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Saturday, August 14, 2010


I write with a heavy heart. The dreaded day has come. At about 5:45am this morning, my sweet friend Claire was finally released from the duties of her long fight with brain cancer.

I have known Claire since... golly, I've lost track, it's been so long. 1998 perhaps. She was a leader with me in youth group, and on the first team of summer interns I had with the church. She started dating Cameron, another leader, during those early years, and we all caused a lot of trouble together. I was with them in the emergency room that horrible day in June 2000 after she'd slipped and fallen at a end-of-school beach party. She had hit her head, got scraped up and was brought to the ER because she was still so disoriented. When the doctors told her it appeared she had a brain tumor, we were speechless. Yet she fought hard and had the upper hand for many years, through radiation, remission and rounds of chemo. It was a glorious celebration when she and Cam married on June 30, 2001. Clouds from the year before seemed to have parted, at least for the time being....

Claire thrived as a teacher, first at Santa Barbara Christian School and then at Santa Barbara High, where she received many accolades. Yet the cancer (oh, how I hate it) pressed on and started really gaining traction this year. It stole her strength, and in the last two months her ability to walk and talk. But in this final week it came quickly, thankfully.

In her last 48 hours she hovered between unconsciousness and sleep, and wasn't in pain. Family and close friends were able to say goodbye. I drove frantically home from a visit with family in the Monterey area, and was with her and Cam yesterday in the hospital.
Though we have certainly known this to be coming, it is still so hard to feel the blunt force of it. I find peace knowing that she was comfortable, and that Cam managed well through it all. Her beloved doctors and nurses on the oncology floor at Cottage Hospital, that she's known for years, gave her their consistently loving and gentle care. This was the best way it could happen, sad as that sounds.
I asked Cam how their last time together was. He smiled as he shared about eating dinner and both laughing hard throughout the DVD rental of the night - "Cop Out" with Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis -- a classic Carey choice. He carried her to bed, where she proceeded to have a poor night's sleep.

Claire's departure was quiet. In her final 24 hours her breathing rattled as her lungs struggled to keep out the fluids. The nursing staff moved her every two hours through the night. Each time, Cam would awaken, hold her hand and watch her settle. Yet on this last move, her breathing became especially labored - she struggled for only a couple of minutes, then passed.

These are the words that come to mind this morning. They come from 2 Corinthians, chapters 4 & 5 -- in the JB Phillips translation:

4:7-11 - This priceless treasure we hold (the good news about life with Jesus), so to speak, in a common earthenware jar (our earthly bodies) - to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours. Yes, we who are living are always being exposed to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in our mortal lives.
4:15-18 - We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man (and woman) does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.
5:1-4 - We know, for instance, that if our earthly dwelling were taken down, like a tent, we have a permanent house in Heaven, made, not by man, but by God. In this present frame we sigh with deep longing for the heavenly house, for we do not want to face utter nakedness when death destroys our present dwelling - these bodies of ours. So long as we are clothed in this temporary dwelling we have a painful longing, not because we want just to get rid of these "clothes" but because we want to know the full cover of the permanent house that will be ours. We want our transitory life to be absorbed into the life that is eternal.
Claire has never flagged in her firm hope in the life eternal. I had several sweet times of talk and reading and prayer with her this summer about such things. I asked her two weeks ago how she felt about how things were progressing -- I offered "frustrated"? "scared"? "angry"? "confused"? and she shook her head no at each one. Yet she nodded a strong yes when I asked, "peaceful"?

My favorite comeback with Claire was "Now don't get red-headed on me!" as she stubbornly pushed back on things we were doing. Regardless of her amazing strength, she was unfailingly gentle, consistent and never pushy in her faith. I rejoice that she is safely in the arms of God, reunited with faithful, loving family and friends who have gone before her -- and jealous!

Claire lived a lovely life and and fought a classy fight. I shared with others this week that I have never been so thankful that this life is not all there is, as described in the verses above. She has her renewed body and blessed relief. That is good news. The greatest tribute any of us can give her is to allow her life to remind us of what really matters.

PS Here two AMAZING images of Claire - her beauty and grace are breathtaking:

We were changed by knowing you, Claire Michelle Carey. We miss you.


  1. oh kelly. these are soothing words. thank you. we love you.

    - kim

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Kelly and letting us in on some of her last days. She indeed was amazing and I am thankful for your words to describe how gracefully and valiantly she lived, surrounded by God's love in people and Spirit.

  3. Such a sad day. Claire was such a sweet, sweet soul. She brought out a tender side of Cam that has been a joy to watch flourish.

    We will miss you, Claire.

  4. Thank you for this tribute to Claire, Kel. She will be insanely missed.

  5. Oh how great to be with Jesus! What a gift she was to us.

  6. So sorry for your loss Kelly. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. As she loved you well, you loved her well. I send you big hugs and lots of tears. I wish I was there in person...

  8. Thank you for this loving and informative tribute, Kelly. Thank you for being a devoted friend to Claire.

  9. A beautiful tribute of a beautiful life. Those of us fortunate enough to know and love sweet Claire have such heavy hearts and are forever changed.

  10. Oh how our hearts break. Forever changed from being loved by Claire.

  11. Clare is the only one I have known who got married in red shoes. I have told the story many times. I had some sweet moments with her that I will always remember. What a loss.

  12. Beautiful Claire. Oh how I will miss her smile. She brightened up the room with it! She was so thoughtful, faithful, courageous and strong. We thank God for the blessing of her friendship...

  13. oh friend. deeply saddened for you...I know how much you loved and cared for her. much love to you Kelly.

  14. This is beautiful, Kel. I was sorry to hear this and I know how much you loved this friend.