Jenn Kasper

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“Libby & her friends scheduled a “parent playdate”. I think Gracie was the mastermind, but it was hosted at Kiersten’s house. They decided that we were all anti-social & that we needed to make friends, & what better way to do that than to host a “parent playdate”. In preparation of the playdate, each of the kids created a power point slide with all of the ‘get to know you’ information about each of their parents. This was 8th grade. Each kid & their parent were assigned a color so everyone knew who was coordinated with whom. At the end of the day we took one picture with all the parents lined up with their kids. It was pretty cool. I remember driving away thinking “this is a really special group of friends”. This group of friends was different. I remember the moms started a group text right after. We started chatting immediately. I’d never seen such a supportive group of girls. I’ve always said that a lot of grownups could really learn from the friendships that these kids had. They were very supportive, not competitive, not the typical teenage girlfriend kind of friendship. That is what I thought was so special. That is how I met the Woodward’s.

Libby spent a lot of time with their family going camping. They would go several times a year & they always invited Libby to go with them. Libby really became part of their family. I really got to know a lot about them through Libby. Kiersten was a sweet kid. She was mild mannered, easy going, silly, talkative.

It was hard for Lib when Kiersten decided to change schools. The circle of friends hung on for about the first semester of Freshman year. I think Libby finally came to terms with the fact that Kiersten was at Herron & that she didn’t have her at school. She & Kiersten still hung out a lot. They went to homecoming together. Kiersten’s move to Herron was hard, but not devastating to the relationship. They made it work & it was always a two-way effort.

Kiersten was definitely a bridge. She had a big heart. She’s not one that you would hear talking negatively about people, at least not around me. She would never want to make anyone feel marginal. She was definitely the all inclusive one.”

I think that’s what drew Libby to her. Kiersten represented that part that Libby was striving to be. I think what drew Kiersten to Libby was that Libby’s weird in the best way possible & she’s also not afraid to be herself. They had that in common. They didn’t care what other people thought, they did their own thing, & if they were having fun, that was what mattered. I think that’s how they were really similar. They had a lot of the same interests & they had a very eclectic friend group.

I was confident that Kiersten was a good influence for Libby. Kiersten was very much a free spirit & Jill is a free spirit. Jill helped balance me out. I was more uptight. Now I can ask myself “is this really that important?” I choose my battles. I always trusted Kiersten’s motive behind something. She didn’t have a motive, I guess is my point. She was just herself & I was ok with Libby being herself around Kiersten. I guess I just always trusted the Woodward’s with Libby. I still do.

“Kiersten & Libby’s sophomore year was the year they had a party together. Me, Jill, Libby & Kiersten got together here at Bazbeaux. We ordered pizza & started planning their party. They decided on an 80’s themed skating rink party. After we got all that planned, we walked around Mass Ave. We went down to Silver & The City. They found the sunglasses & tried on every pair. Then Kiersten found the “tiny hands”. Jill finally gave in & got her the tiny hands. She ripped the box open immediately. It was hilarious. After that, we went to Starbucks. It was such a fun night.

We did the party at the skating rink on the southside. We rented out the whole place. Jill’s sister did a slideshow of the girls. Tons of kids showed up & the girls had a great time. Birthdays were always fun with them because they share a birthday. That one was really cool because we did the party together.

Libby was very thankful that Kiersten was coming back to Mooresville. They continued being close friends. At this time, Kiersten was with Jalen. They all three hung out because Libby was friends with him, too. Kiersten was good at balancing her relationships, though. She had a boyfriend, but that didn’t interfere with her spending time with her friends.

There were several weekends in a row, Libby would invite friends over to hang out in our finished basement. The last weekend, before she passed, they were all over & I could hear them down in the basement. They stayed downstairs, because if they came upstairs, our dogs would bark & freak out. Kiersten was laughing really loudly. Our dog, Dolly, kept losing her ever loving mind every time she heard Kiersten laugh. Kiersten kept taking a pillow & beat it against the floor. Kiersten was laughing & everyone down there was laughing at Kiersten, watching her with this pillow. The dog was flipping out, which was frustrating, but all I could do was laugh because I heard Kiersten cracking up from the top of the stairs. That following Sunday, they had their Winter Concert and I got my last picture of Kiersten & Libby together. Libby was sick that Monday so she didn’t get to see her that last day”

“It was around 5pm. Libby was already home & I had just gotten home. I had started dinner. I remember hearing Libby scream from her bedroom. She came running up the stairs screaming & crying. I couldn’t piece her words together at first. She just shouted out “Gracie just called. Kiersten was in an accident & she died!” All I could do was hold her. My breath was taken away. I thought “This can’t be real.”

I have regrets about how we handled that because I was in denial. Libby wanted to go to the hospital. I just froze. I looked at Tim & he said “I’ll take her.” I should’ve gone. I should’ve gone with her. I just remember being paralyzed. Tim & Libby weren’t gone for very long. When she got back, Libby just sort of collapsed on me. When she went down to her bedroom, Tim just looked at me and shook his head, didn’t say anything & went to the back of the house & then I just lost it. It took awhile for me to get it back together. I remember sitting in the living room many nights at night just crying after Libby would go to bed. Every time I saw Libby, I’d think of Kiersten. I felt incredible guilt. I felt thankful that I had my daughter, but incredibly guilty & so mad. I was imagining what that pain might feel like. I’ve never experienced that, so I don’t know what that feels like. I immediately started relating to Jill as a mom, trying not to make things about me or about Libby. I tried to just realize what was important at that time, making sure Libby was ok, trying to be there for her friends & doing whatever I could to help our friends get through this.

Kiersten impacted Libby’s life & her parents have impacted my life. Watching them go through this has been, honestly, an inspiration. They’re amazing people. They’ve raised two awesome kids. To see how they’ve managed making it through this, this far is an inspiration. They inspire me everyday to be a better parent, to encourage Libby to be herself & to be free in spirit, to be the kind of parent to Libby that they’ve been to Lainie & Kiersten.

Since the accident, we hug more, we say “I love you” more, I don’t sweat the small stuff.”

I check in on my kids more. I try to be more engaged as a parent. I try to not let the grind of daily life get in the way of my relationship with my kids. I have to travel for work, but when I’m home I try hard to be involved in what’s going on in their world. I have a greater appreciation for my family. We use kinder words. At Yellow, I saw the kids hug each other longer, I heard them say “I love you”, so, I not only see the change in my family, but I see the change in those kids. I think it inspires deeper relationships for everyone around them. Even with my own friends, I check in more, I go to greater lengths to try to spend time with friends. I’m just trying to cherish relationships more.

I think Libby can still feel Kiersten’s presence. She has dreams about Kiersten talking to her, texting her, telling her to check in on certain friends. I think Libby appreciates those moments & if nothing else, it’s a reminder for Libby to reconnect with her friends. I think Kiersten would be hoping we’re appreciating each other, appreciating life & not taking things for granted.

To Jill, I would say I’m sorry I wasn’t there that night, that I love you, that I’m proud of you, & that I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this.

If I could, I would tell Kiersten that she’s beautiful in every way possible. I would thank her for being the kind of friend that I wish more people could be, & that she’s taught me a lot about friendship. She’s taught me that we should love each other through things. Typical girlfriend friendships are based in competition & there was nothing about that in her friendships. It was pretty endearing. She was a good role model for not just teenage girls but women in general. I wish more people had friends like Kiersten.”