This past Saturday, many in the community of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett as well as many others beyond our community gathered to celebrate the life of Karl Adams. As I drove toward the church, I pondered my own thoughts and feelings about Karl. What I ended up saying in my own mind and heart were most often the things that I heard other people say during the nearly 2 hour service.
I want to be like Karl. I was never jealous of Karl, nor did I envy him the way one might someone who had great power or influence or money. I most often found myself engaging in work or conversation with Karl, or watching him do that with others–and then I would walk away with what I can only describe as a full body smile. I want to be like that. I want to be open, genuine, cheerful, positive, listening, attending to and giving attention to what matters in the great energy exchange called human relationships. Karl did those things.
I want to embody compassion in my speaking and doing. I want to embody some genuine sense of love so that being around people, working with people, serving people, they know that in our relating, they are honored, they are accepted just the way they are, they and their presence and essence are welcome, and they are in the very best sense, loved. Karl did that. Karl was that.
No one would pretend that Karl was perfect, so none of this should be mistaken for the over-praising of one of our community who is now gone. What is true is that he is gone from us, physically, and we miss him deeply because of the kind of genuine human being that he was. And this. Karl was the last person who would attempt to argue about religious things, especially the topic of God. In these matters, he was a deep listener, but here is what I saw in him over and over again. If there is a God or Goddess or any sense of the divine, we only are able to know it and experience it in this human life through our relationships with one another. This wonderful human being who rarely spoke of the Divine ushered that experience into every life he touched. I want to be like that.
I don’t want to be Karl. No one could be. He was this unique gift to us all who knew him even a little bit. I now know him as a mentor in life, in living, in loving. I am not alone. He conducted, without possibly ever thinking of it like this, a living classroom in belonging. Our friend, exemplar and teacher has finished his work among us. Life awaits us this day. We have much to do in the world, and we who knew Karl have been given a beautiful example to follow.