Still Love

I haven't had to deal with death much in my life. In first grade, my teacher died of cancer, and when I was a freshman in high school both my great-grandmothers died. Other than that, I really don't have much experience with death. Unfortunately, my repertoire of experience expanded this evening. Tonight, my personal teacher's assistant, and a junior here a the high school, died of unknown causes. Her name was Sandy Gerges, and she was one of my closest friends here at the school.
You know, it hasn't entirely hit me yet.
It only just happened about four hours ago. It has been non-stop grief since that time.
About seven o'clock this evening, Sara and Peggy (our two school nurses) got a panicked call from the girls at the dorm saying something about Sandy having collapsed. We weren't entirely sure what happened, but we were all together for a Friday night dinner at Peggy's house so the remaining Americans and myself stuck around to clean up and wait for news. About twenty minutes later, we got a call saying that Peggy, Ron (her husband/the vice principal), Sara, and the girls' dean were driving her to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. All of the staff and students on campus were invited to join in the church to pray for them.

We were all gathered for about thirty minutes of prayer, with people already on edge. About 50% of the girls at that time were already sobbing and crying. Myself and the other American women were going around, trying to comfort them as best possible. I was going around and holding girls', and not even sure who it was I was holding because they were collapsed in a heap, but just knowing that they needed to be held. We didn't have any information on what had happened, and therefore had no reason to panic yet. All we knew was that she was unconscious when she left, bu with no knowledge of how or why.
I don't think I ever have, nor will I ever, experience a more frightening or emotionally charged event as what happened next.
While praying, Pastor Tom got a call from Peggy and Sara, saying that Sandy could not be resuscitated.
If you have read the Bible and heard the phrase "there was a weeping and gnashing of teeth," then you know exactly what happened here.
Everyone. Absolutely everyone. Started screaming. Screaming, shouting, shaking, yelling. About ten people fainted, and two or three began to seize.
It was absolutely horrible.
My knowledge of comforting I feel is fairly broad, but how do you comfort a sweet girl who is literally throwing herself on the floor, walls, chairs, anything, because her best friend just died?
There are no words.
I was holding a girl as she was weeping uncontrollably, and began to shout to everyone "It's ok! Sandy just went to visit her family this weekend! she will be back Sunday, you can all stop crying now!" It is so hard to have to tell them that that is not the case.
The students, there were about eighty of them in attendance, began to go outside, return to their dorms, and some of them went to pack things to go back to their families. I went to the girls' dorm to check on any girls who had returned. I got there to find one girl, oddly calm, sitting in her room.
"So what happened?" she asked me.
Possibly the only thing worse than hearing about the death of a loved one, is having to be the bearer of that same information to someone else. The poor girl. She was so angry, so sad and confused.
And for good reason.
Sandy was only eighteen years old, and the highest performing girl in the entire school. She had been meeting me for grading and lesson planning every day since September, and was one of my closest friends.
Just this morning, we were sitting in the staff room and she had been telling me about her parents being in Australia currently, and how excited she was to go be with them this summer.
We had had so many wonderful talks together. She was so funny and smart, and would always stick up for me when other students might joke around or tease. She always went above and beyond in her work, and would do anything to help me out. I was constantly amazed by how intelligent she was and yet how well-liked she was by everyone. I don't think there was a single person at the school who didn't get along with her.
So here we are.
Almost all of the students have gone to their homes, and the ones that are on campus are staying with staff. Two of the girls are sleeping in our house this weekend, because they are all scared/depressed by the idea of sleeping the dorm where Sandy passed.
Peggy and Sara came back with information about Sandy and her death. It is still not clear what happened, but it seemed that while she was taking a shower, she got carbon monoxide poisoning from the water heater and passed out. Culturally they do not do autopsies here, so we don't, and probably won't ever, know the real cause of death. They also don't have morgues, so funerals all have to be within 24 hours of the death.
That means that tomorrow we will be having Sandy's funeral.
And the worst part? Her family is still in Australia and will miss their own daughter's funeral.
I am heartbroken.
She had such a bright future, and loving family and friends, and now its all just... gone.
Her family will have to struggle through the loss of their daughter now, from half a world away, and miss her own funeral.
So. Here we are. I ask that if you pray, that you please pray for her and her family. Pray for peace for the students, and for all the fear and anxiety to dissipate. In general, just keep her in your thoughts.
And go hug someone you love.

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1 comment:

  1. I was so sad to hear of Sandy's death from her Mother, who is here is Australia. I can't imagine the grief of losing your child-especially when unable to attend her funeral. It is comforting to know that she was surrounded by friends who cared for and prayed for her. Thank you for loving and caring for her. I'm also sorry you lost a friend. Sounds like you need a hug too.