I Remember ~ Guest post by Jonna McMahon

March 22, 2016 marks the one-year anniversary of Kara’s Homecoming. For the week leading up to that day, we are publishing a series of reflections that some of Kara’s nearest and dearest have written as they’ve processed what this anniversary means to their hearts. This article is a part of that series.

From the Kentucky coal mines to the California sun, yeah Bobbie shared the secrets of my soul.
— Janis Joplin

My very first memory is my sister coming home from the hospital. I was about three and a half years old. I was so curious. I remember it so vividly. I remember thinking she looked weird. All squishy, a strange color, not what I had pictured a baby to look like. She also had a strange thing on her belly button that looked gross in my three-and-a-half-year-old mind. I remember this day so vividly. I have no memories before this day.

I have many happy memories of my childhood. The majority of these memories, Kara was by my side. I remember sleepovers at Grandma’s house, endless games of Kick the Can, late night giggling when we shared a room, catching lightening bugs, playing in the creek. Kara and I played hours and hours of Barbies, school, office, and house.

I also have memories of heartbreak, rebellious teenage years, tears of disappointment. I remember holding Kara’s hand when we were scared. I remember always wanting to protect my baby sister.

When I think back, there have been many more smiles than tears when I recall my life with my sister.

Having a vivid memory has been a curse these past few months. My vivid memory is doing a play by play of events that occurred this time last year.

It has been a struggle for me. I remember our last conversations. I remember looking in her eyes seeing the pain and suffering. I remember feeling helpless. I remember praying for the pain and suffering to stop. I remember her looking into my eyes asking me, How bad am I? and knowing she could read me like a book and could tell if I lied to her. I remember her asking me, If you only had one month to live, what would you do? as tears fell from her eyes.

I remember looking at her without saying a word and she simply responded, I know Jonna, I know... Jonna, you will be ok without me. Be sure to live your life.

I said, I don’t know how to do this... I don’t know how to say goodbye... I don’t know how to live without you.

Jonna you are strong, you will be just fine; I know it...

And she was correct.

There has not been a single day since she has left this earth that I have not thought about my sweet sister. When I think of Kara, there are times when I have tears in my eyes but I always have a smile on my face.

As the anniversary of my sister’s death approaches, I find myself distracted, preoccupied, and sad. I am trying to tell my heart that she is in Heaven and it should be a day to celebrate, but my heart is not listening.

I miss her so much. I miss her laugh. I miss her questions. I miss her bad singing voice. She used to call me every time she heard the song Me and Bobby McGee and sing on my voicemail. I still cannot hear that song without tears…lots and lots of tears.

I am thankful for my good memory even if what I am remembering is hard stuff. There is beauty in suffering. I walked so closely with the most beautiful sister while she suffered. I left Colorado a few days before Kara went to Heaven. The day she died, she FaceTimed me. As my precious brother held the iPad and my parents, Jason, Mickey, and loved ones were gathered in the room, she said, Jonna, I am going to be with Jesus.

Ok, Kara, you go, I will see you again, seester. I love you so much.

She died a few short hours later. I remember that call from Jason like it was yesterday. There was such sadness and loss but also such peace. I was so thankful my sister was not suffering any longer.

I lean very heavily on the Lord. I am thankful for His presence in my life. He helped me so much this first year of life without Kara.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
— Proverbs 3:5-7a

Kara was correct: I am fine. I find myself having one-way conversations with her. I often think of questions she might ask me. Things she would say. Advice she would give. Prayers she would pray.

My first memory was Kara entering our home drawing all those around her to love her. I have the memory of Kara leaving this earth going to be with Jesus. What a beautiful gift, I have both of these fantastic memories forever preserved in my tender heart.

I believe my sister’s dear friend Mary captured my thoughts best on an Instagram post. She said: The last of Kara’s books arrived today. She was only able to see one published while she was here, but how excited she would be to see all of them together! I still can’t bring myself to read them yet, but I am grateful that her words will be with me when she is not. Cancer and death are not the end of her story. We get to hope in the bigger story of the King who is making all things new. This year has been hard and grief is such a strange thing, but I am thankful for March. In this month we not only mourn the loss of our girl, but rejoice in the redemption of our risen Savior. I don’t pretend to understand the balance, but I’m glad they go together.

I love and miss you so much, Kara.