Let the (telling of the) Celebration Begin

I promised to share more about the Celebration of Life we had for Karyn. Thankfully, I didn’t promise when I would do this. Time has gotten away from me, as it is wont to do.

Part of the delay can be attributed to a glorious vacation the kids and I are finishing up. We get home today from a week+ in Mexico. Surfing, stand up paddle boarding, boogie boarding, body surfing, snorkeling… we’re growing gills.

The other part of the delay can be blamed on laziness, distractions and maybe just a little “grief lethargy” (assuming that’s a thing).

Excuses aside, here (finally) is the first installment in a series of posts focused on the Celebration. I initially thought we’d just have a party at our house, but wiser folks suggested doing something slightly more formal where people could actually hear stories shared by loved ones would be good. So, we rented a nearby facility that seated 100. We soon realized we needed more room than that and changed it to an outdoor space that would hold more than double that — way more than enough.

Not quite.

We were over-capacity, with the great staff there finding extra chairs and quickly bringing them under the tent providing shade on a beautiful Northern California afternoon. Once (most) everyone was seated, my brother kicked things off:

I’m Chris Wilder, Brother of Todd Wilder and therefore Brother-in-Law to Karyn Kantola Wilder. Todd asked me if I would take this on today, and though I am not a clergyman, I am sort of a minister* and will be administrating and facilitating this remembrance and celebration of Karyn.

Now, something Karyn was clear about, according to my brother, was that she didn’t necessarily want this sort of fuss. She said she didn’t need some big ceremony, with hundreds of people coming together from all around the country. [note, there are hundreds of people in attendance from all around the country].


So what if I start by doing what she wanted, and talking not about Karyn, but instead, talking about all of YOU.

You are here. Some of you drove four miles. Some of you drove 400. Some of you flew four thousand. Many of you love Karyn and Todd and their children Lucia and Beckett and have for decades. Many of you worked with Karyn, or with Todd, or your kids know their kids, or you were moved over the last three-plus years by Karyn’s journey and her strength and her words. A few of you wandered in because you heard there’d be free wine.

And you were right! But whether you have known Karyn for forty years, or Todd for that long, or Jack and Mary, Karyn’s parents, or Beckett and Lucia, or for even a fraction of that time there is something that connects us all very deeply.

You are here because you care. You care. And you can’t even say Karyn without care! [laughter and groans, apologies for bad joke]

So anyway, Karyn is on record as saying to Todd at some point last year, ‘It’s really up to you all what you do if and when the time comes – do what you want, it’s fine with me…I’ll be gone.’

But have you ever heard the word “ubuntu”? It’s an African word, a Zulu word that means “I am, because you are.” All that makes me, is formed by and found in everyone around me.

So when Karyn said “fine with me, I’ll be gone,” well that’s just it. Karyn isn’t gone. She isn’t gone because you are here.

You are here.

Thank you.


* – Editor’s Note: See the back of any Rolling Stone magazine for a fuller definition of “minister” used in this regard.

10 thoughts on “Let the (telling of the) Celebration Begin

  1. So true!! Karyn’s determination against all odds, her awesome/profound/encouraging response, sometimes provided in proxy by Todd, goes on – Praise the Lord!! Glad you and the kids had a great vacation!

  2. Pingback: The Celebration Continues (Pt. 2) | everydayleft

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