(Claire is pictured with several of her beloved colleagues from Santa Barbara High)
Being back at school this week was especially poignant for me as I still reel with so many of you in losing Claire. Working with students was always a point of connection for Claire and I. We worked together for years in youth ministry -- I even had her work with me one summer as an intern, running our little start-up jr high ministry at the time.
In June 2000 we were going to take on 10 girls together as small group leaders -- she had worked with them through jr high, and I was going to join her as this group had grown. But two weeks before we got to do that, she had her first seizure and the rest, as they say, is history.
I went on to have one of the nuttier weeks of my life at camp that year (note to self: NEVER try to be the counselor for ten incoming high school freshman girls by yourself). We were already traumatized by the shock of Claire's new diagnosis, and let's be honest, that age group is already one walking ball of emotions, so it was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, to say the least.
Claire tried to join us later that year, but the ordeal of recovery proved to be too much for her, on top of trying to maintain her teaching career. Sadly, she had to pull out of youth ministry -- but went on to give everything she had to teaching.
This week I received a lovely email from a colleague of mine regarding Claire. It's such a small world -- this woman, with whom I now work at Providence Hall, had Claire as her master teacher when she was getting her teaching credential. Here are some of her memories of Claire:
What i would want people to know about Claire is that I think teaching brought out her true essence. Claire never pushed her beliefs on anyone, but loved those kids so much that Christ shined through her. Whenever I talk to people about Claire, I tell them how lucky was to have her as a master teacher. She took kids that other teachers had given up on and found a way to make class fun. She genuinely cared about helping them succeed, and they respected her for it. Claire was a model teacher. As long as I've been teaching, I've thought of her as the type teacher I aspire to be like, and I know there are past students of hers, future teachers, who will do the same.I want to honor Claire's memory and note the power of her life upon mine by considering these words. As I continue as a teacher and youthworker, I want the same sort of things said about me. In my consulting with churches and pastors, we always spend time discussing the principle of how to "begin with the end in mind." In other words, we should live our lives NOW as we want to be remembered. Claire did that. I want to do that too. That is a life of integrity -- being who I say I am.
Russell Smelley, a dear friend who has suffered profound loss, passed these words, among many, on to me last week:
We tend to deal with death in the same manner as we deal with our daily lives. Grieving can take many forms, but it seems to conform to our personality and life experiences; nonetheless we grieve. We need to learn to live life well because we are going to die. We tend to be fearful people but we can learn to live not in fear but in the hope of God's grace. We have a particular amount of time on earth as our days are numbered and known only by God. Peace comes with accepting the reality of our imminent demise.May we lean heavily on Christ as we live our "pre-lives" now, in preparation for our "real lives" in eternity. Let's push each other to live lives of truth, beauty, grace, and bravery. These words compel me:
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:16-18)No fear.