To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.

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Karyl Suzanne Bearden, 49, of Little Rock, passed away January 23 at home surrounded by family after a courageous battle with cancer. She was born October 17, 1965 in Arcadia, Florida to Doug and Pat Johnson, who were life long educators. Following in their footsteps, Karyl had a career in education for over 26 years. She was a classroom teacher for the North Little Rock School District and a Literacy Specialist for the Arkansas Department of Education, where she pursued her dream of teaching and working in the education field. One of her favorite quotes was “each one teach one” because she believed that education was a key component in bettering an individual’s life. While teaching was her career, her greatest passion was being a wife to her husband, Richard, and a mother to her children, Ashley, Jordan, and James. Karyl was the center of our family, always making sure that her children had a good education, strong work ethic, and an appreciation for the unique bond our family shares. Karyl loved cooking for her for her family and turned Sunday family meals into a cherished tradition as a time to enjoy fellowship and great food. Always on the go, Karyl treasured the time she spent gardening with Richard, taking annual trips to Destin with the family, and cheering for the Razorbacks.  She was selfless, fun-loving, and always knew how to put a smile on your face.  Her strength, bravery, and optimism were unparalleled and at times contagious.

Karyl was a member of Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church, was an active participant on the Arkansas Literacy Council, and served on various education committees throughout her long career.  She will be greeted in Heaven by infant daughter, Lauren Sarah Catherine Bearden, her parents, Doug and Pat Johnson, and her brother-in-law, David Bearden.  Her spirit will live on through her husband of 26 years, Richard, daughters, Ashley (Maumelle) and Jordan (Washington, DC), and son, James (Fayetteville), her brother, Christopher and wife, Beni, and nephew, Tanner Johnson (Houston) as well as her in-laws, Lawrence and Ann Bearden and nephew, Mark Bearden (Smackover) and a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins from the Helton, Tanner, Bearden, Reeder, King, Clayborn, Fisher, Foster, Mosley, Payne, and Tuberville families.

A family rosary will be held on Tuesday, January 27 from 5:00-5:30pm followed by the family receiving friends at Roller-Chenal Funeral Home, 13801 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock (501-224-8300).  Funeral mass will be held at 10:00am Wednesday, January 28 at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church, 1003 North Tyler Street, Little Rock (501-663-8632).  Officiated by Father Tom Marks. Burial to follow at 3:00pm at Camden Memorial Park Cemetery, Camden, Arkansas.  Immediately following the burial, the family will receive friends from 4:00-5:00pm in the Fellowship Hall of Timothy Methodist Church, Magnolia Highway, Camden, Arkansas.

In lieu of flowers, her family requests donations in Karyl’s memory to the Cancer Institute Foundation Fund to support cancer research at UAMS Rockefeller Cancer Center, 4301 West Markham #623F, Little Rock, Arkansas 72205.

On behalf of Karyl, her family would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Shirley Ong and her staff at UAMS for the care and support given to Karyl during her treatment there.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats


Bearden Family Gives Thanks at Thanksgiving


To update briefly the past couple of weeks: Mom’s last day of radiation fell on her birthday (Oct 17) and the following scans in early November were, much to our dismay, inconclusive. While certainly not the worst news we could have learned, it is always frustrating to be left in the dark. Especially for mom who has worked so hard to stay positive throughout this experience.  She has had to spend more time at UAMS than she’d care for due to various side effects of the chemo/radiation/steroid combination and most recently was admitted to the hospital for about 5 days before Thanksgiving. Since her release, she has made significant progress and it was amazing to witness the turnaround. I’m talking a complete 180! It did not come easily, but her determination is proof that hope will take you a lot farther than you could ever imagine.

Many who have shared similar experiences told us that the journey would be like a rollercoaster, but what they forgot to mention – or perhaps I just couldn’t grasp at the time – was just how wild that ride could be. Seeing mom in the hospital Sunday was when it truly hit me how fragile she is. Few things are more difficult than seeing your loved ones hurt, but I found comfort knowing that between dad, Ashley, James, and I, we always had someone at her side. Watching mom’s progress between that moment and this past Sunday was remarkable.

Overcoming that hurdle, we were expecially grateful to have our momma bear back home for Thanksgiving. We feel so blessed to have spent such a wonderful week together as a family.

On Saturday, we all went to pick out a Christmas tree and spent the day decorating the house for Christmas. It was the perfect Thanksgiving week and mom is excited for us to all be together again in just a few short weeks.

