Farewell, Dr. Karyn Purvis

My throat caught and my shoulders dropped when I heard the news today: Dr. Karyn Purvis ended her long battle with cancer, losing her body to the disease, but confident in a final victory over death through her faith in Christ.

Countless parents and friends share the sorrow of this moment. We not only mourn the loss of a wise instructor and guide, but also sense the palpable absence of a beloved parent or grandparent who helped nurture us even as she taught us how to nurture our children.

We could not help feeling that her love, her tenderness, extended not only to her own children, but also to ours, and to all children in need.

The short video below, made today to celebrate her legacy, gives a glimpse of Dr. Purvis’ tender heart and what first drew her into her life’s work.

Dr. Purvis was the director of the TCU Institute of Child Development and co-author of the best-selling adoption book, The Connected Child. She was a foster parent, a mother to three boys and a grandmother to eight.

And it’s no exaggeration to say that Karyn nurtured tens of thousands of other children, too — many of them children from very hard places — toward healing and health. Her melodic voice (yes, it really was melodic) and soft touch extended through foster and adoptive parents, social workers and mentors across America and far beyond – always gentle, always gracious, always hopeful.

Karyn was of such rare quality that it was hard for people not to wonder if she was simply too good to be true, too sweet to be sincere. But her consistency in those things taught us otherwise.

From her writing to the stage to private conversations, she dependably modeled the character of Jesus, described so well in I Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind… It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Those who had the privilege of knowing Dr. Purvis and learning frompurvis-hope her will miss each of these qualities deeply. Yet we will still see them reflected daily in countless homes, out-workings of the practical wisdom she taught and modeled.

Karyn will not teach at the CAFO Summit this year as she did so many times before.  But a father will kneel so he can speak face-to-face with his son. A mother will take her daughter’s small face in her hands, expressing words of affirmation. Mentors and foster parents and teachers and social workers will listen patiently, explain gently, correct with equal parts firmness and tenderness, and seek connection above all, reflecting the One who created us to connect.

That inheritance, passed from one generation to the next, will certainly not stop there. It will echo again, as those children become parents and mentors and teachers themselves someday. And so on, long after the name of Karyn Purvis has been forgotten. Could anyone hope for a legacy greater than that?