'She left us mid-sentence': Rachel Held Evans' lasting legacy, one year after her death

Staff photo by Doug Strickland / The casket of author Rachel Held Evans is borne into her funeral at First-Centenary United Methodist Church on Saturday, June 1, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Evans was a Dayton, Tenn., resident who authored books including "A Year of Biblical Womanhood," "Searching for Sunday" and "Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again."

A year may have gone by, but it remains difficult for family and friends to talk about the person they love in the past tense.

Only recently was Amanda Held Opelt able to start reading the hundreds of letters her family received after the death of her sister Rachel Held Evans.

Hearing the stories of people Held Evans influenced is difficult, she said, because it is in a way admitting her sister is gone. But the letters have helped create a time and space to step into grief, a feeling that has shadowed Held Opelt since last spring.

"It feels like she left us mid-sentence," Held Opelt said.

Last spring, the religious community prayed together, progressive and conservatives alike, as Held Evans struggled with medical complications related to an infection, then died on May 4, 2019.