Overall, she seems to be in relatively high spirits as she continues to face this battle more gracefully than most could ever imagine. It is amazing to see the amount of love mom generates – in friends and strangers alike – and it fills our hearts to see her so happy, surrounded by the continued love and support of family and friends.

Mom started intense occupational therapy this week to help regain the use of the muscles in her left side, which have been paralyzed since mid-August. After the first couple of days, her therapist already stated that mom’s effort and overall state is significantly better than expected. We are so very proud of her already and are excited to see her achievements.  Mom’s next scans will be tomorrow (Dec 4) and will keep everyone posted – hopefully with more good news! We appreciate everyone for your thoughts, encouragement, and prayers. I’m not sure we could get through this without y’all.

Until next time,

Last Week of Radiation

True to my belief that birthdays should be celebrated by the month, radiation happens to end on Friday. What a great birthday present! have Jordan home and Ashley met us for brunch yesterday, so I couldn’t ask for more! Although today is rainy (which I love when I can be indoors:-) ) for those who are not a fan, just remember, the sun is not far behind – we do live in Arkansas…
I’m told that getting through radiation and chemo at this point would be the most difficult. since I’m at 26 treatments. I would say that I am sure that the prayers and support of my family and friends has lifted me up and given me the courage and strength to meet this head on. We’re staying optimistic and finding humor at every chance ( believe me, some situations warrant laughter from this end!) Looking forward to celebrating NOT my 50th birthday as hubby will tease, but a tenth anniversary of my 39th birthday on Friday!


Coming Home

So I don’t have a profound thought to leave you pondering the depth of my thinking, but I am truly thankful for the care and kindness of the people working with me today. I never thought just starting the day out with a sunrise and a shower could be such a daybrightner! All I need now, as the movie goes, are waffles 🙂 I hope everyone remembers to notice little things that have a big impact! Maybe later today I’ll have my five minutes of fabulosity and stun you with an in depth cerebral thought…. Nope, I’m too excited to have my daughter fly in today. It will do my heart good just to hear my family’s voices around me!


October 9th – back at UAMS

So today I stayed courtesy of UAMS in their very nice room with a view! Excuse me for saving my excitement for when my family can be a part of this scenery 🙂 however, the nurse has showed RB & I how to give my own shots, so I’m a step closer to going home, as long as RB doesn’t pass out. – poor guy! He didn’t look well when we practiced! Before we know it, we’ll become pros!


The Power of Prayer & a Fat Cat

Dear family and friends:

As many of you know, Karyl Bearden was diagnosed with lung cancer in the spring of 2012.  After a two and a half-year battle, she was finally showing signs of remission this summer and we were ready to celebrate her victory over the violent disease.  Mom is a walking miracle that defied all statistics.  Her strength, hope, and bravery are unparalleled and I honestly believe it made all the difference in her recovery.  Of course there were days when the side effects of the chemo had literally overcome her and there were days when she was too weak to get out of bed – but if you know Karyl Bearden, you know that didn’t keep her down for long.  Karyl is always on the go and finding things to do.  Always.  So sometimes convincing her to stay inside and sit on the couch could only be achieved through persuasion and snuggles, which isn’t an easy task unless you have a good book, a soft blanket (never mind that its 90 degrees outside – she can never be too cozy), and a fat cat curled around her feet.

Having said this, August 13th came as a surprise to us. Mom was rushed to the emergency room and hospitalized for the next few days.  Her health declined rapidly and her body betrayed her, paralyzing her entire left side.  Just three days later we learned she had a Stage IV inoperable brain tumor.  What followed was a combination of shock, sadness, anger, and disbelief.  How could someone who had made such monumental improvements suddenly be swept off her feet in a matter of hours?  While we still have a hard time swallowing that pill, we quit asking why and focused on the more important question: “What’s the next step?”  Mom very much believes in the power of prayer. We are ever gracious to all of you for your kindness and prayers. Dad says we are “tough – Bearden tough.” He’s right. We are very fortunate to be blessed with each other and surrounded by the constant love and support of our friends.

In the words of Christopher McCandless made famous by his adventurous trek into Alaska as portrayed in Into the Wild, “it is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found.”  While the quote is one of my favorites, I don’t think I ever truly understood the meaning until mom’s recent diagnosis.  Just a few short months ago, we were uncertain of the direction this diagnosis would take us and honestly we still are.  However, I can say without a doubt that mom’s dignity and strong spirit is a daily reminder to take life one day at a time and cherish each and every moment.

Until next time,