A sweet friend of mine died unexpectedly on August 12th, 2021. Amanda Walter became sick on July 30th and two weeks later she was gone. There are many people who are hurting deeply over her death: her sweet husband, Darren, her four kids (Carson, Caroline, Case, & Carrigan), her parents who lost Amanda's sister to cancer less than two years ago, her brothers & their families, dozens of friends who loved her so, and their church families in Kentucky & Texas.
I met Amanda when I was a student at Kentucky Christian College. She was bubbly, hilarious, talented in theatre and voice, fun to be with, serious about her relationship with Christ, and a friend to all. She was especially close to my sister, Tabitha, who later went on to be the maid of honor in Amanda's wedding. Over time I got to know Amanda's childhood best friend, Karla, who has one of the sweetest hearts I've ever seen. I'll come back to Karla.
In college, one of the first things I can remember is Amanda doing the "World's Shortest Play" in the cafeteria with a napkin. No offense to the lady in this video, but Amanda's version was much more entertaining! At the time I thought she had invented it herself - it seemed like something that she would do! Numerous college memories abound. I became even closer with Amanda when my sister graduated. We both felt her absence and found comfort in being together so that we could feel like we were with Tab. When Amanda graduated and married Darren, we partied hard. Well, as hard as we knew how to party!
Amanda & Darren ended up at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, and I loved it. After I graduated from KCC I joined a mission organization based in Louisville and so I stayed with Darren & Amanda many times when I needed to be in town for trainings or what not. I have countless memories of those times together, both with other people and just the three of us. Praying together, laughing together, eating together, meeting their friends, seeing the way they ministered to others, and encouraging each other in the Lord. One funny memory involved a trapped possum in their trash can followed by a dramatic release mission in the country. But my favorite memory was more serious in nature. Amanda had been practicing a new song by Crystal Lewis called "The Lion & the Lamb." She told me I had to hear it, and I asked her to sing it for me instead of just listening to the CD. The next five minutes were unexpectedly amazing. I thought I was going to listen to a new, awesome song, but once Amanda started to sing, we entered into a time of worship to our King. When Amanda sang, it wasn't because she wanted to show off her amazing voice. It was all of her soul praising her Savior, and it made you want to join in. I join hundreds of others wishing that we could hear her sing one more time. The last time I saw Amanda was when they had adopted newborn Carson, and I stopped by to meet him. She was over the moon.
The Walters eventually moved to Katy, Texas, when Darren became the lead minister at Current - A Christian Church, and it was weird to visit Louisville without them being there. I've lived mostly overseas since then, so my trips to the states were always filled with visits to supporting churches and family gatherings. I kept up with Amanda through Tab and Karla, as Karla remained in Louisville until a few years ago when she joined Darren & Amanda at Current. Several years ago Karla kindly asked me to be the missionary at a week of church camp that she was leading. I agreed, and I loved it! During camp I found out that my mom had cancer, and Karla happened to be the first one I told. She just hugged me and shared a few tears, because she had just lost her mom to cancer not long before that. My mom survived her bout with cancer, and 7 years ago when I was in the ICU close to death, I woke up to find Karla sitting beside my mom at my bedside in one of our darkest moments. What a comfort it was to have her there. A few months after that, Karla hosted a friend of mine who traveled to Louisville to get tested to be my kidney donor. Meeting Karla through Amanda has been a blessing that keeps on blessing.
Being far away during this time has been extremely difficult. Amanda's death has magnified my regret in not making a point to visit her over the last several years, but has also magnified the precious times we had together. All the laughs, all the prayers, all the tears, all the memories. My old photos from my college days are in a box in the States, and oh how I wish I had them with me. I'm thankful for others who are sending me their photos. Grieving alone (in the sense of not being physically together with others who feel the loss as you do) has been a new experience for me. My teammate Gaby has been so kind and supportive, even sitting with me to watch Amanda's funeral streamed online. She has listened to me share all of my stories about her, waited patiently for me as I've scoured the internet for any bits of Amanda singing so that Gaby could hear what a precious voice she had. But she did not know Amanda, and so mostly I grieve alone. My heart was glad when my sister and other dear college friends were heading to Texas, but it also ached that I couldn't be there, too.
I assure you this isn't a personal pity party post! It's just me processing of the reality of life and death, nearness and distance, suffering and joy, family and friends, and memories of a life fully lived. Over the last few weeks I have been able to be in touch with Darren, Karla, Tab, and a few others. All are exhausted and grieving, yet praising God for Amanda's salvation and new life with the Lion and the Lamb!
If you think about it, pray for Darren & all of Amanda's family and friends who are trying to navigate this huge loss. Darren's faith is unshaken, but the pain is real. Praise God for an equally real peace that passes understanding!
If you get some time to listen to this talk that Amanda gave last year at a women's conference, you will be blessed!