In 2014 and 2015, one young woman in Colorado dared to explore the raw edges of dying with grace and dignity in real time, and, in the process, unknowingly impacted tens of thousands around the world. Now, her powerful story is being shared in the documentary THE LONG GOODBYE: The Kara Tippetts Story, distributed through Ocean Avenue Entertainment and available on DVD and digital channels, on the 4th anniversary of her passing, March 22.
We are honored to be able to talk to filmker Jay Lyons for this exclusive interview.
Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's talk about the new film "The Long Goodbye." Briefly, what's the movie about?
The movie is an unscripted documentary that follows along with a woman named Kara Tippetts, a pastors wife with four children, who battles cancer, extreme suffering and dying. Kara was a mommy blogger and an author- her book "The Hardest Peace," won Christian book of the year posthumously.
Q: What is your role in relation to the movie?
My name is Jay Lyons and my wife and I are the Executive Producers of the movie. We are a very small team, and this movie was not a "studio creation" or anything like that. In fact, we never set out to make this movie, we just met Kara and felt God directing us to tell her story. We shot and produced this entire documentary ourselves on the tiniest of budgets. The footage is a mix of our time with Kara and her family, some interviews previously shot with Kara, and all of Kara's self-shot vlogs and her phone footage, which is some of our favorite material. I have been a TV producer for over a decade for the largest TV networks, but this documentary is extremely raw and real. To be blunt, this documentary follows Kara as she suffers and ultimately dies.
Q: How can this movie help parents in your community who are facing health battles?
The Long Goodbye is specifically about a woman with breast cancer, but the story is more about suffering, how we handle it, and how it affects our relationship with God through adversity. A favorite Kara quote is, "suffering isn't the absence of God's goodness, for He is present in pain." Kara's take on her situation is completely opposite to what we see in our world. Her peace, her attitude, even her joy in her situation- is surreal. I highly recommend watching this story to anyone who is facing suffering- and even for someone who is perfectly healthy, which many of Kara's followers actually were. Her perspective is refreshing, even stunning, and watching her story will definitely change you.
Q: One of the issues how to explain grief and death to our children. How do we do that?
Kara set a great example in how to do this. She didn't give them long, drawn out lectures about things they didn't care about or would never understand. But she also didn't hide the truth from them either. She shared age-appropriate things with each child, and she told each one of them alone and privately that indeed, "mom is now dying." Another interesting point is although Kara still laughed, still had fun, and tried her hardest to cherish every "corner of mom" that she could, she still allowed herself to be sad. Living authentically in front of her kids-even in her suffering, was freeing for the kids. It was still sad and tragic, but there wasn't added awkwardness on certain topics, and Kara's kids didn't walk on eggshells about her dying.
Q: What did Kara mean when she set out to blog about parenting with kindness and grace?
Kara's message was to be faithful in the "little things," to enjoy the "mundane." Basically 90% of parenting is making lunches, driving kids around, making sure homework is done, endless chores, etc. But there is a way to make every moment meaningful-even if it all isn't "fun." A personal thing I do inspired by Kara is everyday when taking my son to school- we say positive affirmations and recite a bible verse together. Kara's message to other mom's was simply to love. Her challenge was to let God love you enough so that His love will overflow in you and spill onto another- not only your kids but also your neighbor, someone at the grocery store, someone at work, etc. Kara's message was simple yet profound.
Q: What is God's role in suffering and healing?
One of my favorite lines from this documentary is when Kara says "the world says I should be shaking my fist at God, that I should be angry, but I'm not." She goes on to explain that the world believes if you are hurting or suffering then God doesn't love you or isn't blessing you. Kara stresses that God hasn't left her in her suffering, in fact, she has grown closer to Him through her suffering- for "He is present in our pain." My absolute favorite line of the whole movie is her husband Jason's response when I asked him "why" this happened, and how he makes sense of it. He simply said, "God is sovereign, and I stopped trying to understand why this is happening. I may never understand that, and it's not my calling to understand this suffering, my calling is to live faithfully through it."
Q: How has this film helped you to be a better parent? A better husband?
Three of Kara's most used words were probably love, kindness, and grace. She stressed being kind to her husband. It sounds so simple, but any married person knows it's extremely difficult to place your spouse's needs above your own. Maybe it's easy when we are in a good mood, but what about when we are tired, stressed out, or even when our needs aren't being met- and they are not "acting right?" Kara's message reminds me to be kind, always be kind.