Four hundred friends and relatives gathered Saturday to celebrate the life of 7-year-old Kara Claypool, who died Aug. 30 of AIDS.
Kara helped plan the memorial service from her hospital bed. She chose 12 songs and specified who would sing them.
Her mother, grandmother and brothers were among those Kara chose to sing.
“Because Kara wasn’t afraid of death she had no idea how hard it would be for some of us,” said her mother, Joyce Claypool.
“She spared no mercy in who she decided she wanted to sing what songs.”
As the first publicly known child with AIDS in the city’s schools, Kara Claypool became a symbol of courage. She dispelled prejudice surrounding a misunderstood disease.
She spoke in classrooms with her mother, who also has AIDS. Thank-you notes from students covered a bulletin board in the foyer of Fourth Memorial Church, where the service was held.
A note from a high school girl showed the impact of those public appearances: “I used to have unprotected sex with all my boyfriends because I thought ‘They don’t have anything.’ But now I’ve been staying abstinent and am going to practice safe sex if I do have sex.
“I feel in a way you saved my life.”
The Rev. Bob Smith, Kara’s pastor at Community Bible Chapel, talked about her fame.
“She was a celebrity. Her illness had a celebrity status. But this is not a referendum for AIDS. This is to celebrate someone we loved, nothing more than that. We just knew her as Kara.”
Kara’s circle, he said, “kept getting bigger and bigger. She just drew them in.”
People who came to remember Kara included her doctor, Bill Greene, nurses from Deaconess Medical Center, former Mayor Sheri Barnard and friends from church, Willard Elementary, the Girl Scouts and Spokane AIDS Network.
They sang the Sunday school standards Kara wanted them to sing: “Jesus Loves Me,” “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and “This Little Light of Mine.”
They stood and clapped along with “Do Lord.”
“You have to do the hand motions or Kara will be displeased,” Smith said, leading the congregation. “She wanted her brothers up here and me with the guitar and you looking silly.
“Those were the orders.”
Smith’s eulogy was interrupted by belly laughs as the congregation cracked up over a videotape showing on a big screen behind him. In the video, Kara stuck out her tongue and made faces at the camera.
Confused for a moment, Smith finally looked over his shoulder to see Kara pull one last goofy face, stretching the corners of her mouth wide with her fingers and crossing her big brown eyes.
The moment was unplanned and pure Kara.
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