Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Karlie's courageous fight ends

Karlie Breeden last summer. Photo by John Lindblom.

COBB They were a group of family members and intimate friends and they sat in a room singing, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," with tears in their eyes or running uncontrollably down their faces.

The mood in the singing didn't fit the song and the song didn't fit the time of year, because it wasn't Christmas. It was the last day of February, 2007, and the last day of Karlie Breeden's life.

Hours later, lying huddled in a bed between her parents, David and Renada Breeden, she died. She was 4 years old. Four. The number of years it takes to earn a college degree that Karlie, given her brightness, might one day have done. Four. One year short of the age in which children enter kindergarten, which Karlie never will.

The place was the George Mark House for Children, a San Leandro hospice, where the Breedens had elected to take Karlie for the moment that they had steeled themselves against as best they could.

The miracle that Karlie might beat the overwhelming odds and survive an inoperable brain tumor, which the Breedens and many others had hoped and prayed for and for a fleeting moment late last year seemed possible, was not to be.

So, all that was left was to make the precious moments that remained of her life as comfortable as possible for her. The option would have been for the Breedens to take Karlie to their home in the Hobergs area of the Cobb Mountains, but there she would have been placed on feeding tubes and the attendant medical paraphernalia.

"... Or, we could go to George Mark and let nature take its course," said Renada. "I felt that George Mark would be better equipped for us. It's the only hospice for children in the U.S.

"There were some family members and some friends and we all gathered around Karlie and sang Christmas carols and told funny stories. Christmas carols were a big thing for her this year. She really got to know them and know all the words."

At some point of the night, Brody, Karlie's younger brother, not quite 3, but well aware of the situation, came into the room, went to the place where she was lying, hugged her and said, "Bye."

That the Higher Power to which the Breedens and others prayed to had "called home" one so young is, at best, a curious matter. This writer recalls a Lakeport woman telling him that as a sickly child there were serious doubts that she would live to see her sixth birthday. The woman, the late Kate Richardson, was 106 at the time of the interview.

But the Breedens, although not especially devout, hold to the belief that there was a special reason for the brevity of Karlie's life.

"She definitely had a purpose," says Renada.

And who's to say what occurred in this little blonde girl's final hours were not more than mere coincidence? Occurrences such as Karlie's putting David's hand on her heart and, as David recalls, saying, "Daddy, I have the spirit of God in me right now. This is happening to save all of us. I have a secret, but I can't tell you."

Of her approaching death, David says, "She knew before we knew and she took her medicine because it made us happy. She had a purpose and she told us the purpose.

"She was like an earthquake," he continued. "She came in, touched everybody she met, shook them up and was gone."

Sometime after learning that the tumor was back Karlie simply refused to eat the acrid pudding that did not quite disguise the harsh medicine she had taken for the 10 months since the tumor was diagnosed.

"She said she wasn't going to take it anymore, and we realized that she's done and the fight's over," said Renada, "because we had been pretty honest with her. She knew she was taking the medicine to extend her life."

In the month that followed, Karlie, said Renada, "went through the bitterness of having to leave, the bitterness of saying goodbye and praying for everyone."

Once an active tot who would rarely sit still, Karlie last walked, her parents said, at a Feb. 4 Doobie Brothers concert at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, where the Seabreeze Foundation provided the family front-row seats.

"The Doobie Brothers went off stage and when they came back they said, 'This song is for our friend, Karlie.' The song was, 'Listen to the Music,' and they don't know it but with their lyrics they just sang our life that night," said Renada.

The most difficult moments were still ahead. The doctors told David and Renada that they needed to tell Karlie that she must die.

"They told us you have to tell her to let go," said David, who said his final words to his daughter were, "Karlie, don't fight. Just go to heaven."

For Karlie's obituary, go to the www.lakeconews.com front page and scroll down to “obituaries.”

E-mail John Lindblom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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