As a newlywed, Heather Absher wanted nothing more than time.
On Jan. 5, she told friends on Facebook that she had been “blessed to marry the man of my dreams.” Just 20 days earlier, on Dec. 17, she and Jimmy Absher were united at a wedding her sister described as “magical.”
In that January Facebook post, Heather asked friends for their prayers: “Please ask everyone to continue to pray for miracles for this cancer to slow down so I can have more time alive with my family and loved ones.”
Heather died the night of Feb. 28 at her mother’s Granite Falls home. She was surrounded by loved ones — her new husband, her son, Landon Tarpenian, now 11, sister Jen Goodman, and her mother, Marsha Lopez. She was 38.
A celebration of life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Everett’s New Life Church.
“I called her my princess warrior,” said Jimmy Absher, 44, who won her heart after they met in January 2015. From that beginning, watching a Seahawks game at a friend’s house, they built a life together. “Heather could almost stop a whole crowd of people with her smile and laugh,” said Absher, a heavy-equipment operator from Everett.
Then Heather Lopez, she was diagnosed in August 2016 with a sarcoma in her right lung. In July 2017, she had surgery at UW Medical Center to remove a brain tumor. By November, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance doctors had found more tumors. One doctor told her it was time “to do what matters,” said Goodman, the sister who lives in Monroe.
Doing what mattered meant marrying Jimmy Absher. “Love is unconditional,” he said Wednesday.
Helped by Goodman’s friend Karie Greiner, a wedding planner, their nuptials had been moved up from the original date, April 29. Vendors donated what they needed for a perfect wedding. More than 200 people joined them as they married and celebrated. “The community came together and made Heather’s and my wedding the dream of a lifetime,” Absher said.
The newlyweds enjoyed Christmas with Heather’s mother and her sister’s family. On Dec. 26, they left for Disneyland. Their trip included the bride’s son and mother. “Instead of being a honeymoon, I wanted to have a family vacation so we could have the memories spent with someone we loved so much,” Absher said.
In California, Goodman said, Heather’s symptoms worsened. She and her mother flew home New Year’s Day. She spent Jan. 2-Feb. 2 at UW Medical Center, before coming home to Granite Falls where she received hospice care.
Judy Hoff, a Foursquare Church pastor, will officiate at Saturday’s celebration of life. She also is executive director of the Hoff Foundation, an Everett-based nonprofit that helps women transition out of homelessness and addiction.
“She had a joyful spirit,” said Hoff, who prayed with Heather and her family during a visit to Granite Falls. “She was talking about how great it was she got to marry Jimmy. They were standing in faith.”
Absher loved seeing Heather’s face light up whenever her son came into the room. “The compassion they had between each other melted my heart,” he said.
Landon turned 11 March 2, just two days after his mom died. He lives with Lopez, his grandmother, in Granite Falls. Absher said he stays in touch, visiting about once a week. “I’m still able to be in Landon’s life, to be the role model and father figure he needs,” he said.
Goodman and her older sister were just 13 months apart. “She was my first friend and my best friend,” Goodman said. “People say I gave her strength through her cancer journey. What wasn’t spoken was the strength she gave me. We were stronger together.”
The Lopez family and Absher were grieving other losses the year before Heather died. On Aug. 1, 2017, Absher’s close friend Ryan Reeves died of a heart condition. Later that month, Heather’s father, Richard Lopez, 69, was killed in a motorcycle crash on U.S. 2. near Lake Stevens. He had been part of a memorial ride in Reeves’ honor.
Absher said his new family has been a source of moral support and love. “Heather may be passed and gone, but she did give me a family I never had before. I never had to do this alone,” he said.
“He’s family forever,” said Goodman, his new sister-in-law.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.
Celebration of life
A celebration of life for Heather (Lopez) Absher is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at New Life Church, 6830 Highland Drive, Everett. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made through an online account established to benefit her son at www.venmo.com/Landon-Tarpenian.