Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Clay's for Cara

Almost two years ago now, I received one of those dreaded hone calls you never want. I was actually in the dressing room at J. Crew when the phone rang and thus did not answer. When my friend called back immediately I had that feeling you need to answer. When I picked up I could sense the downcast spirit on Leah already as she began to explain to me the current situation of our mutual friend from college.

I met Cara through the Christian sorority we were a part of. We were close through college and she was always someone I knew I had in my corner no matter what. Many of our friends at the time were your typical college gals, crazy, funny, loud, obnoxious and always trying to be in the spotlight. Okay, I may or may not be just talking about myself here but this is one of the reasons I was so drawn to Cara. She was one of those people that when you meet you instantly feel like you have known her your entire life. She was calm, a servant, always willing to let others shine and do what she could to help them do so. She laughed at all my jokes even the ones that were not funny. I tried so hard in college to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be but Cara was one of those friends I always felt at ease to drop my guard around. At 31 I now realize she saw right through my act and toughness and didn't care, her love was unconditional. We spent a good amount of time together as our close knit groups often would hang out and do things together, but part of me always wished I had invested more into that friendship. My soul knew I needed it.

In 2003 we both had new beginnings. Mine was starting a new life in Washington, D.C. at my first real job. Cara's was beginning a battle with a brain tumor. I remember sitting at my desk when I found out. Shocked. Prayer and seeking prayer through my email network was my first destination for this helplessness I felt so many miles away. I thought of all people to battle this. After much time had passed the Lord healed her and Cara was finally able to walk into the next stage of her life He had called her to as a wife and then a future mother. Both of our lives took many turns before we were able to finally reunite. Through the wonderful world of social media I was able to "keep up" with her and watch all the Lord was doing.

Now back to the dressing room at J. Crew, there I was when the phone rang and Leah began to explain to me the new battle Cara was facing. She told me how Cara had been having headaches all through her pregnancy with Kate. She continued on with the pregnancy and delivered a happy and healthy little gal 9 months later but the headaches didn't go away. Soon after that she went in for the tests where they discovered a stage 4 brain tumor. Then the call...

I remember being a bit numb, feeling guilty. I had let so much time pass with a friend I truly treasured. I also was in a bit of denial that this would not end badly. I was certain her life had so much to offer, two little gals (Hailey and Kate) and a husband who adored her.

It was now 2010, new clothes from J.Crew seem irrelevant and the best cancer health care in the world suddenly seems relevant. I actually lived in Houston by now, which houses M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where Cara came to receive treatment. I contacted Cara and Justin to make any resource I had or didn't have available to them. My fix it mentality went into over drive and I wanted to "do my part" spin and toil "to help". In hindsight, toiling is not what Cara wanted. Much like in college she saw through what I was doing and yes she accepted and allowed me to "help" where I could but for the most part Cara just kept reminding me just being there was all she needed. So I hung out in the hospital with her one night, had dinner a few others, got a little time in Boerne at her house. She offered to cook me dinner that night but for some reason I thought I was too busy to stay. I have thought of that moment many times and at her funeral realizing there would not be another night for dinner I wish I would have stayed a little longer.

We can spin and toil and do all we want to try to show those we care for that we do, but what people really want and what helps the most is you. Just You. Nothing more, nothing less. Just show up and love.

It has been a hard lesson for me to learn, and was something the Lord has been and is taking me me through in many different ways. But it is one of the biggest lessons the Lord put flesh on for me through Cara (especially through the last year of her life) is to just love. The last time I saw her before she left Houston to head back to Boerne I told her I was going to try to move some things around and see her one last time... She just hugged me and whispered very faintly in my ear "It's okay. I love you."

I can barely type that without crying but it is who Cara was. You knew she loved you. I never questioned that our entire friendship. She never made any grand gesture or anything crazy. She gave us her. She gave us her whole self. Nothing more, nothing less. When you spent time with her she was completely present and available. She was real and genuine through and through.

Few people have affected my life the way Cara has, and because it is so fresh on my mind I would tell you no one has. Her steadfastness and true faith in the Lord never wavered. Se trusted her God until the very end. I keep a picture of Cara in my bible tucked away at the page which holds the verse; "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7) I don't believe I have known anyone who embodied that more.

Cara's spirit of life love and faith were contagious and live on in her family. Who would like for more people to know her and thus her family and friends are in the process of setting up and endowment at M.D. Anderson in Cara's name. It's a huge cost $20,000 but I believe the Lord can do it. There is actually a skeet shooting tournament later this month that will take place to help raise funds. Clay's for Cara

I am planning to take part in it and I pray some of you in the Texas area would as well. If you are interested let me know and we can make our own team! You can also just come out for dinner. Just do as the Lord leads you in this and follow through.

But if you learn anything from Cara please learn to love those around you. Be real and vulnerable. Do not try to be someone you aren't because you think that is what is expected from you.

Just love.


Jana said...

Thanks for sharing Michelle! Wish I could have known Cara :)

Jana said...

Thanks for sharing Michelle! Wish I could've known Cara :)