Transitions – Saying Good Bye and Thank You

Desert Labyrinth

Labyrinth Connection © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
from an Irish headstone” ~ Richard Puz

Today my dear cousin and friend died unexpectedly.

Karen was the girl cousin closest to my age and we were fast friends from the time we were young children.

She loved her solitude in a way few people truly understand, and yet she was one of the most generous and kind people I have known.

Although she worked in a bank in the days of the first computers — computers that were so delicate they required special air controlled rooms, often were “down” for unknown reasons, and did surprisingly little compared to the smart phone we now routinely accept as a part of our lives — and she worked with computers when employed, she never herself owned a computer.

She didn’t have a Facebook account, she didn’t write emails, she didn’t have internet accounts. Her phone was just advanced enough to transmit photographs and send text, but she only did so on special occasions.

More typically she wrote letters, talked to her friends and family on the telephone, did her business with paper and pencil, checks and the post office.

My first vivid memory of her is not exactly a flattering memory for me, but I remember it in color and detail. And so I will share it.

I was nine years old; she was nearly twelve. Her family lived on the other side of the Mississippi River, thirty or so miles away from town, and so family visits were special, all day affairs. I was an only child, and so when I knew Karen was coming to town I would plan a day of activities, the kind of play that required two kids, not one. Often we would play our way through a pile of board games.

One October day, Karen and her family came for a visit. I had the pile of games ready. On the top of the pile was a less than classic game involving a cartoon character called Huckleberry Hound. I had the table set with the game board, in excited anticipation. But Karen didn’t want to play with me that day. All she wanted to do was hold my newborn sister. Oh, the pangs of jealousy flared their green eyes that day!

The novelty of a newborn didn’t last long, however, and we were soon the best of pals again.

Transition - A Desert Wisdom Card

Transitions © 2014 Bo Mackison

There are simply too many memories to recount, but they are preciously held in my memory. If I were to describe her, I would use words such as kind, generous, and always grateful for the little things in her life.

If I sent her a card with one of my photographs, she would send me a thank you note for the card. We exchanged letters, especially when she knew I was in Arizona and on my own.

When my grand-daughter was born, Karen shared in the excitement, and joyfully noted every sent photograph, not with a simple word of thanks, but a paragraph comparing father and daughter, a noted dimple, a funny expression.She would tell me how the photograph brightened a rather ordinary day.

This past week she was admitted to the hospital for tests. Nothing serious, she said. She asked for new photographs so she could show the nurses in the hospital a baby she’d never met, but nonetheless loved.

I sent new photos on Friday and we messaged back and forth.

This morning the call came. Karen’s heart had stopped and she could not be resuscitated.

This afternoon I walked a nearby labyrinth and said my goodbyes to Karen. The labyrinth was…a thin experience? I talked to Karen, not really talking to her, but I did say my goodbyes to her, shed more than a few tears. As I walked away, I felt a calming and a peace I have not felt for many a week.

Good bye, dear Karen. I miss you already. And thank you.



About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. I just lost a friend a week ago – I understand. So sorry for your loss, Bo.

  2. I’m so so sorry Bo for your loss. Hugging you tight. She’s always going to be close to you in your heart.

  3. We seem to be at that age where losing loved ones happens more and more often. Such a lovely tribute to a special lady, Bo. I know she’s enjoyed reading it, too. Love you.

  4. Karen was a delightful and generous person. She will be missed.


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