Karrlin Field's life is about more than the contoured outlines of time and location and event. It is about her unique spirit. It is about her calm courage and the deep understanding that life forced upon her. It is about the act of will that let kindness, joy, and love rule her universe, and ours. How else to explain a subtle and intense phrase like the following:
Karrli's life was a deep pool. Like the tides, it drew its power from the sun and the moon. How awesome is the power that compels humans to express the tidal waves of their souls in art. How fortunate we are that Karrli chose to write, and to write, and to write. She typed on her laptop, she wrote in her notebooks, she created small masterpieces of poetry on scraps of paper. She was inspired by life and felt an urgent need to create and record and to comment. Some of her writings are brilliant, satiric, sardonic. Others border on the unreadably intense. Above this churning sea float the simple outlines of a life, a few moments of which are presented here.
Karrlin Field was born on March 19, 1987 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. The day she was born, her mother managed at the last minute to have a local teenager babysit Karrli's two older sisters: Lyndsay age 4, and Hailley age 3. The sitter was surprised when the mother, distracted by the early stages of labor, gave the children frozen peas to snack on as she rushed out the door. Karrli was at the center of comical and long-remembered family events even before she was born.
Like riding the waves of the sea, her parents drove to Bryn Mawr Hospital over winding and steeply hilly roads as the contractions intensified, and seemed to become in sync with the rising and falling of the car. The night Karrli was born, President Ronald Reagan was giving a news conference on the television. In a sign of Karrli's comic genius to come, just as Karrli's mother was about to give birth, a casual acquaintance, also in intense last-stage labor, was being wheeled along the same corridor in the hospital. The two grunting mothers-to-be could not believe they were suddenly in a quasi-social situation that would normally require polite chit chat, along the lines of "How are you? Lovely to see you!" The attending doctor was easygoing and dressed in golf slacks. He gently told Karrli's mother to be less vocal in her labor, lest she "wake up the whole hospital." The silly but endearing details that are the story of Karrli's birth would always be told with joy and laughter.
Karrli attended Sugartown Elementary School in Malvern, Pennsylvania. As the third and youngest child, many of the teachers knew her older sisters and her parents. She was raised in a loving community. She participated in the school shows, chorus events, and pageants. She had birthday parties. She loved dogs and even though her condition meant she could not have a dog of her own, somehow divine providence always provided neighbors with dogs. Snapshots and videos were often taken.
Karrli's mother was gifted at many arts, especially costumes. Homemade Halloween costumes were the norm: a dalmation puppy spotted from head to foot; a kid transfored into an enormous Ticonderoga pencil; a prize-fighting hero with a cape. Her mother also helped create the Halloween Haunted Hayrides at a local farm that had pick-your-own pumpkins. Karrli loved the haunted hayrides. One year she had to be in the hospital at Halloween and the ride was video taped for her. Karrli loved that farm and her friends who lived there. She once found a deer antler there lying in the field. One of her last and fun weekends, and the last video taken of her, was riding with her mother and her sister Lyndsay on the Sugartown Strawberries hay wagon in the Willistown Township Fourth of July Parade, held on July 3, 2004. Karrli helped her mother decorate. A treasured photo shows her in the hay wagon with one of the farm dogs, Rebel.
Theme birthday parties were imaginative. Jungle theme. Maze-theme. Pony rides.
Occasional hospital stays to keep the cystic fibrosis lung infections under control were part of her life. Usually about two weeks. Later, usually three or four weeks. With luck, these hospitalizations occurred only about once a year. Later about every six months. Sometimes more often. Lots of daily lung treatments and lots of pills. Not a normal life, but a life as normal as possible.
