So here I am, it’s 1:10 am…I have an 8 o clock class, then a meeting, then a funeral. And I’m sitting here bawling my eyes out.
Last weekend, three students went on a joyride that ended in their death. I was very close to one of those girls, who was in the eighth grade. I have had the privilege of watching her grow over the last two and a half years. There was a new church plant in town, with an overwhelming amount of students who attended. I was in the beginning of my sophomore year, and eager to serve here. She was one of the first girls I encountered, and she instantly loved me. Her group of sixth grade girl friends adored me, and I secretly favored them as well. They were spunky, loving, and made me laugh. They clung to every word I said.
I felt called elsewhere, and sought that calling out. A year ago I received the call to my current church, and although I was excited to lead a youth group, I was torn to leave these girls. When I told the new youth minister there that I needed to “break the news” to the girls, he seemed very nonchalant about it, like I was going to tell them, and the night would be normal from there. He hadn’t been there long and didn’t realize my connection with the girls. When I told them at the end of the night, there were a few who sat, cuddled, and bawled our eyes out. I remember how hurt they were that I was leaving, and I kept trying to get them to understand. I told them they could follow me, but to really pray about where God wanted them. They all stayed with that church, yet I maintained contact with them through Facebook and random run-ins around town. I was still able to help them out in many different situations. I love them so much, and consider them a huge part of my development as a leader.
This last summer, I was in Walmart, and I hear, “Are you Heather?” I turned around, and I see a woman and a little boy. The woman says, “I’m Gabi’s mom. Can I give you a hug?” We shared in a great embrace, and she expressed to me how much I meant to her daughter, and therefore to her. She shared with me that I probably thought she was crazy, but that I was very influential to her ornery daughter, and that Gabi looked up to me. That is one of the most touching moments I have ever had. I never had a student adore me as much as she did, and quite honestly I had never loved students as much as I loved her. Since her, there have been a few that I have felt that same love and desire to see grow, but she was really the beginning of that for me.
Gabi had really struggled this last year. In fact, her father had just died two weeks prior to her death of cancer. I don’t want to go into familial details, but there is a lot that has happened in her life, both positive and outwardly negative, in the last year. She was really struggling in her walk. But when I think about how God looks at us, I don’t think he saw her as a sinner. I think He saw her as an eighth grader, who had a sincere love for Him and desire to follow Him, but was an eighth grader. I have no doubt that I will see her again.
So here I am, bawling my eyes out and remembering all the times we have shared. This girl was gorgeous, a real heart-breaker I’m sure. She was spunky. She was hilarious. The life of the party. She could be really mean sometimes, but very devoted to whatever emotion she was feeling ;) She had amazing friends, who were in the same place spiritually. They are hurting. I want to hug them and never let go, so they won’t leave me too. It sounds selfish. My greatest desire is that they can use this to move on and live their life like Christ would–remembering that choices have consequences, we are not invincible, and that everything we do is for the glory of God. Even dying.
Ugh…I miss that girl. But I’m so happy she is in heaven with her eternal Father. I must quit bawling now.