Kindred Spirits: Sharon’s Story

I’m still in shock most days. I’m not exactly sure when it’s going to sink in that Kara has gone to Heaven. Weekly I think about texting her—asking her advice or telling her something inappropriate. Y’all, she loved TMI stuff.

She had a blog before the one that everyone has started reading. Last week I was missing her something fierce and wanted to hear her words again.  I vaguely remembered the name of the blog and googled a couple of key phrases. I found it and found all her words before cancer and before all those ugly/beautiful things were a part of her world (ps. I love the internet)...

It was so great to see those posts through the eyes of today. Even back then she was writing about kindness and loving her kids well and about searching hard after Jesus and the grace he loves to throw around. I was crushed but also so encouraged—cancer didn’t all of a sudden turn Kara into this wonderful human being who seemed to do things so right. Kara and Jason talk about that a lot—how it was the years of investing in each other and reading God’s Word and being mentored that allowed her to so gracefully live out her cancer days. And she did do it so gracefully, didn’t she? I remember when she was first diagnosed she immediately thought to ask specific people to walk with their children through that season. I thought to myself, “How did she know to do that? Is there a manual for being a mom with cancer?” I asked her too, because I thought if I were in that situation, I would be so overwhelmed I wouldn’t know which way was up. She seemed surprised by that question, like, Of course I would get mentors for my kids. And yes, of course she would. She was just like that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself because I’m not a writer and I’m still overwhelmed with grief. But let me tell y’all how we met.

My husband and I met Kara and Jason almost 4 years ago at a Church planters’ assessment. It’s basically an intense week of evaluation where people figure out if you have what it takes to start a church from scratch. People get real, real quick. She loved me because I had a tiny baby and she wanted to hold that baby the whole time, so obviously she was by my side a lot that week. I don’t remember specifically meeting her, but I remember the first time we really talked; she had just taken Ella on Ella’s 10-year-old special mom/daughter trip. That’s the first thing I remember about Kara—her sharing her heart about that trip and how thankful and glad she was to be a mom. My next memory is when we all took a group photo after that intense few days—she and Jason were behind Matt and me, and I said, “Kara, let’s be friends!” She laughed and said, “Will you be my friend?!”

We exchanged numbers and we texted back and forth about where they were in life and what God had in store for them. We already knew we were moving to Denver to help a church plant and a few months after we moved to Colorado, she texted that they were moving out here too.

We decided immediately that our families would be close friends. We went to see them right after they moved. We pulled up and realized we had two of the exact same cars—a Volvo station wagon and silver Honda Odyssey. Then we went inside and saw we had the same furniture—y’all, no joke.

Our kids played famously and we acted like we had known each other for decades, even though that essentially was the first time we had hung out besides the assessment. She was like that and definitely something I strive to embody—making anyone, everyone, feel welcome and adored.

We live in Denver and they live in the Springs, so we worked on our friendship. They are good at it. Jason and Matt were ordained at the same time and it was a special time.

During that first year of chemo and radiation, the four of us, my husband and I and Kara and Jason, met at least once a month in between our two cities. We first went to an incredible foodie place, which was amazing, but then decided Chilis was just a perfect place for us—we could be loud, we could laugh a lot. I miss us four a lot, I know each of us does. Finding another couple where everyone loves each other is hard and it’s precious and rare. And I’m realizing something about grief—that we mourn the loss of what we had but we also mourn all the years ahead we are missing. That’s the hardest for me to swallow. Kara and I talked a lot about that—this isn’t the way the story was supposed to go. We were supposed to live in our separate cities and vacation together as families and swap pastor wife stories. We were supposed to support one another. This is definitely not the story I would have written...

I guess I saw that first year of cancer as something to endure, to get through, and then we could carry on to enjoy our friendship and our families would be happily ever after. Because we didn’t see the day-to-day hardness of life with cancer and chemo, Matt and I had the privilege to be the “fun friends” who got to go have fun and keep things light. We talked church shop a lot and grew deep in our friendship even in just a few years. We spent some holidays together, a few little vacations together, but it was never enough time.

During my last pregnancy I had pretty bad insomnia and her sleep was pretty erratic at that point with all her different meds. I knew she’d be up, so we’d email back and forth. We were supposed to go to the mountains with the Tippetts for Memorial Weekend but my husband thought it was too close to my due date. He was right because our youngest came the next day. The Tippetts and Mickey came by to kiss and love on our newborn just a few hours old. Kara and Harper came a few days later to love on us. She loved caring for new moms.

Towards the end she asked my husband Matt if he would give the eulogy. She asked him on a text and said it probably wasn’t an appropriate way to ask something of that nature. He responded by saying he was struggling to find the correct emoji. She laughed hard. She loved to laugh and had a really, really good one. Even with something as hard and sobering as discussing her eulogy, she loved to find the humor.

A few days after the doctors told them they were at the end of treatment and she didn’t have much longer, I laid with her on her bed. I asked her if she was afraid. She looked me in the eye and said, “Not at all.” She was confident, she knew Jesus in a deep, deep, beautiful way.

We only saw them once more after that. Life and illness kept us away. Jason called me beforehand to give me a heads up on how she was doing. I was devastated when I saw her. She was definitely fading but yes, she was still living fully. We were so honored that our last time together was the four of us together, out to dinner, just like it always was. She got all dressed up, in her wheelchair, and met us out.

I cried the whole way home after that dinner, knowing she was fading and we might not see her again. That feeling hasn’t gone away. I’m learning that grief doesn’t necessarily end, it just changes.

And so now I’m sitting here in one of Kara’s cardigans, with her lovely scent enveloping me. I’m contemplating the things of heaven—does she look down on us? Does she see her children laughing? Does she know how Jason built a rock climbing wall for them?  I don’t know. All that heaven stuff still leaves me with a lot of questions. But what I do know is that I know Jesus and she is with Him, and that gives me comfort. And I know this is not the end.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy...
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy...
— Psalm 126