high school when she brought her big smile into your life. Kari was a bright, beautiful young lady who truly enjoyed everything life had to offer. One would have never guessed that anything was to go wrong. She was as healthy as a horse! Kari kept very active, in fact she had been out running with a friend the day before she passed away. She was attempting to stay in shape and train for the volleyball season to come in the fall. Volleyball was the love of her life and she was very good at it!! She was a very powerful middle hitter, we would say that she was the leading role on the team. Kari wore the number 13, which has now been retired and her jersey buried with her. She was 5'9 and weighed about 150. She had a short torso and long skinny legs that seemed never ending. By her junior year she had given up all other sports except volleyball, but remained extremely active in other activities. Kari played the French Horn in the band, sang in the choir, dabbled in mock trial, either played in the pit bands or performed in the school plays, and worked at a local pizza establishment. She was a member of the National Honor Society and took great pride in being ranked academically in the top 10% of her class. School came very easy to Kari.
She excelled in math and the sciences but wouldn't admit that she liked any of them. Although she was very busy the majority of the time Kari had a side to her that said, "I'm going to be a pile today!" She loved to sit, watch TV, and munch. Kari had been teaching herself to knit at the time of her death.
Kari was a very unique individual. She was very head strong, a trait she obtained from her dad. She seldom buckled to peer pressure and wasn't afraid to speak up for what she believed in. Kari had a definite ornery side to her! Oh how she loved to pick on me! At times she would drive me nuts, but now I long for her to pick on me again. She was very quick with verbal exchange and always got the last word in .
Kari had a lot of friends. She wasn't one to hangout with just one or two people, she spread her fun loving attitude among many. Which we saw to be true at her funeral as over 700 people were in attendance. Every pew in the church was full. They had people sitting in the basement watching the service on a television. One of the things we learned about Kari from all the people that came through the funeral home was that she always had a smile on her face, one they said they would never forget. We received over 125 flower arrangements for the funeral which left the church with a wonderful aroma. Kari would have been in awe to know that she had influenced so many peoples lives.
Kari had a special boyfriend that she spent most of her spare time with. They had been going together since the eighth grade and had become the very best of friends. They shared everything and helped keep each other on the right track. He has since stayed very close with our family and Alyssa has adopted him as her new little brother .
Kari and her older sister Alyssa had a beautiful relationship. They weren't like most ordinary siblings because they almost always got along. In fact I can't even remember them fighting. Alyssa always mothered Kari and was always there for her whenever the need arose. I remember Kari saying after Alyssa went to college that you just don't appreciate what you have until it's gone. She was so right!! Our girls were as different as night and day. Kari was more of a spur of the moment kind of girl. Where Alyssa is very organized and always plans things. We had always talked that if we could give a little of Alyssa's strong points to Kari and vice versa that we would have the perfect kids!
Kari died very suddenly Friday April 7, of a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. It was the day before her junior prom. When the doctor came in to ask us if we would consider being organ donors we all new what Kari wanted. She felt very strongly about organ donation and had let us all know which made it very easy for us to donate. It was like she had the whole thing set up. About a month or so before she died we had had a conversation at the supper table on the topic of organ donation and she was very verbal about how she felt. Her main point was, "Why wouldn't you give someone else a chance to live if you couldn't anymore!!" It seemed so logical coming out of her mouth. I guess it took our seventeen year old daughter to teach us about giving selflessly to others. Kari had also talked to Alyssa about organ donation not too long before she passed away. They had been looking at each other's drivers licenses and Kari jumped all over Lys because she didn't have it marked on hers!! She was an incredible little girl but I'm sure I don't have to tell you that. You wouldn't believe how many people have come up to us since Kari's death to say that they have changed their drivers license and talked to their family about being an organ donor. You truly got a gift from Kari, and she would be so proud to know that she has done such a wonderful thing for you. Giving you back the quality of life you went so long without. We are so happy that you are taking good care of your new lungs and treasuring every new opportunity that comes knocking at your door. We hope that in this letter we have given Kari the justice she truly deserves. Wishing that you could have known her, I hope we have given you an idea of what she was like. We as a family would love to hear from you again. If you would like to email or talk on the phone, we are ready for any of them. Just let us know.
Again thank you so much for writing us and we hope you are feeling terrific and enjoying each and everyday. Take care and God be with you.
Larry, Lisa, and Alyssa