Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Some of the dearest friendships happen when you least expect it

I remember the first time we met her. There was nervous excitement as we started to walk towards her during breakfast at the JW Marriott in Washington DC during our CMN Hospitals Champions trip. I remember trying to keep my phone steady for a picture of her and Nate so I could share this amazing opportunity with our friends back home, but the picture ended up a bit blurry anyway. It didn't matter because OMG! It was a picture with Miss America!! What a once in a lifetime experience.
I remember during that same trip when Nate walked up to her seat on our bus to ask her to tell him something in Russian (she is trilingual, by the way!!), and she said "I like pizza" in Russian. And when Nate hugged her so hard after a long morning of TV interviews that he knocked her on the ground, I was mortified! Because she's MISS AMERICA! And my kid knocked her down! But then he grabbed her hand and helped her back up. Later on, when he realized we were having to say goodbye to our Champion families at the end of our trip, he specifically asked if he could say goodbye to Kira too. There was something there...a particular click of their personalities. From the very first few days, their relationship was just different. Special.
I did not forsee how much impact this dear woman would have on the rest of our lives or that we would feel the kind of deep love for her and her family that is only reserved for those that are most cherished in our lives.
I remember a nice December afternoon in a deli when Nate stole the pickle from Kira's plate and started eating it. Who in the world taught this kid manners? Kira didn't miss a beat and told Nate how much she loved pickles, so he walked to the deli counter and asked to buy her another one. And when Abby was discussing some hardships she was having with a couple of school friends, Kira looked in her eyes and said "Always be you, no matter what. And in the words of Taylor Swift 'Just Shake it Off!'"
I remember the first time Nate introduced her on stage as his "best friend". And I will always remember the expression on his face as he looked at her in the audience and her joyful laugh at different parts of his speech. These were the moments when I realized the true impact of their friendship.
I remember laughing and smiling from ear to ear after watching Kira and Nate on stage together at the Miss Florida pageant. As I sat behind them in the audience and watched their interaction and love, I thanked God repetitively for these relationships and experiences. I remember meeting her mom during that trip and loving her from the very instant we met.
I remember spending quite a bit of time together in the car to and from different events this summer and having conversations that made us laugh, made us think, made us love each other even more. Watching Nate and Kira enjoying down time with thumb-wars, dubsmashes, funny pictures together that he keeps safe on his iPad, and snuggle times. I remember watching his eyes light up when she came into view, his smile erupt every time she talked. I remember her knowing how to interpret his speech when no one else could, keeping him in-line when his 7 year old self got a little crazy, and convincing the picky kid to try artichoke pizza.
I will always remember every amazing moment of the 2016 Miss America pageant weekend. Their genuine interactions on stage during the Thursday night preliminary competition that made everyone's heart swell while they were given a glimpse into their close friendship. Kira and Nate hand in hand as they walked the Red Carpet together and were interviewed by numerous media outlets. The smiles, the laughs, the hugs, the moments that I still can not believe that happened. And everything in between. But the memory most precious to me is that of this beautiful, influential woman in an elegant evening gown sitting on the floor of the Miss America stage and comforting my little boy who always has a hard time saying "goodbye".
That is who Kira Kazantsev truly is. She is one of the most brilliant, poised, beautiful, and strongest people I know. But more than anything, she is one of the most loving and selfless individuals we have ever had to privilege to meet. Someone who worked so hard this year to bring attention to the way Children's Miracle Network Hospitals changes kids lives, who would play a game of chase with a kid in the hospital even when she was wearing heels, who would look into a child's eyes and make them feel like the most special person in the world. This is who she truly is.
At the end of a recent trip, Nate gave one more long, emotional hug to Kira, looked at me with tear-filled eyes and trembling lips and said "Mom, in Heaven, there will be no more sad farewells."

I don't remember the exact moment we fell in love with a woman we once just hoped for a blurry picture with. That feeling came quickly in the beginning and has grown into the greatest of loves, and we thank God for placing her in our lives. Kira is part of our family. Always and Forever. And we look forward to a lifetime of friendship.

 *Professional photos taken by the amazing Bruce Boyajian


Lee on September 15, 2015 at 2:41 PM said...

Teary...in a good way.

Sherri Cunningham on September 15, 2015 at 5:21 PM said...

What an amazing relationship!!!

kirstin on September 15, 2015 at 5:22 PM said...

I'm in tears! you are such an amazing family! and what an incredible experience!

Tracie Kurtz on September 15, 2015 at 5:39 PM said...

Oh Amber, how I love you and your family. It would be hard for anyone not to love you guys. So thankful for God's blessings to you guys! Miss you friend!

Bernard Gowens on September 15, 2015 at 6:56 PM said...

God is GREAT in all the relationships He establishes with Himself AND with all the others of whom He brings together in this present life to share their love and friendship. I, too, say with our loving Nate, "In Heaven, there will be so sad farewells."

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