Adventures in Odyssey is not afraid to deal with difficult and controversial issues. In past shows topics such as divorce, poverty, death and drug abuse have been explored. This time, cancer is being brought up. Cancer is a disease which affects not only older people but kids as well. That makes this episode especially relevant to listeners of all ages. The story it tells seemingly comes out of nowhere and it brings up important questions that need to be asked. This episode may not be the first to deal with death. Recollections and Thank You, God both did so already. But the episode Karen builds on those previous stories, making the topic more accessible to younger listeners.
Karen may have cancer, but she seems happy and playful. Even when she is in pain, she can make jokes. Her best friend, Donna, on the other hand, is concerned and scared for her. The episode tries to maintain a balance between these two tones of cheerfulness and worry. At the Fall Festival the announcer Mr. Roth thanks the previous presenter for his “remarkable reptile imitations” before introducing Karen onto the stage. The audience gets to laugh again when Karen says she won’t be dancing because she forgot her dancing shoes. But meanwhile, there are questions swirling around about disease, death and God’s will. Connie doesn’t understand why someone as young as Karen could get cancer. She says, “It doesn’t seem right.” Later, Donna asks why God would let Karen die. Whit addresses these questions well, but I think Karen’s attitude towards death helps even more to give us perspective. She knows God has something better planned for her. Her hopefulness wins out over all the uncertainty and worry.
Karen’s performance leaves such a powerful impression that she doesn’t feel like the usual one-off character. Even though she only appears in this episode, it feels like she is one of Album 3’s most prominent characters. Her presentation at the Fall Festival is particularly moving. She recites the words of the hymn “No Night There”, which was written by John R. Clements in 1899. The promise of eternal life with God is impossible to overlook when you have the character of Karen who is so adamant about it. She knows God will be faithful to his promises and her faith in the face of death is an encouragement to us. In Thank You, God, we don’t hear from Whit’s mother before she dies. In Recollections, Jenny and Whit share memories together but they don’t discuss the afterlife. In Karen, God’s defeat of death through Jesus is front and center.
This story is both sad and hopeful. It is about the tragedy of death but from the Christian worldview. It is about two good friends who desperately don’t want to be separated but trust that God will work all things together for the good of those who love him. When you listen to it, it seems like a genuine and heartfelt story. This is an episode that will not soon be forgotten. It gets 5 out of 5 stars.