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|
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.
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.