5 Stars Out Of 5
Conversation at the Door
October 27, 2015
Some of our most important and profound words are said in doorways. Because someone is leaving, words spoken at the door are often more consequential, more weighty. Time is short and must not be frittered away. An entire evening may pass filled with light conversation and meandering stories until its time to say goodbye, and suddenly the flow of words gushes into the streambed of relevance.
In Just Show Up, Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn are standing in the door together, and this record of their words is raw and real. Kara, author of The Hardest Peace, writes from the perspective of a cancer patient in her final days. (Kara passed away in March 2015 shortly after the books completion.) Jill speaks as a close friend who has offered her hands and her heart in service to Kara and her family. What emerges from their shared writing is a chronicle of the painful, long good-by called cancer, many reassuring and sometimes humorous stories about the agony and the awkwardness of a friendship in which cancer is the unwanted third wheel, the helplessness of watching a dear friend suffer, and the need for both parties to put all pretense aside and fall into the rhythm of Gods choreography.
This pouring out of words about friendship and suffering would be enough if that was all that lived between the covers of Just Show Up but its not, for in the way of showing up, Jill and Kara learned valuable and practical lessons about loving and saying goodbye:
The uncomfortable dance of giving and receiving help can be relieved somewhat by clear communication. Being specific is key. For example, rather than vague call-me-if-you-need-anything statements, offer to grocery shop, to provide transportation to appointments, to assist children with school projects.
When you provide a meal, use disposable dishes. Suggest that the family place a cooler on the front steps so that meals can be dropped off unobtrusively without impacting family time. Ask for guidelines on family food preferences and allergies.
Dont visit when you are sick!
Put your giftedness at the familys disposal. If you are a skilled photographer, offer to take pictures of the family. Put your organizational skills to work managing their mail or other details.
Dont become overwhelmed or neglect your own family responsibilities. If you add a caring role to your life, subtract something else to make room for it.
Mourn the loss of your relationship as it used to be, but then find a new normal.
Jill and Kara drew from the wisdom offered in an LA Times article called How Not to Say the Wrong Thing, which described a series of concentric circles with the name of the person who is suffering in the center. From there, place the names of family and friends with this in mind: the closer one is to the person who is suffering, the closer their name goes to the center ring. Using that as a guide, the key is this: Comfort in. Dump out. For example, Jill did not complain to Karas family at all (about anything), but Karas husband was free to be honest with Jill about his struggles and observations regarding Karas decline. As a general rule, if in doubt, err on the side of comforting instead of dumping.
In a way, what we have here is a devastatingly practical book on the theology of suffering and the sovereignty of God. With tears, protesting the suffering, and mourning the brevity of Karas life, both Kara and Jill assert the truth that suffering is not the absence of Gods goodness. Karas suffering and the process of dying were the cause for mourning, but also the occasion for finding the smallest good and expand[ing] on it. Kara made the choice to be transparent about her suffering and to live her final days in a community that wrapped her in love and that continues to support and to love her family. Just Show Up is the story of suffering being redeemed, of God showing up in the midst of community here on earth.
This book was provided by David C. Cook in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.