Navigating the Navy Blue-In Honor of Lauren Mutter, a.k.a Lo
Updated: Jun 21, 2019
The past six weeks have been extremely difficult. I had a case of the blues that turned into deep blues. After two weeks of the deep blues, I was in a car accident. I was hit in an intersection and my car spun around a few times, air bags, ER, medical/dental follow ups still, the whole ordeal. I am grateful my injuries are minor. I am thankful for my team.
My life came crashing down March 9, 2019. I experienced navy blue, the darkest navy blue you can imagine. The kind of navy blue you look at and can’t tell if it’s navy blue or black. I received a call from my friend Megan telling me news I could not comprehend. I fell to my knees and started sobbing as Megan explained. She said through tears, one of our closest friends, Lauren Mutter, died from a medical emergency that caused her to drive off the road and flip her car.
Sobbing. In shock. What? How? NO! NO!
Then my phone and social media DM’s blow up.
Devastating. Awful. I couldn’t breathe. I can’t talk to anyone except my Vail friends.
Even as I write presently, it doesn’t, it can’t be real. The first 72 hours after I found out, I cried. Sunday morning, I woke up and hoped it was only a nightmare I was stuck in. Lauren was still gone. It was easy to not totally feel the pain, as I am in Denver and my community was in Vail. I ached to be with my tribe. During the service, six days later, behind the family, were three rows of us, her peers that walked alongside life with Lauren. I sat by Grace. We cried and we laughed at stories. We supported each other. I kept looking at the huge photo of her on the stage and her parents, Mike and Terry and sister Caitlin, and through my tears kept thinking, “Is this really happening right now? Am I really sitting in an auditorium where we have worshipped, celebrated high school kids graduating, and gone to plays and pep assemblies, to mourn the loss of Lauren?” The service was beautiful and perfectly attuned to her heart and who she was in the Vail Valley and to so many in the world. The service was even live streamed and about 1000 people attended in person, even the firemen who worked to save her were in attendance. Her first and real bestie, Caitlin, her little sister, gave the most authentic, heart wrenching, and beautiful speech including quotes from Lauren’s prayer journal.
When I lived in Vail and was first introduced to Lo, as I’ve always called her, I remember thinking, how have we never met? We are going to be besties, I told her! She laughed hysterically and shook her head up and down. As our friendship grew, it was rare we didn’t see each other every day between YoungLife, playing on a soccer team together, going to high school games, worshipping Jesus at church, skiing, going to movies, hiking, pulling pranks (teaching YoungLife kids how to TP houses), and the list goes on and on. I feel so fortunate that I talked to Lo three days before she passed away.
Lo lived a big life. She loved everyone—we are all her best friends. She also had the most amazing laugh (listen to video below, wait for the ending). She loved Jesus and exuded who He was to all she interacted with from a smile to a stranger in a store, a high school student, the little kids she babysat, and me. Most of us who have struggled with an eating disorder have forgotten or never been allowed to have fun because of all the “rules” of the disorder. Lo was the first person when I went back to treatment for a second time that helped me learn to laugh, have fun, be adventurous, be less closed off and judgmental, not take myself so seriously, and to LOVE myself and others like Jesus does. Learning to have fun in recovery is a big deal! I dedicate that piece of my recovery to Lo. She helped in so many other ways like packing up my things to go back to treatment. She and my friends Abbie and Cathy were with me as I walked out of my lock off, got in my car, and drove away full of shame for having to go back again. Lo reminded me to laugh, that I was loved, to get better, and there was “no shame in the game” (followed by big laughter) that made me smile through the tears of my own disappointment for having to go back and get help.
I have had hard experiences in my life, awful difficult things only few know about. Those are the things that kept my eating disorder around. Lo dying is devastating. It’s right up there with the unmentionables of my narrative. I don’t understand God? How? Why her out of ANYONE? She brought so much joy and exuded You? I feel underneath all the sobbing and tears that there is a solid foundation of joy, hope, and peace for me, for all of us. There is NO DOUBT that Lauren is whole and perfect worshipping Jesus and laughing at everything with Jesus. NO QUESTION.
I was texting with my friend Kyle during the week trying to feel part of my Vail Community from a distance. I told him, “Can’t wait to hug you and everyone on Friday.” Kyle responded, “It’ll be good. There was so much healing for me.” I replied, “I’m getting there. God has given me a few clear thoughts and peace.” I went on to explain to Kyle that I witnessed Lo plant so many seeds particularly in high school students and our peers that didn’t really think God was real or didn’t take Him seriously.
Despite how awful this is and how I long to hug her and laugh! I know that if ONE person decided to walk with Jesus as a result of her death, she would do it 1000 times again and again because Lauren had a servant and sacrificial joy about her! I was brought back to The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9 The Message version). Jesus explains that a farmer put seed down, some seeds were eaten by birds, some in the rocky places that sprouted but because they had no roots, they withered from the hot sun, and some in the weeds but the weeds strangled the plant and it didn’t grow. However, some of the seed fell on good soil and the harvest was more that you can imagine. That last line is where my peace comes from in Lauren’s death. The way she lived her life and in her death are the seeds fallen on the good soil. It is up to us as “The Church”-which is the body of believers, to come alongside and love one another in the way Lo did because she followed the example of Christ. It is up to us to nurture the seeds that have fallen on the good soil. In the program for the service, every church in the Vail Valley and who the pastor is was listed in the program. Scott Leonard, from The Vail Church, who was a great mentor to Lo and Lo babysat his kids, gave the most amazing message and offered an invitation for anyone to come to any church in the valley or talk to any of us that walk with Jesus if they have questions about God or just need to talk. He continued the open invitation by saying any of us would be happy to have coffee or talk with you. It’s true!
Lo leaves behind so many that were touched by her through YoungLife and students, particularly from Vail Christian High School. I had the honor, along with many of our other friends to mentor these “kids" together. Many of them were at the service. We hugged for a long time and cried. I offered to try to attempt to fill some of the gap, knowing I can’t and that I can only help in the ways God has uniquely gifted me. Throughout the reception afterwards, several people came up to me and said, “You and Lauren were so much alike. I remember thinking you two were sisters.” The most powerful text came from one of my two first YoungLife “kids” from Missouri, way back in the early 2000s. Her name is Suzanne. She followed me to Vail, ended up finding her husband in Vail, and still lives there today. She texted me after the service and said, “Today I realized how much you and Lauren were like-minded in how you did ministry. Seeing the impact today was overwhelming. Keep it up.” Coming from her was gold. Then, a mentor Jeanne, texted me in context of me saying, “I don’t think I ever realized we were so alike, we just did our thing. I do remember multiple people asking if we were sisters.” Jeanne responded, “Because you both exude the love of Jesus…an exuberance for life…And the gift of silliness in the midst of deep sincerity.” She nailed it. While I am not Lauren, I feel honored and what a compliment to be compared to her. I will never be her nor can I fill her shoes. I will be me. I will commit to living out her legacy by living big, loving deeply, laughing a ton, and letting my life honor Jesus.
After the service, about 25 of us headed over to our friends’(Doug and Carol) house for some dinner, catch up, hugs, retelling Lauren stories, laughing, and loving each other deeply. We also took a deep breath and celebrated Lauren living in eternity with Jesus.
Lo, I love you. I love that you are perfect and whole and no longer have any pain. I can’t wait to meet Jesus face to face and then see you again. I love you! Thanks for so many great years together!! Until I see you again in eternity. Loves and big hugs, Mind.