I wish I could say that Kara and I were the closest and best of bosom friends. In truth, we had a brief friendship – but any acquaintance with Kara felt close, intimate, genuine, and real. I am so thankful for the months God placed her in my life, and every memory I have of Kara is beautiful, joyful, sweet. I’d love to share a handful.
One of the earliest impressions I had of Kara is also one of my favorite memories of her. It was long before her cancer diagnosis, only days – maybe weeks at most – after we initially met. We often sat near the Tippets in church, and this particular Sunday my husband and I sat right behind Kara and her son. During the Lord’s Supper, her son looked up at her and whispered a question – he asked her what was happening, why we were eating a small piece of bread and taking a sip of wine. Kara didn’t shush him. She didn’t say, “I’ll tell you after the service.” She didn’t even take him by the hand and lead him out into the hall where they could “talk freely.” Instead, she wrapped her arm around her son, leaned in, and whispered into his ear. I sat there holding my little piece of bread and my little cup of wine as I listened to her whisper the gospel to her son right then and there, tell of her confidence in the grace of God through Jesus, explain that we were taking this meal to participate in the covenant made in his blood and that by doing this we proclaimed Jesus’ death until his return. That moment had an enormous impact on me – I saw the deep and confident hope in the Savior she loved meet the profound and enormous love she had for her own son in that moment. I long to be that kind of a parent to my own daughter.
Several months later, the west side of Colorado Springs trembled as the Waldo Canyon Fire spilled over the hills and destroyed homes. Many of us found ourselves displaced and traumatized by what looked like an apocalypse scene out of a doomsday movie. After the fire abated and our neighborhoods opened back up, Kara opened up her home to a few of us west side women as a safe place to “debrief” what we had been through. In a home they had barely moved into – where they had not even yet had the chance to hang pictures on the wall – she provided a meal and encouragement, love and comfort. We joyfully watched her kids play as we reminded each other of the goodness and faithfulness of God even in the storm.
Only a few months after Kara’s diagnosis, God called my family to move out of state, and our friendship muted in the way relationships do over long distances. However, we had a wonderful opportunity a few months ago to drive back down to Colorado to go to a wedding. Kara was there with her bright blond hair, big sparkling eyes, and beautiful smile. She held our 7-month-old daughter on her lap through much of the wedding, cuddling her and tenderly loving on her. At the reception she danced with all she had with her husband and kids. Even after all she had been though I remember thinking, “She is so incredibly alive. She is so full of joy for today.” Little did we know she only had months left. Kara will forever be a picture to me of how to live in the abundance of God’s grace for today – to embrace the beautiful, joyful, wonderful, alive, loving moments we have.
Finally, the day Kara shared with me that she had cancer, she said something I will never forget for the rest of all of eternity. It is the one memory of her that has impacted me the deepest. After explaining to us that the lump they found was malignant, with a straight face and steady voice she said, “I get to have cancer for Jesus.” Get to. Not “have to.” Not, “I’m stuck with.” Not, “Well, I guess God has called me to this so I have to do the best I can with this.” No. Even in that moment of fear and uncertainty, with the darkness of anticipation looming out in front of us, she clung to the goodness of God’s calling and his promise for her good and His glory. She was always the first to quickly admit her fear, her sadness, her questioning and even anger. But every word, every action, every day was lived to God’s glory. She did not doubt him, but thanked him – even when she couldn’t understand what he was doing or why.
It is so easy to ask God “why?” How could this possibly be good? Why would he providentially take her through such suffering, take her from her husband and beautiful kids? I don’t know all the reasons, and I definitely don’t want to diminish the awful sadness of suffering and death. But I do know this: Kara’s cancer became an incredible stage for thousands of people to see and hear and know the goodness and glory of God through the gospel of His Son. Because of Kara’s life and death, thousands upon thousands of us grew in our confidence and faith in God.
It is so easy to say, “God took her too soon,” or “her life was cut short.” But please, beloved, let’s not cheapen this. It feels to us like we lost her too early and everything in our mortality wants and craves her presence longer. But this story, the day and moment of Kara’s death, was not a surprise to God. He didn’t lose control in her life and for a moment give victory to the devil in her cancer. No. Every day of Kara’s life – including the last one – were written in God’s book before even a single one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). And we know that the death of the saints is precious in the sight of the LORD (Psalm 116:15). Don’t get me wrong. Death is not a good thing. It is a horrific effect of the fall – our rebellion against God. But through the incredible sacrifice of Jesus – when he took the wrath of God on himself and died in our place, and then rose from the dead and conquered death for us – the sting and victory of death is gone (I Corinthians 15:55).
Eternity feels so far away to us mortals. The veil between heaven and earth seems so thick and impenetrable. But, while I hope by the grace of God to still live a long life, to be here for years and years and years, I know that in the scope of eternity I can say with confidence, “Dear Kara, see you soon.”