A question I’ve been asked lately is, How is your grief? How is your grieving going? I love that because not only is my heart being pursued, but my people understand that grief lasts a long time, that carrying on Kara’s legacy through Mundane Faithfulness has been a hard honor, that finding a new Karaless normal has been a struggle for me.
When the question is asked, it’s always as though I have never considered the dance of my grief, how it goes from a quiet, controlled waltz to a frantic foxtrot depending on the day. And I am forced to admit that somewhere during this dance, my efforts to survive the initial slow, miserable Karaless days evolved into a determined defiance in distracting myself from experiencing the swallowing sadness of Kara’s absence.
On the days I can’t distract, I sit on the edge of my well, wondering if the grief will overcome; I imagine it looking like a swamp monster, dark green and slimy, faceless, dripping of sour disgust I never want to encounter. Its arms stretch over its head, intimidating its victims as they wait for it to push them over the edge of wherever they sit.
But lately, when I picture this, something else happens—I look away from the grief monster to see faces around my well, friends sitting there with me. I am not alone in my grief and fear; I am surrounded by community—community who will do their best to hold me up but who, if I do fall down my well, will jump in after me to keep me company, constantly reminding me of Grace.
Sometimes I am jerked from my distraction by beauty. And it’s usually in the form of a Tippetts, like Story giggling with Von Sunday morning, trying to coax him into giving her a high five. Or Ella’s sweet smile as she catches me up on how much fun school is. (These children choosing joy!) Mostly it’s in hearing Jason explain how he has engaged grief and has been a willing participant, crying when he needs to cry, taking his ring off when he felt ready. And so on.
Even in watching his care of Kara throughout the cancer, I saw how he loved her with open hands, never claiming right to her. She is God’s, a gift to Jason, but not his to keep.
And now he grieves with open hands, understanding that Kara’s death—the death of his wife—is not all about him. It’s not all about their children, either. It’s about God writing a story of love and grace for the world and communicating his redemption to us in ways that make sense to our hearts.
I’m not sure I will ever understand this side of Heaven why Kara’s death made sense in God’s story, but I trust the God who wrote that story.
This summer my family went to Ouray, Colorado—our favorite place. Aaron and I spent part of our honeymoon there and we go back at least once a year. Two years ago, the Tippetts happened to be traveling through the same time we were there. We didn’t realize our trips would line up like that until one day we saw Kara in a big sunhat walking across the street. I texted, and in two minutes we were face to face laughing about the coincidence.
That was when our friendship got real. That was when we learned how to pursue each other well and spoke the depths of our hearts to one another; it was spectacular.
Ouray has become a sacred place to me. When we shop and hike and mingle and nap and play in that place, I feel the impact of Kara’s love keenly. The changes her friendship brought to my heart become so evident that I can see clearly that grieving with open hands is the only way to grieve—life with her was a gift. Eternal life with her is a gift to come.
These moments of beauty—reflective of God’s heart for redemption, the hope we have in what is to come, the restoration of Kara herself and someday me—they are a part of grief, too. Maybe grief isn’t the slimy swamp monster I’ve made it out to be. Maybe it’s a hard beauty. Maybe it comes with the grace of community. Maybe as I learn this dance, I will hear the music and be engulfed by its beauty.