June 13, 2002
 
Dear Karen,
 
My name is Alison Armell.  I’m 30 years old and was a patient of Dr. Diebel.  I was referred to his practice three years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my second son.  Ironically, he was born June 8, (1999).
 
I have only met you once, yesterday at your husband’s funeral.  I was standing in the very back of the church, in the lobby.  The church was packed to capacity to say the least!  However, I had a clear view of you and your children sitting in the pew.  Your eldest, Conor, was patting your back, comforting you.  It was a sight I will never forget as long as I live.  Another sight that is embedded in my mind is the indescribable look in your eyes.  You looked so scared, confused, and seemed to be “searching” the crowd for something.  I felt so helpless yet wanted so much to just hug you tight and tell you that everything would be all right. I wished so badly that I knew you.
 
Once we left the cemetery I got back into my car and called my husband at work and told him of the morning.  I don’t think I stopped crying for more than 30 minutes all day Wednesday.  My eldest son, Bradley, who is 6 years old, asked me why I looked so sad that evening when I came home.  I didn’t even answer before he said “Is it because of your Doctor?”  I told him “Yes”.  I told him about the mother and three young boys. He offered some great advice.  I never thought a 6 year old could be so comforting.  He told me to “think happy thoughts so I would forget about it”.  I told him that was nice, however I didn’t want to “forget”.  He then answered, “Then why don’t you say some words?” He told me that I should write a letter to Dr. Diebel.  I thought this too was good advice so decided to write to you instead.  Later he asked if he could also write a letter to your children, which I have enclosed.
 
When I got back to work, I called a close friend and co-worker who is Christian.  I needed comforting that no one else could give me at the time.  He explained that God was “calling” me and the reason I was grieving so much for a stranger was because I had a big heart.  I was thinking “Me? Are you sure about that”?   I admit, I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools, but haven’t been to church in years.  Yet I felt so at peace at your church and can’t wait to start attending again.  It was a definite wake up call for me.  We had a very long lunch, the waitress must have thought I was crazy or really didn’t like the food because I could not stop crying the entire time.  When we were finished, however, I felt a little more at peace from his kind words.
 
That night when it was time for bed, I lay there with my husband and children, holding them tight, trying not to cry too loudly.  All I could think about was you.  I felt, and still feel so much pain I can’t describe it.  I’m sure it is nothing compared to the pain you are feeling but I have never felt so touched by a complete stranger before.  I know this sounds weird but believe me, I have never been so confused with my own personal feelings like this before.
 
 After lying there for over an hour, I got up and e-mailed all of my family members and college roommates up in Boston, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.  I told them of the accident, attached the photo of Dr. Diebel from the on line Orlando Sentinel, and asked them to pray for you.  For someone who hasn’t prayed in a while, I was certainly making up for it this day!
 
 The responses I received  (which I am including) from them were very comforting.  It made me realize what good friends they were.  They were praying for you and forwarding the e-mail to all of their close friends and family!  I felt so grateful.
 
 This morning, I got into my car and headed off to work in Winter Park.  I told myself when I woke up that I would not cry anymore.  I got about one mile down the road before I broke into tears again.  Before I knew it I was back at the cemetery.  I prayed and prayed for so many things.  I asked your husband to help me find a little comfort and to turn off my tears!  The more I kept talking to him, the better I was feeling.  I’m glad no one was around because I was having one heck of a conversation!   I didn’t even realize that an older gentleman, at least 70, who was playing golf, had come over and was saying a prayer behind me!  He simply smiled and continued on with the next hole.  What a sweet gesture.  I was realizing that humans really are compassionate and that I wasn’t losing my mind!  I told your husband how I wish I knew you or could do something for you.
 
 As I sign this letter, I again pray that maybe someday or somehow I can be a part of your life.  Maybe through this tragedy, I am learning an entirely new perspective on my life as well as others I will continue to encounter during this short time on Earth.  Never again will I take anything for granted.  I will be a more loving and patient wife and mother.  I will pick up the phone and make more of an effort to stay in touch with my friends and family who live so far away but who were there in an instant in my time of need.
 
 Karen, even if I never meet you I will continue to pray for you and your children.  Every year when I celebrate Bryan’s birthday on June 8, I will remember your husband and pray for all of you.  I will always remember what a loving and caring person he was to everyone he knew and try to model my life around his goodness.
 
 With much love,
 
 Alison Armell
 
 
 
 
Letter to Karen from a patient of Don’s - Alison Armell