When a Former Student Dies

It's a little known fact that teachers have favorites. "Every student is a teacher's favorite." That's the right and proper response.

But sometimes (more often than not) a student will come along and crawl inside a teacher's heart. And never leave.

Crystal Heard was that kind of student. Quirky, with a zany sense of humor. Sometimes quiet. Sometimes loud. A good kid who, though she did not always love school, always loved me. And went out of her way to show it with her lopsided smile (that she later passed down to her daughter Maggie). She sought me out to tell me things about her life. I would listen. Laugh with her over some nonsense. Counsel her over some challenge.

It's a widely-known fact that I don't like death. All my students know it. That I fear it and have a growing list of ways I don't want to die. I talk a lot about it. Even joke about it.

Why? Because we are all going to die. And I want them to be prepared.

Students aren't supposed to die before their teachers. Young mothers aren't supposed to get terminal cancer and die in their early thirties.

While I'm on the subject, a little toddler at the happiest place in the world, isn't supposed to be snatched by an alligator and carried off despite the frantic efforts of his parents and a lifeguard to save him.

Death is ugly and looms with a black shroud waiting to snuff out life. It seems to appear at random moments when we least expect it.

And everyone will face death. There's no way around it. Satan made sure of that, and he used Adam and Eve to do it. That's the bad news. And it's really, really bad.

But there's good news. And it's really, really good.

God loved us too much to leave us with no hope. That's what the most famous verse in the Bible is all about: "For God SO LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosovever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Death is not the end. And for a Christian, it is not some unplanned, random, freak accident. Our God is sovereign, and nothing. NOTHING. happens to us that does first go through the filter of His loving hands.

Psalm 116 says "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." That means it is a thing highly valued, strategically placed to bring his child home to him and accomplish His will to others left on this earth.

God is never caught off guard or shocked when death comes to us. His timing is perfect. And He never wastes a tragedy. Only God can send peace and comfort to a heart that is breaking. Only God can turn ashes into beauty.

And we can trust Him. He is good. He loves us. And when life (or death) doesn't make any sense. We trust. God always shows up to help us handle what we can't handle on our own. Always.

Martha found this out when Jesus showed up after her brother Lazarus had died. Jesus could've healed him. She had asked him to. Had expected him to.

But He didn't. On purpose. Because He had something greater to accomplish and He was going to use Lazarus to do it.

And God used that tragedy to illustrate His power and also bring many souls to Himself. Win-win.

Soon after that incident, Jesus Himself took the sins of the world onto Himself, suffered, and died. His death took the sting out of our death. He rose again, becoming the victor over death and hell.

Revelation 1:18: "I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore; Amen, and have the keys of hell and of death."

From the moment I heard Crystal had cancer, I prayed for her whenever God brought her to mind. I kept up through facebook, praying with many of her friends for the miracle we knew God could perform.

But maybe the real miracle was the quiet grace and peace He gave Crystal to take this assignment from Him with courage and trust. Crystal was a shining beacon of faith during this painful battle. She maintained a grateful spirit, and I, for one, was inspired by her attitude and faith.

Today I will go to her funeral and hear from more people who were blessed and inspired by her short life. I will cry a little. Laugh a little. Hug her loved ones. And find a moment to thank Jesus for making it possible to see her again one day.

"Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." I Cor. 15:57

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