This past week was a full week; as I stand looking at the calendar hanging on the refrigerator, I see something written in the squares for each day: Ladies’ Margarita Night, Women’s Group, Baby Shower.  Etc. The list goes on, just like it does for you. And as I look to see what the squares hold for the week to come, all I can see is Tuesday’s square: Kara’s birthday.

In July, Kara and I sat together at a brunch hosted by a mutual friend. Kara was talking about someone who had complained of her wrinkles from years in the sun without sunscreen. Kara said, “I hope I live long enough to have wrinkles. I hope I live to see 40.”

Kara would be 39 Tuesday.

Last year, Jason threw her a surprise birthday party. We didn’t know for sure, of course, that it would be her last birthday. I suppose we suspected it, but we didn’t talk about it. Instead, we chose hope.

I helped Jason with the guest list and invitations, and even though it felt like we were inviting the whole city, it didn’t matter. Kara loved people so much that inviting everyone seemed the best way to love her. I remember chasing my babies at that party, chatting with friends, blotting strawberry juice from Kara’s carpet. I think I must have seen Kara and maybe even wished her a happy birthday, but I didn’t talk to her. In those situations I was always happy to hang back. I’m not good in crowds, but they were her specialty. Somehow she made everyone feel like the guest of honor.

Kara would be 39 Tuesday.

Sometimes my heart runs away with me—why couldn’t she have made it to 40? Why 38? Is a year and a half too much to ask?! But in my sadness and anger, grace meets me. God reminds me of his love for Kara, his love for Jason, his love for their babies. And he reminds me of his love for me. I picture Kara in Heaven, partying with her new friends and friends she has been reunited with. I picture the celebrating and laughing and singing and dancing—always dancing. But the guest of honor is not Kara at this party—it is Jesus himself. And that is much better than any party we could throw her here.

So I look for grace. My husband and I pray for Jason and the kids, Kara’s parents and brother and sister as they anticipate the day. I text the gals, make plans to meet at Justine’s. We text about who is bringing sangria, who is bringing treats, who has ideas for songs on our playlist that would bring Kara to her feet in joyful dance. I both dread and excitedly anticipate our time together. I will pack my purse full of tissue, remember my bag of patchouli candles to gift my friends in Kara’s honor, and thank God that I don’t have to spend the day alone in my grief—that grace will meet me in the love of friends, of community, and that we can cry and laugh and celebrate the gift of Kara (and Jesus!) together.

Is your heart hurting in expectation of something? Does your heart feel dread? Where can you look for grace in this struggle? To whom can you turn with your heart hurts for comfort and to look for God’s graces together? Do you truly believe God loves you and cares for the hurts of your hearts? Can you turn to him in your grief?