One beautiful spring day, Kara and I took our littles to the zoo. I remember reveling in the sunshine that day and loving being with Kara where I had so many memories with Story. As we walked and talked, Kara told me that she was getting quite a few requests for speaking engagements. She asked if I would manage them for her. I was thrilled; God had made a way for me to stay connected! A reason to talk and text beyond How are you feeling today.
Summer came and it was time to say goodbye. My girlfriends, including Kara, gathered on Erika’s back porch, told stories, and toasted me with sangria. It was a humbling, beautiful evening. Sure, it was more of a see-you-later, but I knew for me it was the end of my super close time with kindred spirits. There is texting and skype and trips home, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Managing Kara’s speaking calendar not only gave me a unique roll to play in her life, it also kept me in her life in a unique way. I was copied on all the emails sent to her website. I got to read every note of encouragement and every creative cure for cancer that was lovingly sent her way. I felt close even though I was far away. Through all of the busyness and business, Kara never stopped asking about my heart: How is Virginia? Have you made friends? How is your marriage? She was never so caught up in her own story that she forgot about others. I learned from her that no one’s hard is insignificant. Yes, she had cancer and things were not looking good, but I should not be embarrassed to share my own struggles as though her hard trumped mine. It wasn’t easy for me to do, but it built trust between us and she was grateful to be able to give encouragement while receiving so much. It helped her to know that she was still needed, not just needy.
In the fall, I was able to fly home for the Village 7 Women’s retreat at Glen Erie where Kara was the speaker. She asked me if I would shadow her, take care of her, manage her meds, make sure she rested. I was honored.
One afternoon I sat with Kara as she signed books for hours. Although she was weary and hurting, she gave personal attention to each lady who stood in line. She heard their stories and she gave them the full Kara. At one point as she was signing a book, I started chatting with the lady waiting. She recognized me from Kara’s blog: “Oh, you’re the friend who moved away!” I realized that this is the way I am known in the Mundane Faithfulness world, and I’ll take it because what God is teaching me through being away is more significant than I could have imagined.
In late December, I got a text from Kara: This is the text I have been dreading, but the time has come. There is nothing else that can be done. We are going to stop treatment. That text brought another goodbye. The end was coming. There was always hope for a miracle, but it looked like Jesus wanted her Home. I texted and said that I wanted to come out, but I didn’t want to intrude. When could I come? I didn’t hear back. I didn’t know what to do.
Over the next few days, I learned an important lesson about helping friends in crisis: you don’t ask, you just do. You don’t ask the people in crisis to make decisions, you just show up (right Jill?). I looked at my calendar and airline tickets. I texted Kara and Jason and said that I was coming in a couple of days, that I had a place to stay, and that I would like to see them if possible. Almost immediately, they both texted back, We can’t wait to see you.
I went without an agenda, just the hope that I could be helpful and spend some time by Kara’s bed, soaking her in. I got both and more. I spent the week sleeping in the office, doing laundry and dishes, playing with the kids, rubbing Kara’s feet, refilling her water. I cried with friends, I cried with Kara. We piled up on her bed to watch Downton Abbey. I shared my heart. Kara challenged me to not be content with my pain. God has more for me, fight for it, fight for a soft heart. I said goodbye, confident that this would be the last time I touched her fragile body. I cried, but my heart was full of peace.
My next goodbye came in March. Time was drawing near, and this time I was not going to be able to show up. The day after Kara flew to Heaven, I flew to South Africa with my husband. It was an amazing and much needed vacation for us, but the timing, oh the timing! I wasn’t able to fly back for her service. I wasn’t there to join the thousands of voices praising God for Kara’s life. I wasn’t able to hang out with girlfriends, laughing and crying in our coffee. I was once again the friend who moved away. Remembered, loved, but not present.
It was a struggle, but I have come to peace with it. God asked me to once again give up my expectations of my friendship with Kara, and I trust Him. He is worthy. I trust that the timing of this trip was His timing. So my Colorado friends, know that I love you all. That my heart was with you and that in God’s loving plan for my life, instead of being with you all, He wanted me to spend that day honoring Kara with an open heart, her friend from afar. I know it is what Kara would want. I can almost hear her, talking in her silly voice out the side of her mouth, “You go mama—love on that man of yours and have fun!”
I did, my friend, and I will continue to love you from afar.