Full Circle

By November 5, 2014Uncategorized

Full Circle

This year.

Oh, this year.

The past 12 months literally began with the birth of my daughter and ended in a death, holding all that life could muster in between. Like fireworks, it was brilliant and loud and blinding at moments. And in the end, I was left clinging to the fading light that lingers with the smoke; the memory of it all.

This year, I would find myself creating two of the most important events of my life thus far. You might be surprised to learn that neither event was my own wedding (that happened some time ago). On top of that, neither involved a famous celebrity or seven figures. It will never be published in a magazine and, if I’m being completely honest, there was zero monetary profit. But despite the lack of notoriety, I’m the most proud I could ever be.

This year was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary; the first of those two important events. On February 8, I posted the following:

Today is kinda a big deal. Today is my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. Yup, 50. F-i-f-t-y. The big 5-0. The “Holy s#@t, you made it this far” anniversary. Yes, that one. Eighteen years ago, when our dad was first diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy, my sisters and I could only hope our parents would make it this long. Like holding your breath, closing your eyes and praying real hard kind of hope. Thru many hospital visits and too many ups and downs to count, we have learned to count our blessings twice a day, every day. We are lucky and we know it. Cheers to the two best parents these four girls (four sons-in-laws and 10 grandchildren) could ask for.

Months later, on July 5, my three sisters and I (along with our helpful, sweet husbands) threw our parents a surprise party. This was not just about celebrating a milestone of 50 years; we wanted to share our admiration for these two amazing people, having witnessed them as individuals, as husband and wife, and as parents. We were awestruck in their resilience, their humor in spite of pain, their “want” to be together, and the love. Oh, the love. It was going to be celebrated whether my father liked surprises or not. And there would be plenty of wine, beer and Croatian music, because nothing could be more appropriate.

In short, it was magical. My mother and father hugged and embraced long-time friends and distant relatives. They were literally able to see that the love for them extended well beyond their daughters and their grandchildren. That evening, they realized how admired and adored they were by many. And that night, I found myself soaking in every moment, every detail until I could hold no more. I realized in a simple but profound moment that these two people were the foundation of everything that was me, my sisters, and all of our children.

Anniversary Party

On July 12, after weeks of being with my family in Michigan, I flew back with my own little family to our home in Portland. Within hours, I would find myself settled back into a routine of planning weddings and raising kids. But as life is wont to do, the unexpected swooped in to steal me from my normalcy.

Less than a month after celebrating my parents’ 50th anniversary, I found myself on a red eye back to Michigan — this time, to be with my dying father. A man who, only three weeks prior, was healthy and alive; vibrant and celebrating.

On August 8, my father died. Surrounded by his wife and his four daughters, we cradled his face and held his hand until that last breath was taken. We loved him as hard as we could for one last time. And then, he was gone.

This year, the second most profound event of my life was a celebration to honor my father.

My dad was a not a “funeral home” kind of guy. He was loud and gregarious and he befriended anyone he met. He told jokes and sometimes, the same one far too often. He loved a good party and, for that reason, it was how we intended to honor him. In one of my dad’s most favorite spots on earth, amongst the Queen Anne’s lace, we cleared a space and pitched a giant tent in my parents’ back field — a place where, nearly 40 years ago, they believed was the ideal place to raise their family. We had all of his favorite foods and music. We drank wine in one hand and toasted him with bourbon in the other. We hugged and laughed and cried at the insaneness of it all and acknowledged there was no better way to celebrate a life like his.

So this year, we celebrated again. But this time with many more tears.

When I sat down to share this with all of you, I was motionless at the keyboard. How could I even begin to explain the depth of this? My words are simple, yet the love for my parents is so complex and strong, it felt like an impossible task. Not to mention, the pressure. It all felt a little too great. So I thought long and hard about how I wanted to verbalize this and the direction I wanted to take. What I kept coming back to is fairly simple: this year has taught me that, regardless of the event or occasion, it’s about the celebration. That the love, the community created and the energy involved in celebrating lives well lived is well worth it.

In surprising my parents with an anniversary party, my sisters and I gave my parents one of the happiest moments of their lives. And I can’t help but think I may never be able to give a more deserving and exquisite gift.

