Another Cause for Rain

Today I received the sad and terrible news that one of my former students overdosed and passed away this week.  She had just turned 19.

We were not close, as I am with some of my students, but she always sat on the front row of my first British Lit. class, and those first students I taught will always be some of the most memorable.  I do remember that she detested Jonathan Swift.  And if I recall rightly, it was she who offered to bring me a new podium for Christmas when I broke mine (right in front of her) by leaning too heavily upon it.  But now she has left this world, and it is a sad loss.

I solicit your prayers for her family and her closest friends, who I’m sure are in need (perhaps more than ever) of comfort and hope.  Pray for their dependence on Him.  Pray that they might “Pour out their hearts like water in the presence of the Lord.”  And pray, always pray, that her death would not be in vain.

Today I wished for the rain more than ever – not for me, mostly, but for her family, for her friends.  It is, in my opinion, a measure of grace that sometimes the universe weeps with us.

You may not have any taste for poetry (most, I’m afraid do not), but the lines of Robert Frost, I think, do justice to the thought:

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist…

I am reminded, too, of Katherine Paterson’s thoughts on the death of her son’s best friend.  Perhaps, in whatever darkness lies ahead or behind, they may be a light for you as well – a reminder that death is not without meaning, nor without the power to redeem:

How does one comfort and reassure?  We have tried…  But he is not fully healed.  Perhaps he will never be, and I am beginning to believe that this is right… Of course he will forget a little.  Even now he is making other friendships.  His life will go on, though hers could not.

And selfishly I want the pain to ease.  But how can I say that I want him to “get over it,” as though having loved and been loved were some sort of disease? I want the joy of knowing her and the sorrow of losing her to be a part of him and to shape him into growing levels of caring and understanding, perhaps as an artist, but certainly as a person.


8 thoughts on “Another Cause for Rain

  1. Oh, the great sadness of losing someone so young. The pain of those left behind. And the extra pain of it being a drug overdose. What pain she must have been in…what could we have done differently to have helped her? My child…my friend…oh, God, how can we bear it?
    May the God who reigns over life and death bring comfort and peace. May close friends be there in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Oh, God, this world can be so brutally painful at times; have mercy on us all.

  2. I am so very sorry to hear of this tragedy. I pray for God to rain down upon her family and friends a shower of love, peace and compassion…to hold them all in His tender care during their grieving. My girls are so very precious to me. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose any one of them. My heart aches for all who knew and loved her. ~ “The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

  3. I cannot imagine the sorrow of a childs death under any circumstances. I have witnessed several endure this horrible event in their own lives, and I do believe that God gives an extra measure of grace and compassion to those left to deal with the loss here on Earth. I will be praying for her family and friends. I will be praying for you. Her death is a loss to all who knew her – just the level of intensity is different, that’s all.

    everytime i think of death, i think of the dash on the tombstone…the one between date of birth, and date of death. that small, insignificant alphabetic character has huge implications when i think about it. it sums up an entire life from birth to death.
    everything that person accomplished while living is represented by that dash. i hope when visiting her grave and reflecting upon her dash – her family will remember all the wonderful, positive ways in which she touched peoples lives, and for them, her dash will turn into a slight smile – if only for a moment.

    and if it rains today? go dance in it.

  4. Thank you, Mr. Halbrooks, for this post. I am Claire’s dad and I thank those who commented on your post also. I will tell you how my wife and I are coping. It is through our total dependence on Jesus Christ to be here beside us to help us stand, for without Him, we could not stand. Our bones are broken and our souls are crushed but He has demonstrated His mercy and grace and revealed to us both the depth of our faith. As I have struggled, and perhaps as many of you have, with the idea that our father God Almighty can forgive us for our sins and remember them no more it has taken this tragedy for me to become fully reconciled with the beautiful truth that forgiveness is only a confession away (I’ve copyrighted that so don’t even try :). The awful truth of what happened gave way to unbelief, which birthed anger, which in turn bore shock, emptiness, and desolation. Finally my father in heaven opened the book of my life and pointed to my faith. I realized that what I thought would be contained in only one sentence was shown to me to be chapter upon chapter of belief, absolute faith, dependence, surrender, contriteness of spirit, a broken heart, and lamentation of my multitude of sins. The book of my life that I thought would only be a short story of everyday, humdrum life, turned out to be the Great American Novel of a faith so deep that only God could have written that story. Had He not called me, I would be lost and utterly devoid of feeling at this time. But because He chose me, because He knew me before I was formed, because my name is written on His hand, I can stand brave and courageous in the belief that Claire was redeemed and that I am redeemed and the lies that the enemy has been whispering in my ear are not truths, only snares and traps that the enemy hoped would enslave, torture, and destroy me. That is how we are coping and if our tragedy can touch one life, can encourage one person, or plant one seed in the fertile soil that the Lord has prepared, then I am the one who is blessed. Thank you Mr. Halbrooks. Claire liked you and knew that you cared about her and your students. My wife and I are grateful for everything you did and we love your brother and your beautiful sister in law. It is my hope that you visit with us at her service tomorrow. In Christ, Greg Hartley.

  5. Greg – Thank you so much for sharing. Though it goes without saying, Claire was a joy to teach. If there were any way I could make it tomorrow, I would surely be there – as it is I am far, far away. Your family is very much in my prayers, and will continue to be. Take heart – “the Night is far spent, Day is at hand.”

    In Him (who has conquered Death),

  6. Thank you Alan. It is raining this morning. Your prayers were heard and have been answered. With you in Christ, Greg

  7. Alan, I hope that Ben and Whitney shared with you the celebration of Claire’s life that happened on Saturday. It was a beautiful service, God centered and God exalting. He was there with us. The sanctuary, overflow room, and foyer at Altadena Valley Presbyterian church were filled and people were standing. I was ovewhelmed, overjoyed, awestruck, and humbled. The Cross Creek praise team raised their voices and instruments to the Lord with songs I had chosen and I was blessed. Every word and every ringing note from the instruments touched me and my body was afire with the joy of the Lord. Afterward, there was a sea of loving faces, people were gathered waiting to hug me, speak to me, and touch me. Many were offering condolences but I assured them that our Lord Jesus was holding me up and showing me that, while it was okay to be sad, it is also okay to be joyous. As Job said, shall we accept good from God and not bad? All this is His plan, and I am blessed to be a part of it. Thank you for your words and thank you for your original post. It made people aware of a young woman who they were previously unaware of. Claire touched many hearts and continues to touch mine. God be with you my friend. Blessed, redeemed, and forgiven, Greg


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