Kindred Spirits: Heather’s Story

In reflecting on friendship with Kara, I want to write about little things. The one time Kara and I got together when she didn’t have cancer was after dropping our kids off at school one day. We had breakfast at my favorite place, then went to an estate sale where she made me purchase a metal cabinet, then to a thrift store where she forced a rooster lamp on me. Clearly, I’m easily influenced in such matters—and it’s a good thing because the lamp turned out to be worth $200! These are little things I now cherish because they take me back the few years that can seem like a lifetime.

I’m realizing many of the other little things that come to mind have their beginnings in my first visit to the Tippetts’ home after Kara told me she had cancer. I have never heard God’s voice but I have felt the nudge of His Spirit. Sometimes I recognize it; sometimes I follow it. I felt the nudge that day and offered to go to Kara’s house and try to be useful. I was so nervous—I’d never been in this kind of situation, never even been in their house. And, frankly, I’m not known for saying the right thing at the right time. Of course, Kara welcomed me with open arms and the beanstalk growth of the numerous little things began.

Frito Pie. It’s a little thing, but when people appreciate my roots, I tend to be drawn to them. I took ingredients with me that day to make Texas Frito, and the Tippetts did not disappoint. Numerous individual bowls of the stacked Frito/chili/cheese were consumed by the spoonful and I admit I was proud. Kara said she hoped that when I prepared it in the future I would think, “Let’s call the Tippetts and share this dinner with them!” Months later, when few foods appealed to her, Kara texted to say she wanted my Frito Pie. How could I deny such a discerning palate?

Grace Dress. I gave Kara my dress that day. I don’t say that to overrate my occasional bursts of generosity. Little did I know at the time that if I hadn’t offered it she probably would have asked for it! I only mention the dress because it truly was a little thing. So little that I would have missed it altogether if I had not been given grace to heed the Spirit-nudge in my closet that morning directing me away from the (astonishingly!-what-happened-over-the-winter?) hip-hugging number I put on originally. I switched to the soft gray dress I’d recently thrifted and, strangely enough, tossed some of my husband’s clothes in a bag since there was some reason he might need them at work. Kara thought the dress would be great for their family photo shoot that day. I gave it to her and put on my husband’s clothes. And the rest, as they say, is history. I assume someone out there who has read Kara’s account of the grace dress has wondered whether the donor drove home in her unmentionables…and now you know that I most certainly DID NOT. My father, at least, will be relieved! Mickey recently returned that worn dress to me because she thought Kara’s kiddos would enjoy pillows made from it—and I love making pillows! To me, it is a gift to be given a little thing to do when it feels like there’s nothing to say.

Nail Polish. I don’t think anyone could describe Kara as a girly girl but she liked a colorful mani/pedi. I painted Kara’s nails that day. The icy blue of a jewelry box from Tiffany’s (as in Breakfast at…, I think). She had a couple of simple pieces from there that Jason had given her over the years, and she was attached not only to the jewelry but also to the color that reminded her of his gifts. I had several more chances to paint Kara’s nails, and she always picked blue. It’s a little thing. But you can bet we now wear a lot of blue nail polish in my girl-filled house.

Hair Styling. I braided Story Jane’s hair that day and did a small twist in Ella’s, then offered to brush Kara’s. This particular little thing helps keep me humble even in all my grace dress glory. Much later, while Kara was in treatment, I was leaving her house after she had come from a shower all be-robed and bundled for warmth. I asked, as I had that first day, if she wanted me to brush her hair. Yes, folks, you read that right. I asked a woman in chemo if she wanted me to brush her hair. Kara’s eyes got big under that yellow towel turban and she said through her laughter, “I don’t have any hair!”

Friendship. I met Jen Lints that day when she came for the photo shoot. She’s not just a gifted photographer. She is a good friend. I was drawn to her when I saw the sensitivity and love that her eyes expressed to the Tippetts. Jen is my friend now, too. So many friends I have because of Kara! We like each other because Kara liked each of us. We didn’t have to test the waters with one other. Kara had already done that so it wasn’t necessary to stay shallow for long. All the names and faces may or may not appear on Kara’s blog, but that was never the point anyway. Little things brought us together and keep us together. For instance,…

Sorting. Many have read about the day Jason gave some of Kara’s friends a chance to handle her clothes and take them home. Little things in the grand scheme, really, yet meaningful. There was something for everyone. Color. Texture. Size. It was sad in a way, since it demonstrated the significant change in Kara’s physical body brought on by cancer. But it was beautiful, too. Like the sisterhood in which the pants miraculously fit every member of the group no matter her size or style and, more importantly, provided each with a special symbol of their friendship when they weren’t together. Not morbidly, of course. Just bittersweetly.

Support. Little things have upheld each of us along our journey with Kara. A hometown friend of mine responded to a Spirit-nudge when she learned that I knew Kara. Her son, a high school buddy to me, had died of lung cancer a few years before. She was familiar with my struggle to know what to do or how to pray (just forget the “what to say” part!), and she reached out to me not with answers but with small reminders that Jesus knows where we are and He loves us and is worthy of our trust.

I’ll close with this: The Sunday after Kara went to Jesus, I was riding with my husband and two daughters to church while Ellie Holcomb helped prepare us for worship at high volume. I commented that we would not have known about her—or singer Jamie Grace—if not for Kara. Then I noted that we were on our way to a Sunday school community where Kara had suggested we might help meet a need. Then it just escaped my lips, “Jesus, what will we do without Kara?”

I keep thinking of that verse from Ecclesiastes about casting our bread on the waters and seeing how it comes back to us in the future. So I think something we do is keep casting these little things on the waters of God’s grace and letting them grow, often out of sight. I already see Kara’s little bits of bread, her prayers that are not limited by time and space, coming back as great loaves or even as bejeweled treasures big or small. In Harper Joy’s love for her teacher and classmates and field trips. In Jason’s family plans for summer. In friendships that remain because they are God’s gift. In the church plant that grows and grows. In hearts forever changed by Jesus. These returns encourage me to cast little things with abandon instead of hoard them to myself. Who can count what meals are to be made or nails to be painted or lives to be redeemed? As Mickey says, our love multiplies, not diminishes, in the giving away of it.

What little things can we cast today onto God’s eternal waters, trusting in His love and faithfulness to grow them according to His good plan? To what Spirit-nudge can we respond without having to know why it has come?