Splenda, Not Sugar with Friend #174: Kara

Friend #174: Kara
Date and Location of Visit: Friday, October  14th, 2011, Stratton’s Cafe, Webster Groves, MO
Known From: Preschool, High school
Last seen: 1997 (or 2007?  Don’t remember if she was at our 10-year reunion or not…)

Memories of Kara: Kara and I went to the same preschool, and I do remember her from that time with a big smile and two long braids, Laura Ingalls-style.  When we got to high school, Kara was a cheerleader.  Many people involved in extra-curricular activities had to either take summer school or zero-hour–showing up before the start of the regular school day to fit in certain requirements.  Junior year, Kara and a bunch of other cheerleaders took zero-hour gym with a bunch of other band kids and me.  I thought I was a morning person–until I encountered Kara before 7am.  She was awake and chipper and happy, and it would have been annoying if she weren’t such a great, likeable person.

About our Visit: Kara and I met early in the morning after I’d been at the baseball game the night before.  Her mother-in-law was becoming a citizen that day, so I was grateful that she was able to find some time to visit.

I remember reaching out to Kara on Facebook shortly after we’d become friends, asking her what it was like for her when she lost her mom, and more specifically what it was like with her dad.  She didn’t respond, and sitting down with her and hearing more of her story, I could see why–it was just too much to get into typing back and forth.  Kara lost her mom to colon cancer when she was just 22.  The bulk of our visit (after catching up on the basics–she’s a high school teacher, married, two kids) was spent swapping stories of our grief experiences.  We laughed.  We cried (you can see it in our eyes in the picture).  We high-fived.

Kara was so authentic in our visit, and it was so life-giving to me.  Kara has always had a presence about her–you know when she’s in the room, but the way she carries herself, it’s never a negative thing.  Most times in high school, zero-hour gym or not, that presence was chipper and happy.  But life threw Kara more than a few curve balls and she wasn’t as chipper and happy anymore.  She can be, but only if it’s authentic.  She is 100% real and 100% herself, and it gives everyone around her permission to do the same.  It’s powerful.

At the end of our time together, Kara and I walked out to the parking lot.  We hugged and as we parted ways, she said, “I guess I’m not as sugary sweet as I was in high school.  I’m more Splenda now.”  But my visit with Kara was anything but artificial.

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