- Kara


Note: The photos you see were taken by a woman I admire dearly, Leah Verwey. While I extolled the virtues of hiring a professional for my parents’ party to just about anyone who would listen, I also realized it would alter our budget significantly. It would mean going from a lovely, intimate catered dinner with hors d’oeuvres and seated dining to the Markovich ladies making most of the food and asking friends to help serve. Little did I know how invaluable these images would prove to be. I’m extremely grateful to Leah, who expedited her editing, so that we could receive these while my dad was slowly slipping away. They were the last photos my father saw. May he hold onto them and keep them close throughout the rest of his journey.


  • Patti Hill says:

    Kara this is beautiful. You’re mom and dad certainly have reason to be proud of all of their girls. Both the anniversary party and the celebration of your dads life were a wonderful tribute and I am so proud to be an extended part of the markovich family. I love you.

  • Cheryl Adams says:

    What a magnificent tribute to mom and dad, and the whole Markovich family. We so often put off celebrations, or pooh pooh them for whatever seemingly trivial matter; you did not and so beautifully gave your parents a beautiful gift.
    I’m only sorry dad isn’t around to share more of the beautiful memories.

  • Shawn Fields says:

    Sister, so beautiful and your words are amazing. Thank you for the portrayal and for giving yet another memory to relish of our amazing parents.

  • Jean Lutes says:

    Dear Markovich Family,
    I just finished reading the most beautiful tribute to Judy & Joe on their 50th Wedding Anniversary & also the heart warming way the family remembered Joe who was a blessed man in the family especially when he was outnumbered by daughters with whom he loved & a very special wife, Judy, who to me is a lovely cousin. Joe was able to overcome many obstacles with health problems & I believe he accepted life as it was handed to him & his beloved family was with him through-out . Joe knows he was surely loved by all.
    Thank you for the heart warming way to a wonderful way for all of us to give love & hugs to the Markovich family.
    From a cousin,
    Jean Lutes

  • Jan Powell says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your Father and family. As a coworker of Kristin, I was able to follow your family on this journey. The love you show for each other is truly amazing!

  • Evan says:

    What a riot that Joe-party was. Actually really and truly I don’t think anything in my life so far has made me feel less afraid of death than Joe’s blasting off on his merry way to the other side. What a life he lived! I mean, come on! What more could a person possibly hope for? Whatever happens to us after we die, that guy’s for sure cracking up right now at his own bad jokes, bragging shamelessly about his girls, and just generally and categorically brushing the dirt off his shoulder about how much he just totally crushed it this time around.

  • Soul Daughter #1 says:

    Man, Kara, I really miss your Dad. Thanks for this.
    p.s. I’m not a hugger OR a crier, but somehow I am both now. Probably Shawn would say this means you guys are good for me….

  • Alesia Zorn says:

    What a beautiful post and what a loving tribute.

  • Kim & Bill Troutman says:

    To the Markovich Family,

    This was such a Beautiful 50th Anniversary Celebration. The pictures serve as a lasting tribute to a very special family. My husband had an LVAD & was transplanted in Dec 2013 and while he received a gift, your dad also was gifted with a beautiful, caring & loving family! God Bless you all.

  • Carol & Mike Quartermaine says:

    Kara – This is positively beautiful and heartwarming. We were so very sorry to have missed Judy & Joe’s 50th celebration but know you all understood our situation. Your parents have been such special friends for more than 50 years and we already miss your Dad so much. Thankfully, I get to see and be with your Mom on a pretty regular basis and so treasure our friendship. You girls have been the blessing every Mom & Dad hope to have and it is so gratifying to see that you are returning the love and support they have given each of your over the years. God bless you and all the Markovich Family. We hope to see you when you come to visit.

    Much love and many blessings,
    Mike & Carol Quartermaine

  • Judy and Ernie Schwartz says:

    Dear Kara and sisters,
    Joe so deserved all the love you girls and your Mom blessed him with. We will always remember his sincere warmth and loving smile. And, of course, his jokes and his ribbing Ernie about Michigan against Notre Dame!!! They loved going at it each year. Longboat Key will never be the same for us ……we looked so forward each year to seeing and being with your Mom and Dad. We watched you all grow up and start your own families……it was always a joy each year. We are sure Joe never realized the lessons he gracefully taught all of us about facing the realities of life. He faced it all so valiantly and thankfullyy. But most of all, his zest for life with his family was something to behold. Enjoy every loving memory you all have of him…..that would be all he would want……to see you all smile. Hugs to you all.
    Judy and Ernie.