Karrli lived in Willistown, Pennsylvania, amidst forest and stream, local wildlife including deer and foxes she would call by name; squirrels, birds, and minnows and crawfish she would catch with a net in her own flowing stream. Karrli once thought of names for an entire fox family, including "Half-tail" whose name needed no further explanation. There were also domestic animals, roaming cats, and local wandering neighbors' dogs who might want a snack. Karrli's neighbors raised Jack Russell Terriers and that connection provided Karrli with much happiness for years. She showed the dogs and won ribbons. She helped with the races and other agility events. Karrli had a special love of wolves. She collected wolf stuffed animals and toys and furnishings. She made a trip to Wolf Haven near Olympia, Washington when she was 7 years old. She adopted a wolf at that sanctuary. She and her mother drove a Ford Mustang convertible on the Pacific Ocean beaches of Washington State. She studied wolf behavior. She wrote an illustrated book about wolves that was donated to the library at Wolf Haven. She applied her knowledge of wolves to the dogs she knew. As a child she would playfully howl. Her family was her wolf pack.
Karrli attended General Wayne Middle School. She later attended Great Valley High School.
Karrli loved athletics. She tried out for the girl's softball league and was a great hitter. Karrli was tall, lean, and strong. Later in middle school Karrli played soccer. Her height and agility made her a great goalie. In one memorable game, she had several diving stops. In high school, Karrli joined the track team as a javelin thrower. She loved athletics and was bitterly disappointed when a lengthy stay in the hospital of several weeks interfered with her ability to participate. Karrli also enjoyed attending sporting events. Phillies games and the Philly Phanatic. Wilmington Blue Rocks games and their mascots Rocky the Moose, and "Mister Celery." Karrli loved football and the Philadelphia Eagles. She managed to get to one Eagles game at the Vet. She loved watching Eagles games on television with her dad, planning a careful special menu of roast peanuts salted in the shell, hot wings, Monterey jack cheese sticks. The year she died is the season the Eagles finally made it to the Super Bowl. She would have loved that.
Karrli loved her sisters. She loved going to plays and musicals at the middle school and high school that her sister Hailley participated in. She loved traveling to visit her sisters when they went to college. Her sisters called her "Monk", short for monkey. More comedy as she resembled a graceful gazelle more than a monkey. But she was so cute!
Karrli could wiggle her ears, and if we begged enough to see this natural wonder, would reluctantly, though with a smile, demonstrate this unique skill, though she would roll her eyes when the display generated the expected reaction of giggles and delight. Her "signature" look was to raise one eyebrow in a perfectly quizzical yet skeptical teenage manner. She had the taste to reserve such impressive displays of impish character for only the most appropriate situations.
In younger years she happily answered to the affectionate description "wee scamp."
Karrli loved family trips to anywhere. Numerous family day trips in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York. Vacations to Gloucester, Massachusetts; Niagara Falls, Canada. She loved staying in hotel rooms. She loved boat rides, whale watching in Massachusetts, and going fishing for cod in Massachusetts or off the coast of New Jersey with her mother. She loved canoeing on the Brandywine River. Despite the difficulties in sleepovers due to the medical treatments she needed, she attended camp a few times with school or with the YMCA Indian Princess organization for dads and daughters. She loved the outdoors and had field guides to birds, guides to mammals, guides to plants, and could identify them all. Her Indian Princess name was "Jumping Squirrel." In younger years a favorite television tape was a BBC show where people constructed an obstacle course for squirrels in their back yards. Karrli constructed a squirrel obstacle course at her home, using corn on the cob as the squirrel's reward. Karrli had an ability to connect with all animals, and the squirrels were soon coming to the back door to visit her.
Karrli always had wonderful neighbors whom she loved like an extended family.
Karrli loved the food her mother cooked for her. She loved birthday dinners at Red Lobster, and loved lobster, especially in Massachusetts, and especially at a dock-side shack in Rockport where fresh-steamed whole lobsters are served up on a paper plate like some sort of lobster-McDonald's. She loved sushi and sashimi, especially yellow tail tuna. She was thrilled to eat at Morimoto's in Philadelphia, and treasured a photo of her with the Iron Chef himself, Morimoto. She loved the Iron Chef television show. The last photo ever taken of her, a month before she passed away, was at a sushi restaurant, taken by her sister Hailley with a cell phone camera.
