I think I had a really unique experience growing up. As in, some of the friends that I was in church choir with when we were four years old are still important people in my life, thirty years later. It’s just kind of the way of my hometown. It’s not that it’s super small, it’s just that you know almost everyone and everyone is connected. Marietta is big enough that everyone isn’t your friend, but small enough that everyone knows the gossip (can I get an amen, Marietta folks?).
As I grew up through my teen years, my church youth group friends were the dearest ones to me. And in the most interesting way, many of us ending up together in Athens as students at the University of Georgia. Isn’t that amazing? There are probably fifteen to twenty of us that traveled life together, walking side by side, for over a decade. Our friendships were real, we knew each other’s families well, we rode home together from school, we studied at Waffle House all night long, we worshipped alongside each other- as elementary kids, at youth group on Sunday nights, as college students at UGA’s Wesley Foundation.
(I’d like to thank my parents, all of our parents, for raising us like this. I didn’t know how valuable it was at the time. But I see it now.)
That crew included two dear friends who grew up down the street from me, Reid and Stacy, a brother and sister combo that were just one grade apart. They were constants in my life- whether we saw each other every day or once a week, they were always an extension of home. I have loved that family my whole life.
I remember when Reid brought Kyra around. I remember thinking how incredibly sweet she was, how genuine her smile, how much I hoped he would marry her. I thought, “this girl is so nice, she is NEVER going to like me, I am WAY too loud for her.” But she did, happily proving me wrong :), and we sat in Bible study together for a year or two. And though it has been a decade, I can quickly call to mind watching her face across the room when she talked about Jesus. It was a face of peace. I felt calmer when I was around her. She believed Him, I could tell. She believed what God said and she rested in that. I liked her a lot. (And Reid did marry her. Good call.)
While I’ve been in Nashville, they’ve been serving as missionaries to Italy with IMB.
Last week, Kyra was killed in the most unbelievable car accident. Reid and their daughters survived.
And her funeral is today.
(Update: Here is the link to Kyra’s funeral. It is such a beautiful service. Please use an hour of your day to watch it.)
And all I’ve been thinking for the last few days, since we learned of the tragedy, is how I wish we could all go back to college, for just a day or two. Our group expanded there, and we had a large community of friends that loved Jesus and loved each other and was pretty dang fun. I feel my soul longing for the simplicity of that life and for all of us to be together. I just keep wanting us to all be cheering at a football game or sitting at Wesley on a Wednesday night or hanging at the intramural fields, shooting the breeze. It was a time when it felt like our worries revolved around dinner plans and homework.
Those aren’t our biggest worries today. Those aren’t the worries of heartbroken people.
Maybe I don’t actually long for college, maybe I’m longing for heaven. Maybe what I want is what Kyra now has- peace, freedom, no more pain or worry or weeping that lasts all night. And Jesus in her sights. Maybe God is giving me a glimpse of what I’m longing for next. Maybe heaven is the simplicity of a worry-free college night in August. Maybe heaven is all my friends who have known me for years being in the same place again, and we don’t run out of time or things to talk about or chicken fingers from Guthrie’s on Baxter Avenue.
I don’t know what heaven is like, all I know is this isn’t heaven.
But I’ll tell you, we are not a people without hope. We have Jesus. We have each other. Distance isn’t a thing when lifelong friendship is. So while our tribe now spans across the globe, from Prague to Omaha and many spots in between, our hearts are together in one place- with Reid, for Reid, and our faith is in a God who promises that at the end of this story, there are no more tears.
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Dear friends, as you think of this family, of Reid and his girls, of Kyra’s parents and sisters, please pray. And if you feel led to donate towards their mission work and family, you can do so here.
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