Kara Tippetts died yesterday. She was 38, the mother of four and wife of 17 years to Jason. Though I never had the pleasure to meet her, like scores of others, I “knew” her through a blog, Mundane Faithfulness, where she shared the story of her short life with grace and authenticity.
My first acquaintance with Tippetts came last fall thanks to an open letter she’d written to another woman also suffering from cancer. That woman had decided to proactively end her own life before the cancer could kill her. In November, after that woman died (by her own hand), I posted my thoughts here. Again in January, I posted a second time (with a sonnet) when Kara’s blog announced she’d begun to receive hospice care.
Please click over to the links where you can find reliable details about the Tippetts family. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed; more likely, you’ll see beauty and elegance in the midst of unimaginable sorrow … just as I have observed. Her posts reveal a woman who, for two years, stared at death in the mirror, fighting the inevitable losses that signaled Death would have its triumph, but determined to keep fighting for every single breath.
In one text to a friend, she wrote, “I don’t want to leave the party.” It’s clear she wanted to be there for her children, to watch them grow up, to launch them into life, but God allowed another plan and she and her husband were at peace in His will. In living and loving as she did, Kara taught her family, friends and readers what it means to die well.
My younger daughter is 38. I wept when I heard of Kara’s passing and I can’t fathom how much worse my agony would be at the loss of one of my offspring. Kara’s parents are experiencing their own loss, just as Kara’s husband and children are.
When an individual is faced with a fatal disease, the normal focus of life must become very narrow. The first order of business is to fight the disease. What treatments are there? How soon to treat aggressively and when does one decide enough is enough? Acknowledge people have been known to go into remission and hope for such an outcome.
Unless one is suddenly killed by a bolt of lightning, the second order of business (when dying) is figuring out how to die. With all the lessons one learns in school, this one (learning how to die) isn’t high on the list … which is odd considering each of us – as in 100% of us – will die. Yes, there’s a general guideline about getting one’s house in order, but what are the specifics?
The problem is we don’t have role models (except for One) who’ve been there and come back to tell the story! As with many of life’s experiences, dying is a milestone one learns by doing. No doubt the Tippetts family started as you or I would … baby steps, plus lots of trial and error. (I can imagine explaining death to children can be as variable as the children involved.)
But dying well? I think that’s a choice. In my view, it begins by understanding who you are … a dearly loved child of the Most High God. Once you understand that, you have a basis for knowing Death was never part of God’s perfect plan … it is an insult, a cataclysmic involuntary collapse of the universe in upon itself. Finally, these essentials confirm that on the other side of Death is Life … Eternal Life with Jesus Christ.
Dying well is only possible by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Yes, we mourn Kara’s passing, but her suffering is over and she’s about to commemorate her first Easter in the loving arms of our Savior!
Instead of grieving her loss, let’s celebrate the uncommon life of Kara Tippetts! She gave us a glimpse of what it means to live a life of mundane faithfulness … in the valleys, in spite of awful trials, and even in the face of death. If Proverbs 31 had a Hall of Fame, Kara’s picture would no doubt be included because her life reflected these qualities: “… a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
Kara Tippetts is gone from us, but her memory will live on in so many who were touched by her inner beauty and extraordinary faith.