Kara Tippetts, who died on March 22, 2015—two years ago this week—was a remarkable woman. She and her husband Jason had four beautiful children and a thriving new church that Jason started and where he serves as pastor. But soon after they moved to Colorado Springs to start that church, Kara discovered she had breast cancer. Despite aggressive treatment, the cancer spread throughout her body.
I had the chance to interview Kara at her home in Colorado just months before her death, and she told me then that she was “a terrible sick person. I hate being sick.” So it might have been easy for her to retreat into self-pity. Instead, she started blogging about her experiences with a remarkable transparency that immediately won her readers: 10,000 to 20,000 page views every day. A publisher discovered the blog, and the result was her first book “The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard.”
But despite intense prayer and all the efforts of medical professionals, Kara eventually did succumb to cancer. Hundreds came to her memorial service in Colorado Springs, and nearly 20,000 people watched the service online from all parts of the world.
Before she died, Kara Tippetts co-wrote another book, “Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together.” And a year after her death, another book appeared, “And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Goodbye.”
As Kara’s story was spreading in the Christian community, assisted suicide entered the national conversation in the form of another young woman, Brittany Maynard. Maynard became a national celebrity for announcing she would commit suicide rather than continue to suffer through cancer. Kara wrote a powerful letter to Brittany Maynard that also became a part of that national conversation. Kara’s letter read, in part: “Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with such tenderness the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.”
I remember Kara Tippetts this week because it is the two-year anniversary of her death, and because my brief time with her had such an impact on me and on thousands. But I also remember her because it is Lent, a season which asks us to examine our hearts, to remember our sin and mortality, but also to prepare ourselves spiritually for the glorious season of Easter. Kara Tippetts, even in death, has much to teach us when it comes to these spiritual disciplines. Her life and death are reminders that the suffering of Lent—and the suffering of this world—is not the end of our stories.
I should also add that while Kara’s death brought much sadness to her family and friends, it was also not the end of the story for Jason Tippetts and their children.
While I was interviewing Kara back in the summer of 2014, Jason Tippetts came into the room. I paused the recording and we chatted for a while. A part of that conversation involved what Jason should do after Kara died. Kara was characteristically forthright and adamant: She wanted Jason to remarry. In fact, Kara wrote about that desire in her books and on the Mundane Faithfulness blog.
Still, when she said that, Jason came almost to tears. He vigorously nodded his head and turned away, saying he didn’t want to think or talk about it. I felt Jason’s discomfort, and quickly changed the subject.
But since that day, now almost three years ago, a remarkable thing has happened. When Kara died, Jason took a leave of absence from the church and went on a long camping and road trip around the country with his children. When Jason and the children came back to Colorado Springs, he continued to pour himself into the church he and Kara helped found on the west side of the city. And after a year, he began pouring himself into a new relationship. Two weeks ago, Jason Tippetts married Sarah Hartley at a beautiful outdoor service in California.
I join many of you in praying for God’s richest blessings on Jason, Sarah, and their new family.