Karrli liked snacks like beef jerky, candy like Star-burst, visits to Hershey Park and roller coaster rides that went upside down over and over. Karrli liked the local Firemen's Carnival in Malvern and once got stuck at the top of the ferris wheel during a sudden rain storm one summer night but didn't mind: the lights were beautiful, the rain was warm, the sky was glowing with distant thunder and lightning, and life was beautiful that summer evening, suspended above the earth in mid-air free from gravity itself.
Karrli thought hard about giving the perfect gift. She gave her father the complete recordings of Dylan Thomas reciting his poetry. She made Mother's day cards either using cute computer graphics, or by hand drawing her funny cartoon characters. She was careful to include "company" names on the back of her homemade cards, for example "Squirrel Inc." and "Tough Luv Inc." She always had an eye towards using her creativity in a business way. She also wasn't above giving perfect joke gifts, like the plastic squeaking doggie chew toys in the shape of a pork chop and a hot dog that were the perfect Father's Day gift one year, and became permanent conversation pieces.
In high school, Karrli had a summer job as a paid intern at the Willistown Township administration building. She enjoyed being "in" with the township and with the police. The township manager spoke beautifully and hilariously about her initial emails and application and resume for the job. After her death, the township newsletter printed a beautiful tribute.
Karrli went to the Grammy Awards in New York with her dad in 2003. She was beautiful. Young men stared. She was a great, tall (5'11"), slender, gentle, doe-eyed soft beauty. In typical Karrli style, when Avril Lavigne performed to a small on-stage crowd of jumping hollering teenagers, she said that it looked like fun and she might have preferred being down there in the mosh pit instead of all dressed up surrounded by tuxedos.
Karrli's favorite movies included "Frequency," a movie starring Jim Caviezel, a favorite actor, about going back in time to change the present and to bring loved ones back to life; "The Count of Monte Cristo", also starring Jim Caviezel, about a man surviving and overcoming impossible odds; "Nightmare Before Christmas" was a favorite unusual animated musical; and "The Net," starring Sandra Bullock as a computer programmer on the run from bad guys. When she was younger, she had a favorite "Hush Puppy" stuffed toy: while watching the nail-biting chase scene in "The Net" while holding the toy, she uttered in great agitation the famous line "Hush Puppy has fainted!" That line became synonymous with a gripping tension filled moment in any film, and would be repeated in later years, often hilariously out of context. She loved Star Wars. She read all the Harry Potter books and saw all the movies. She was looking forward to the next Harry Potter book. She loved animation precisely because it was so unreal, especially the show about teen mutant superheroes with attitude, Teen Titans. She loved sassy comedy, including "Family Guy." She treated these works with great respect, and wrote engaging and insightful reviews of Teen Titans episodes on the web site TvTome.
Karrli loved playing chess, and after a class visit to Gettysburg, where she was moved by her visits to the battlefield, she collected a Civil War chess set, receiving a piece every month from the Franklin Mint until it was complete.
Karrli preferred Deer Park water. She loved family New Year's dinners in China Town. She loved strange Japanese chewing gum. She wrote in one of her journals that she would like to walk down the streets of Tokyo. She never had the chance. She studied German and loved speaking it with her dad. She was fascinated by a short wave radio that picked up Deutsche Welle broadcasts in German and made a careful note of the frequency. She wanted to travel in Germany with her father but never did.
If Karrli could not go to all the places she wanted to see, she did not let the frustration overwhelm or prevent her from using her imagination to create beautiful works. Karrli was thrilled with the possibility that her creative work might turn out to be something that could one day help her to earn a living. Karrli loved video games. They were an outlet for her when her own physical abilities and athletics were restricted. Karrli wanted to create video games for a living. She wanted to study video game development in college. She carefully researched and found that there were only a few colleges in the United States that offered such degrees. One of them was in Tempe, Arizona in the desert. Karrli truly dreamed of going to the desert to study there. It was something she wanted. It was her dream. She never got the opportunity.
