Karina Marie Gerschler, my best friend, fiance, and life partner passed away on February 13th, 2022. Today is her 41st birthday. We celebrated her life on June 4th with a paddle out in Pacific Beach and a ceremony in La Jolla, where I spoke to our friends and family. Trying to encapsulate all that Karina was in my speech was a challenge, as she was such a unique and incredible human. Below was my attempt to communicate how special she truly was, how much of an impact she had on me and all that knew her, and how her legacy will continue to change lives now that she has transitioned into a new form.
I consider myself the luckiest man alive.
I got to experience the fullness of life, with all of the ups and downs, with this remarkable woman. Over the course of our seven-year relationship, I would often ask her “why me? You could have had anyone, why did you pick me?” And her answer was always the same. “Because you get me”, she would say, “because I can be myself with you, speak openly with you, and we can grow together.”
And it was true. I got to see all of her, and love all of her, and be loved by all of her. Some of you know Karina as a yoga teacher, a friend, a relative, or a mentor. I got to witness Karina transition through all of those roles, and so many more, every day as she lived life to the fullest, explored her passions, tried new things and embraced the rollercoaster of life.
I got to sing, laugh, shout, cry, hold, snuggle and share countless hours of deep conversation with her. I got to fall in love with her and be loved by her. I got to evolve with her as a couple and see her grow as an individual. I got to adopt and raise a dog with her. I got to run a business with her. I got to share in her passions of surfing, yoga, spirituality, and art. I got to push her in her career as she supported me in mine. I got to argue with her and split up with her and get back together with her. I got to heal with her as I addressed my wounds and she addressed hers. I got to travel the world with her, and dance in our living room, and lose to her at mini golf, and lose to her at trivia, and lose to her at card games, etc. etc.
I got to propose to her, and feel the excitement of her saying yes to be my wife. I got to plan a life with her, name our future children, imagine our future home, and commit to a lifetime of love and expansion with her. And, I got to witness her face the biggest challenge of her life. I got to experience her spiritual conviction as her body transformed away from the vibrant human that we all remember her as. I got to massage her feet as we prayed at 2am facing and embracing our biggest fears together. I got to tell her that I loved her and that I was proud of her in my final words to her, and I got to receive her last smile.
Most importantly, through it all, I got to expand with her. You see, expansion was Karina’s highest purpose, and to share in that experience as we went through all of the intensities and subtleties of life together, is a gift that I will cherish my entire life. For I got to truly see her, all of her, and I can assure you that all of the admiration in this room for her, and I can tell there is a lot, is still only a fraction of what she truly deserves. Karina was an extraordinary human, an incredible partner, and an inspiring soul.
At her core, Karina was and still is, a teacher. Most, if not all of you, have had to answer her famous question “what do you want?” In a world full of people telling us what to do, Karina’s power was in holding space for others to connect with their heart’s and solve their own problems. And she did it daily, for myself and countless others, asking for nothing in return. It was just who she was.
And like only the greatest teachers do, she lived what she taught. An example of this was a few years ago when she recognized that her highest path was leading her away from San Diego to travel the world. Despite the fear of leaving everything she loved, she knew that she could not go farther in our relationship or in her career until she had that experience. She knew that she needed to expand on her own and leave me, leave Raja, leave Riffs, and all of the things that she loved in life, to go on this journey. In the face of fear and uncertainty, she did so without hesitation and had total faith that everything would work out as it should. She prioritized her own spiritual expansion with a conviction that I’ve never seen before. As hard as that was to see her go, this act inspired me in so many ways and gave me valuable tools that I cherish now more than ever.
You see, before she left on this trip, as we were discussing our relationship and possible marriage, I semi-joked with her saying, “I’m only going to marry you if you promise to outlive me.” Having lost my mom some years ago, I didn’t feel I could survive losing my partner, and I felt she was better suited to handle me leaving first. Living the vegan, yogi, super healthy lifestyle that she did, I felt pretty safe in that agreement. But I’ll never forget her response. She said “I’m not afraid to die. I’m only afraid of what my death will do to the people that I love. You need to be okay without me.”
So when she left on her world tour, she gave me the opportunity to fall apart and put myself back together with the skills I needed to survive without her, which I lean on heavily today. In true Karina fashion, as she set out on her own journey of expansion, she forced me to expand on my own path whether I wanted to or not.
Through our relationship, she taught me how to heal from the tragedy of the loss and then how to live without her presence in my life.
Of course, our paths eventually reconnected and the final years of our relationship were so much more joyous and profound because of that experience. For this, I am eternally grateful.
This story exemplifies Karina’s greatness. She made her life a lesson to others, down to the last moment. I watched in awe as she navigated through her final months with optimism and gratitude, always thinking of how her experience could help other people. I was humbled last Christmas, after being in the hospital for a month, she had every right to be focused on only herself and her healing, but she prioritized sharing her love with others as she made gifts for her friends and family and even the nurses who cared for her.
Karina never let fear stop her from being who she was. She knew that love is the highest vibration, and she would not let anything get in the way of her ability to share love. Karina’s mission to “play bigger” in life was only just beginning as she searched for new ways to reach more and more people with her wisdom. When word of her condition spread, we realized how big she had already played. She touched thousands of hearts, inspired change, gave courage, quelled fears, and incited love in the masses. Even though Karina Gerschler may not be a household name known around the world, her influence has without a doubt circumnavigated the planet.
Through myself, each of you here today, and all of those who couldn’t join us, but were blessed with Karina’s presence in their lives, her love, wisdom, and joy for life continues to spread. Her impact on this world is massive and still growing.
Though I am devastated to have lost her physical presence, I am the luckiest man on the planet for having the blessing of Karina in my life in such a profound way. And today, we celebrate this remarkable person, the love of my life, whom I will cherish forever. As we move forward, all we can do is live the lives she wants for us. Her message was clear:
Love yourself. Enjoy life. Value your relationships. Don’t take anything too seriously. Never stop expanding.
So together, in Karina’s honor, we go onwards and upwards.
Om Shanti, Om Peace