When I arrived at BYU 12 years ago as an 18-year old freshman, I quickly made friends with the girls across the hall, Karly and Melissa. Karly was a spunky, radiant personality, brimming with entertaining stories of growing up in California and willing to do just about anything to have a good time. Melissa was quite a bit more reserved - she didn't open up quite as willingly as Karly. At first I thought the two of them wouldn't mesh well as roommates but time proved me wrong. Karly was just the right person to bring out Melissa's silly side (which I now know comes out quite often and easily). As the year passed, I became better and better friends with them, and another floormate, Eden. And when our sophomore year started, the four of us moved into an apartment together.
That next year, combined with my freshman year, were remarkable. When I look back on all the fun, crazy stuff I did in college, it was with those girls. They epitomize to me what a great college roommate experience should be like - free of drama, pettiness, and comparisons. We were just four girls who loved to spend time together. And Karly seemed to be the glue that brought us all together. She was often the instigator of our activities, would make sure we had apartment prayer every day, and was always meeting new friends to help the rest of us be more social. We even had roommate pictures taken to hang up in our apartment. She was so fun-loving, warm, and friendly that people were instantly drawn to her.
After our sophomore year, I spent the summer studying abroad in London, Eden stayed in Provo and prepared for a mission, and Karly and Melissa returned to their homes in California and Nebraska. Once I returned from England, I drove to Utah to surprise Eden for her 21st birthday - and Karly and Melissa also surprised her by flying in. Looking back, I could have never guessed how much that weekend would come to mean to me.
About two weeks later when I was back home in Ontario, I got a call from Eden, who informed me that Karly had been in a car accident and, together with her brother, had died. The following days were a blur of emotions. My family tried to console me, but sadly, I felt the need to get away and to be with others who were grieving. I returned to Utah a few weeks before the fall semester began, traveled to California for the funeral, and took the first steps in the grieving process.
It seemed hard for people to understand, and for me to convey, how much I was hurting. Some people may have thought that Karly's death shook me up a little too much, considering that she was a friend and not family. But death is always hard, even with faith and even with hope. I knew that death wasn't the end, that she was happy, etc, but it didn't change the fact that I wouldn't get to see her again. Eden, Melissa, and I spent a lot of time together, reminiscing. It helped being with people who were going through the same thing.
Then Eden left on her mission. I wondered how she could go. Emotionally, I was still a mess. I had been thinking of a mission for months, but in the midst of my grief my plans had been put on hold. During the rest of the fall semester of my junior year, I always considered a mission, but the thought of actually doing it was terrifying.
As with all things, with time I healed. I missed Karly still, but the sting of death slowly began to lift. And as it did I found myself with a desire to serve a mission. It quite literally snuck up on me. One day I called my sister to tell her that I wasn't going on a mission, and the next day I called her back saying that I was ready. So Karly is partially to blame for me finally deciding to serve a mission.
Throughout the whole experience I never found myself asking, "Why did this happen to Karly?" I have always believed that life gives us whatever happens to come our way - that God doesn't necessarily plan every portion of our lives. I believe He lets things take their natural course and chain of events. But I also know that He has the power to change the natural course of events if He so desires. Hence, a miracle. So instead of asking "why," I instead asked, "Why not? Why not a miracle that day? Why not wake up Karly's mother or father to see that Karly's brother was asleep at the wheel?" It was hard. A hard lesson to learn. That God is God and that miracles are in His control at the end of the day. That for whatever reason, He chose to let things take their natural course that day and not stop the accident from happening. I didn't need to know the reason He didn't stop it. It wouldn't change the fact that I missed her, and that I miss her still. It only increased my faith that He is in control and aware of us. It is odd that the lack of miracle improved my faith and relationship with Him.
Today marks 10 years since she and her brother Eddie died - a whole decade - 1/3 of my entire life so far. So much in my life has changed. I often wonder where Karly would be if she were still here. Melissa, Eden, and I have remained closer that I think we would have otherwise - our shared experience is something that is difficult to explain to others. I always think of Karly's family on August 17th, wishing that I could be with them to remember Karly's funny quirks, sayings, and stories.
I write all of this mostly for myself, to remember what I felt and what I learned. Because I know as the years go by I'll forget more and more. And these are feelings and lessons I need to remember. But all this writing will never articulate everything I felt and continue to feel. Death is hard, no matter how strong someone's faith is. And faith can always be strengthened by the lessons we learn from death. I gained a greater testimony of the resurrection, one of my favorite verses becoming Mosiah 16:8 - "But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ."