Lena Chow Kuhar is phasing out her healthcare marketing communications business after three decades. In January 2021, her newly formed nonprofit foundation will launch Bob’s Last Marathon: Living the Alzheimer’s Journey, a communication resource for families and friends of people diagnosed with the disease. She enjoys classical music, plays the piano and is passionate about hiking and backpacking. She divides her time between Palo Alto, her home, and Baltimore, where her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren live.
I was born in Fujian, China and raised in Hong Kong before coming to the United States for graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. My grandfather was a country doctor, trained by an English missionary physician who handed the small hospital in the rural village to my grandfather. In Hong Kong, I attended the Diocesan Girls’ School, founded by the Anglican church. My parents were active members of the Minnan Church, which is closely aligned with people from Fujian and our unique dialect.
In 2016, my husband Bob and I were members of the Los Altos United Methodist Church, but we began looking for a church closer to home, in Palo Alto. Through a series of coincidences, we ended up at Saint Mark’s one Sunday morning. Later on, I would explain that I was drawn to Saint Mark’s because of the magnificent music, the sermon (on that day delivered by Pastor Matt McDermott) that captivated and inspired me, and the beautiful sanctuary that feels at once solemn and welcoming. We never looked back. At that time, Bob’s Alzheimer’s disease was steadily advancing, but he had not lost his ability to participate and, being the naturally outgoing person that he was, appreciated the people. I signed up for the Inquirer’s Class, and we soon became members. I was introduced to Centering Prayer, and became a regular on Wednesday mornings. Following a sermon by Liz Milner, I joined the Elmwood Jail team. I made new friends and enjoyed the wisdom and camaraderie at the Women’s Retreat every year. When Bob passed away peacefully in his sleep in November 2018, Pastor Matt was at his bedside within minutes and guided me and my family through the many steps, practical and spiritual, of this life changing event.
This year, with the pandemic and the inevitable changes in our lives, Saint Mark’s once again became my anchor. The caring phone calls and encouragement from fellow parishioners assured me that I am not alone. I found comfort in the noon time prayers and evening Compline, and made new friends in the process. Although I miss going to church on Sunday mornings, online services make it possible for me to participate even when I am three thousand miles away at my daughter and son-in-law’s home in Baltimore. I am grateful for the generosity of fellow parishioners who take the time to lead prayer sessions and to find and refine technical solutions to allow us to connect and share. I cherish the acute intellect and deep caring of fellow parishioners as we discussed How to be an anti-racist, another profound learning experience for me. I sorely miss Centering Prayer and of course Eucharist, but I believe that in time, we will be able to return with an even greater appreciation of all the gifts we have enjoyed and sometimes taken for granted.
Above all, I feel blessed to be asked to articulate my thoughts during this season of stewardship, to reflect on what Saint Mark’s has done for me and to envision how I can contribute to help others in our community in the coming year.
Lena Chow Kuhar