Kindred Spirits: Autumn Stanley, Part II

I remember our first phone call after her cancer diagnosis. We had been texting about it since she found the lump in the shower that day. But the first call after multiple appointments…I remember it clearly. She talked about the treatment plan, Mary’s wedding, dying her hair. She talked and I wanted to cry, but if she weren’t crying, I shouldn’t be either. I sat on the phone in awe of her peace and strength. It was grace; she was full of peace, and I loved that about her.

When I went to Colorado in December of 2013, Kara saw that I wore my Pandora bracelet with my Tiffany Bracelet. She had been wearing hers separately. I showed her how I loved that they jingled when they bumped together. She got all excited and said, “Let’s get matching charms tomorrow.” The next day we went to a quaint little shop and searched for a matching charm, but nothing suited us. Then she saw a fat, happy airplane. “YOU need this!! To represent your overcoming your fear of flying.” A couple minutes later we found hers—a fat little clock. We looked at each other and said, “More time.” It was her dream, everyone’s dream. So we bought our friendship charms, not matching but representing something much bigger and better.

When Kara came back to North Carolina in the fall of 2014 to speak, she reserved Friday night for just the two of us to have a sleepover. This was the most fun. It was after her first night of speaking, and we knew we needed to sleep—especially her. Around 11:00 we did go to sleep, but at midnight I woke up to a noise. I thought, Is she playing with money in the bed? Turns out she was moving around a lot and her bracelets were jingling together.

I asked her if she was ok, was she feeling sick, etc. No—she was fine. But we started talking and we didn’t stop until 3:30 am. I do not remember everything we covered that night, but oh, how full my heart feels with the memory of it! We got up at 6 the next morning for a breakfast, followed by a book signing and then another speaking event. Afterward was lunch and a Q&A session. How the girl did it, I have no idea. Running on about 3.5 hours sleep and she was amazing. Eloquent. Thought provoking. She had her whole audience in tears. After the retreat, we went to Lois and Kenny’s. I told Lois, “You’re going to have to make her rest.” And so Lois did in her gentle, loving way.

I can’t think of my years in Marion without thinking about Kara; the bulk of my married life to date I was friends with her. We did all the growing of little hearts and minds together. I look at my life and see where Kara is in it. I see how I am a better wife and a better mother because of her. I am now a teacher at a Christian School; Kara helped push this idea and process. I have a community of amazing, loving women that Kara brought together. And I continue to see how God has used and is using Kara in my life, and it simply amazes me.

Last month I lost my best friend, my Anne-Girl. I still think about texting her most days. I had a parenting event last week and I so wanted her advice, she always had such good advice. To say I miss her is inadequate, but to say I am thankful for her, blessed by her, is something I will be forever. We loved one another in the good, the bad, and the messy. She accepted me just as I was, and she encouraged me to be better. My faith grew so much through her. I thank God everyday for introducing us to one another. How blessed am I to have had such a girl as a best friend?!

Kara embraced and loved people. She loved knowing “the real you”. Each of us who loves her, either by personally or through her words, knows that she loved big. Each one of us now carries a piece of Kara in us. I hear her in my head, I hear the advice she would give me, her encouragement to love others. Kara would want each of us to be intentional about moving forward with love for others. She would want us to get into the hearts of people, to get into the messy of life and love big. How will you move forward in loving others?