For months I held my breath every morning when I looked at my phone, anticipating an update about Kara. Each glance held its own grace. If there weren’t an update, all was well, or at least the same. If there were an update, I inhaled each word as it took me inside the sacred walls of the Tippetts’ home.
Kara’s journey Home, although way too soon, was not short. She called it the “grace of the long good-bye.” When I visited her in January, I asked if she had done all that she wanted to do, said all that she wanted to say. She told me that she would never be done, but that she was content. I only knew Kara a few years, but that is one way I will remember her—never done, but content. Kara was intentional with her heart, with her time, with her words. She never stopped loving, giving, challenging. But, in all of that, she had a peace about her that was compelling. She knew the source of her worth and she rested in it. She was never done, but she was content in her living and her dying.
Being Kara’s friend had its challenges (am I really writing in the past tense?). For me those challenges were trusting, sharing, and saying goodbye. The first significant interaction I remember with Kara was in the summer of 2012. The Tippetts had moved to Colorado Springs 6 months earlier and two of the kids were in my girls’ classes. That summer I hosted a “Pray and Play,” where friends got together and prayed for our husbands while the kiddos ran around the basement and backyard. It was a sweet time. Kara only came once, but we connected because we both had littles who were not yet in school. We talked about swapping childcare once a week to give each other a break. Those early, carefree days of the summer of 2012 didn’t last; the Waldo Canyon fire, a friend’s first baby stillborn, the shooting at the Aurora movie theater, and Kara’s diagnosis all swept in and forever changed the landscape of my life.
Not long after her diagnosis, I texted Kara and suggested that instead of swapping our youngests, I would be happy to just keep Story Jane every Wednesday. Kara accepted and planned her chemo treatments for Wednesdays. That school year I fell in love with Kara through her youngest daughter. Picking Story up at morning drop off with her big-girl lunch box, mismatched clothes, fabulous bed head, and sparkle in her eyes was a highlight of my week. Rachel, Story, and I would often go to the zoo. We had our routine. The girls didn’t need any direction, just a pull in the wagon when their little legs gave out. They knew where to find their favorite animals and that we ate lunch while watching the gorillas.
Chemo ended, Kara rang the bell, and we celebrated. I remember thinking, Now I will really get to know Kara. But that wasn’t God’s plan. Scans that were supposed to bring closure revealed more cancer. Our community was crushed. How could this be? How could this be God’s good? We all stepped up to the plate again and offered to help the Tippetts in any way we could. By this time, Story was a year older and ready for preschool. The part I had played was no longer needed. Not that I wasn’t needed, but it was different.
As the weeks and months passed, Kara’s days were filled with treatments, scans, waiting for test results, and recovering from the chemo and radiation that was attempting to keep the cancer away yet wreaked havoc on her body. Life had to become smaller than Kara wanted it to be. She needed her core group of friends. She had the desire to love everyone, but not the energy. In the midst of all of this, I had been able to interact with her enough to know that she was the kind of friend worth pursuing. Kara listened, she cared, she was bold in the truth, and she was hilarious. But I was not one of her inner circle and I didn’t have the courage to ask. By that point, she had already gained a following on her blog. It seemed like everyone wanted to be Kara’s BFF. I felt like a groupie.
Kara’s was a friendship that I wanted, but it seemed that circumstances were not going to let that happen. Our paths were just not crossing naturally. I needed to make a decision: I could be bitter, I could try to wiggle my way in, or I could let it go. I felt like I was back in high school, watching the popular girls from afar, wanting to be a part of something but not knowing if I belonged. Unlike high school, these “popular girls” never gave the impression that they were in an elite club; they just had something that I wanted and didn’t know how to ask for.
One night I was overcome with the emotion of it all and poured my heart out to the Lord. Gently, He guided me and made it clear that I needed to let go of my expectations. Let go of Kara and trust Him that this was good. I didn’t understand, but I had such peace and it freed me to better love and serve those who naturally came in to my life.
A plan started to come together for a t-shirt campaign to raise funds to send the Tippetts on a family vacation. My brother Mark, who is a graphic designer, had designed a t-shirt after the Waldo Canyon Fire, so I was asked if he would do the same for the Tippetts. Being the connection to the designer gave me a new role to play; having experience with a t-shirt campaign gave me confidence to help. Texts and visits with Kara became more frequent. Soon they were not only about color and font choices, but genuine sharing.
At the end of that campaign it struck me: in His time, God gave me the very friendship He had asked me to give up, and it was more beautiful than anything I could have imagined. God gave me the strength to trust Him and in the end He gave me the desire of my heart.
Soon I learned that if you were going to be Kara’s friend you had to share her. There was no room for jealousy. You had to trust that she loved you and you had to let her love others, too. She wanted you at the party and would take time to talk to each person there, but there would be a lot of people.
In the spring of 2014, Kara was feeling better. There were times she could drop the kids off at school in the morning. Chatting on the sidewalk with other moms turned into spontaneous coffee dates and then intentional get-togethers. Those were precious times and I soaked them up because I knew that soon things were changing for me; I would be moving that summer. God, in His beautiful plan, had extended my husband’s assignment at Ft. Carson 1 year longer than we had expected. It was in that year that I developed some of the deepest friendships of my life. Now it was time to say goodbye. I knew it wasn’t over, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same and that was okay. I was grateful for what I had. Even though I was sad to leave, I was determined to be grateful.