My sister, Kara Danielle Lucas, died yesterday.
We weren’t especially close, but we loved each other. I was two and a half years old on September 18, 1978, when she made her entrance into the world. I don’t know what kind of big brother I was early on, but I know I wasn’t always the best.
One time I dropped a hefty bag of cat food on my foot. It hurt. She laughed at me, and I picked her up and threw her at the door, breaking her collarbone. I didn’t mean to, I promise. I remember fighting with her over the front seat, having a dividing line in the backseat of the car on the way to Florida, arguing over who had to do what chores, and other typical sibling arguments that kids have.
We used to wrestle, and while you’d think with my overpowering size and strength, it was an unfair match I can tell you that often she got the best of me. She fought dirty; the way she kicked my legs would have probably gotten her in the UFC today.
She married Nick Lucas on March 24, 2001. Her daughter, Kamryn Nicole Lucas, was born on December 1, 2003. Kamryn, 11, is in the 6th grade and is by far the smartest person in our family. She’s going to do amazing things with her life and will make her mother extraordinarily proud.
Kara was always sort of unlucky. She broke her arm in the 2nd grade (a boy pushed her down, I think, and I remember thinking I should beat him up but was far too shy then to actually do it). She had a seemingly endless number of car accidents, health problems, and other issues. She struggled, and I have always felt some guilt that she had a monopoly on those issues.
For example, we had a cat named Biscuit, who had four kittens. Thomas belonged to our step-father, and Melissa was my mom’s. Melissa was the whiniest, but most beautiful cat you’d ever seen — we ended up banishing her outside because she never stopped meowing. Bagel was the orange and white tiger-striped guy I claimed (I’d had one named Muffin years ago). Katie was Kara’s kitten, and I think she always wished her own name was Katie (she even combined her initials, Kara Danielle, into K.D. as a nickname). Anyway, one morning Katie met her untimely demise by running out in front of a car . . . on Kara’s birthday. These sorts of random untimely mini-tragedies always seemed to find her.
We didn’t have much in common. She was a tomboy. She hated to read. She was drawn to parties, adventure, and people. I suspect she took after our father, who died when she was only 4 years old.
Also, she was usually late.
In December of 2009, we celebrated Kamryn’s 6th birthday at Disney World. Being the chronically early-arriver that I am, decided the smart thing was to tell Kara to arrive an hour early — and that way, she’d be on time. Well, this particular day, she was shockingly on time. She called my bluff, putting us at EPCOT before it opened, in the rain. She was not very happy with me.
The last time I saw her was a few weeks ago when I was home for the Richwood Fair. She had been having trouble with her lungs for a while, and the steroids had caused her to swell pretty severely. Her breathing was labored and she was exhausted.
But despite her health problems, she was still sarcastic and had that zest for life that had always been present. Never one to shy away from sharing her opinion (like most of my family), she also was one of the most generous and giving people I knew.
She was exceptionally talented at restaurant work; customers loved her. She was a fantastic house cleaner (she got ALL of that skill from our Mom and I none) and a fiercely loyal friend. She loved her daughter, she loved her husband; she just loved people.
I expect that her visiting hours will be packed with folks stopping by to pay their respects.
Yesterday was rough. She had developed pancreatitis last week, and the fluids they gave her to fix that issue settled around her already damaged heart. She was trying, but her body just wasn’t strong enough to function on its own. They were going to put her on a ventilator, but she began to crash. After a few hours of that, with multiple codes, and a very hardworking hospital staff, she succumbed to it. She was 37.
I have a lot of feelings today. I have some guilt that I didn’t make more time to see her. I have some anger that she didn’t always make the best choices, some of which contributed to her health problems. Mostly I am just sad. Sad for Kamryn, sad for Nick, sad for my mother, sad for her friends who I didn’t even know, and yes, sad for me.
But I’m also relieved for her. She had so many struggles during her time on earth and now she is completely healed. She is with our father, Daniel Sheppard, whom she always missed so much. She’s with Aunt Beckie and Grandma Miller. And she’s with Jesus.
Her “religious views” section on Facebook simply said, “Jesus loves me.” This, I know.
And Kara…I love you too.
Originally published on October 2, 2015.