When Karrli heard her father had met a famous video game executive, the chance encounter seemed to encourage Karrli to discuss her most ambitious career dreams. She revealed that she was the author of a ten-page and growing dramatic video game scenario entitled "The Maintainer." When her father suggested Karrli register the copyright, she was excited and thrilled. It meant she had created something "real." It meant that her work could possibly have value. It meant she was truly an "author." Karrli proudly signed her registration applications. Her works are now listed in the vast government database at the copyright office. Minor immortality, but a permanent record that is one of the few "official" records of her life.
In her detailed scenario and character sketch and script of over ten pages length for "The Maintainer," Karrli laid out a game universe where the dream world threatens to overpower the real world. The characters she created are caught up in this struggle, and are vivid and detailed right down to their appearance, their hair styles, and the clothes they wear. The characters also have wonderful dramatic personas, many of them loosely based on the Greek gods and goddesses of classical mythology who inhabit the night and inhabit the dreams of mortals. Karrli must have been one of the few high school students who possessed a well read and dog-eared copy of "The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology."
In one passage, two characters fight over plans to replace the physical world with the dream world. The first character, named Mark, boasts of his power to end the physical world and replace it with a world of dreams. He says
"Who, after experiencing all the dreams, filled with hopes, fears, anger, sadness, happiness, life, and death, could be better suited to controlling existence and rules as humanity knows them?"
Mark's opponent, Selene, replies
"But, you can't! No one can!"
"Then I am no one!"
Karrli's works are filled with depth, insight, humor, and amazing turns of phrase. It is incredible that there are so many writings, mostly written before she turned 17. One story, "The Body Awakens,"" contains the first few sections of an entire novel about the reincarnations of a teenage girl, and the lives she passes through on a journey towards perfection. Karrli also left us her outline for the rest of the novel. The first line of "The Body Awakens" is inspired, and perfectly sets the tone for a story about a cycle of rebirth from oblivion and back again to awaken to a new life. It also describes how hard it may have been sometimes for Karrli to just get out of bed:
"The body awakens, like the world's most complex generator turning on from the night's power loss."
Karrli also tried her hand at playing the guitar. She loved music and had wide ranging tastes that filled her iPod. A list of her favorite bands and songs would be endless and varied. Westlife was a special favorite. So was the singer Daniel Bedingfield.
Karrli loved driving. She practiced parallel parking over and over and passed the driving exam the first time and got her license. Using some of her own savings, she proudly contributed towards the purchase of a car. The hybrid she wanted was not yet available, so she decided on a used silver Ford Escape. She knew it was a luxury for a high school student. She named it "Othello."
She bought the necessary modules to play her iPod in the car. She was the family's techie, and upgraded our wireless phone system so that her mother could use a headset. She subscribed to computer and gaming magazines. She always was interested in computer games. One of the enduring images was when she was about 6 years old. In a video game arcade at a mall, a popular game had a crowd of loud teenage boys yelling and shouting at a kiosk, towering over her, perilously banging their fists and pumped up in the action. Right there in amongst them, fearlessly pushing her way to the very front, was a tall skinny 6 year old girl. Unafraid.
Always unafraid, or more accurately always conquering fear. At one camp she went up on a rope climb exercise that took her 50 feet in the air over a tightrope, a breathtaking height even with a safety harness. She routinely conquered fear, far beyond what anyone considered possible.
Perhaps Karrli's belief that the soul transcended physical life gave her the calm courage we wonder at. In her unfinished outline for the reincarnation story The Body Awakens,, Karrli ends with a deep and powerful monologue, beginning with the question "Were there souls like mine?," and concluding that "now I'm living, and I'm loving it":
"...when the heart stops, the soul does not..." Karrli's physical life ended on August 13, 2004. Her ashes were scattered in the Brandywine River, at a place filled with happy memories. On that mighty summer's day she was returned to the waters and to the light of the sun and the stars and to the beginning of the new journeys of her soul. We estimated that within a day or so, she would make her way to the sea. Now, she is everywhere, and speaks to us in our dreams.
Home | Writings | "The Maintainer" | Reviews | "Mr. Fuzzy & Fluffmutt" | Memorial Scholarship | Memorial Service | Gallery | Links