11 years ago today, my mother placed a phone call to me I didn’t want to receive.

My father was too weak to get out of bed, she said. And needed an oxygen tank to breathe.

I knew what this meant. His lung cancer had progressed. The end was near.

While on the phone with my mother, Nina Dessart, my trusty and trusted co-worker, over heard my call and began an online search for a flight to Providence that day.

As soon as I finished talking to my mother, I phoned Peg to tell her my dad’s health had taken a turn for the worse. She too quickly began searching for a ticket.

I paced the floor, unable to focus. Unable to map out a work plan for Nina that would encompass the days ahead. Nina had only begun working at Agape a few weeks before. New to the Foundation but not new to working with me or to working hard. She would have to cope because I couldn’t.

Peg and Nina found me seats on a red eye flight to Providence. But leaving from Oakland. How would I get there? We didn’t have a car. And I didn’t think I had the strength to endure the multi-step public transit process.

Our good friend Anne Jenkins stepped in, offering the much-needed late night ride.

Once the flight arrangements were made, I phoned my mother to tell her I would arrive the next morning. She wept with joy and sorrow.

I left my office to go home and pack, not knowing when I would return. Only knowing the journey would be long and painful.

Packing took all afternoon. I sank under the weight of making the simplest of decisions.

I kept focusing on the prospect of losing my father. Of never seeing him again. Of never hearing his voice again.

Peg arrived home to find me paralyzed amidst a pile of clothes and an unpacked suitcase. She made us dinner and finished my packing.

Later on that night, Anne picked up Peg and me for the drive to the airport. Anne distracted our attention with stories that made us laugh for a moment or two.

My dad lived for another 10 days. 10 days I will always treasure.

Thank you Anne, Nina and Peg for moving with compassion and lightening speed when I couldn’t move at all.





  1. Karen,
    Thank you for the meaningful story of your father. I am writing as I am trying to connect with Nina Dessart. A number of years ago I worked for her father in Valley Cottage, NY, enjoying getting to know him and Nina as well. I’d read that he passed away last year, and wanted to express my condolences. Nina might remember me as the guy who almost killed her plant when moving to NY. Could you send me email to her? It is bryonlinebutler@gmail.com
    Many Thanks,
    Bryon Butler

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