Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Shock and Sudden Loss—Carolyn R. Wilker

Recently a young teen died.  When I got the news, I found it hard to believe. No, it couldn’t be. The message bearer gave me no reason to disbelieve, but the shock came as disbelief as it often does.  

It still feels unreal, even though I’ve seen Samantha’s photo on the funeral site, then at visitation when we talked with her parents about what her life meant to us. Her family had spread out precious photos, her beautiful artwork and played a video of photos of her alone and with family. School friends, classmates, her extended family and people from our church attended that day at a celebration of her life.

I taught Samantha in Sunday School when she came as a 7- or 8-year-old with her great-aunt Darlene. Samantha brought with her the usual child-like energy and willingness to learn and she seemed to enjoy the stories we shared each Sunday, acting some of them out in the sanctuary after our initial worship time. Her brother came along sometimes too.

One Sunday stands out for me, when we talked about the baptism of Jesus. The writer of the curriculum reminded us that some children might not be baptized and to assure them that God loves them, regardless. Samantha may have seen a baby baptized in our church and was learning what it meant. I was quite sure that she probably had not been baptized, but I learned soon after that she’d been asking her parents for permission. Her Dad relented and a date was set.

Sunday School Fun Day, May 2008. We looked around for Samantha and found she had climbed a tree
I remembered, too, her delight and joy on her baptism day, wearing a brand new dress that her great aunt had bought for the occasion. I was there to celebrate with her and her family who came that day, and then later also for her confirmation. Our congregation, who had been welcoming from the start, celebrated with her.

Some time passed when she began high school and was involved in other activities, however, the seed planted earlier had not withered. Her aunt waited patiently, praying for her and that she might return, and it happened. Samantha started coming to church again with her great aunt, as she was able, and I noticed that she had become a confident and competent young woman. 

The last I saw Samantha was the end of June, and in late July her Aunt Dar shared the news with us, with much sadness. Samantha died after a short illness that turned out to be an undiagnosed medical condition.

 Her illness and ensuing death must feel like a bad dream or nightmare to her parents and her brother, one they hope will end and their girl will come walking in the door saying, “Hi Mom, hi Dad.” 

It seems contrary to nature to bury one’s child, and it must be devastating. Even for others who know her, it's difficult to say good-bye to one we've known and loved, especially one so young. And yet Jesus knows Samantha as his child and will have already welcomed her home. 

This week on a long drive, I pictured Samantha meeting with my friends Kathy, Annie and others who have already gone on ahead. And here I picture Jesus wiping the tears from our eyes with the largest handkerchief ever, for there have been many tears already.

Carolyn R. Wilker, author, editor and storyteller


Peter Black said...

The death of one so young is always a tragedy. Samantha's life-journey, although so short, bears with it the triumph of grace in her coming to faith in Jesus. May God comfort her family and lead them through the darkness and pain of sorrow into the light of hope and peace. And for you, too, Carolyn.
May you receive encouragement in that your investment in her young life as Sunday School teacher was not in vain. Thank you for sharing. ~~+~~

Tracy Krauss said...

Such a tragedy. I am reminded of a recent loss in my own family - my cousin's wife who was a vibrant 38 year old mother of two. She was an athlete training for a charity marathon and was hit on the highway while cycling by a passing delivery vehicle. As a believer, her love for Jesus is what people remembered. The centennial celebration for our hometown took place two weeks after her death and she had been scheduled to lead the worship at the interdenominational community church service. The rest of the worship team decided to go ahead with the list of songs she had chosen including 'I'll Fly Away'. It was a prophetic moment and impacted a lot of people. Our ways aren't God's ways but we must trust that in the grand scheme of things, He really does know what He's doing...

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

Thank you for your kind and gentle thoughts, Peter and Tracy.

Peter, through getting to know Samantha, I also got to know her aunt(who was also her sponsor) better too. Now we go through that grief journey together. I treasure those memories and am glad to have had that time.

Tracy, I'm so sorry for your loss too. What a tragedy that must have been, probably still feels that way. I don't know that we'll ever understand why these things happen, but that he is near when we need him is the best comfort.

Lux G. said...

My heart breaks for stories like this. I'm so sorry for the loss. I can see she means so much to you. May you find comfort in God's love.

Glynis said...

Oh, Carolyn. How sad. How confusing it is sometimes, as believers. Here was a young life - a young heart who had not had it easy in her faith walk but who had made a decision in spite of all the challenges. No, we do no know how/why God works in such ways, but we do know HE is in control and yes, he will wipe away our tears and comfort us in our grief. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Samantha is: Listen; name of God. I think, Samantha listened, obeyed and is now cradled close to the heart of Christ. Praying her life was a mustard seed to others. So very sorry, Carolyn, but so grateful that you were part of her faith walk.

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