Thursday, October 23, 2008

Feeling Nostalgic

I was thumbing through boxes of old stuff and found my posters from the Natural Helpers retreats in high school. Natural Helpers was a club which equipped "natural leaders and helpers" in the school to better respond to problems students faced. At Astoria High School it started when I was a sophomore and at one point I was the president. So nonetheless it was a big part of my high school experience. But remember that my high school was only like 600 students, so I had pretty good odds. The best part of the club was going on the retreats to learn "skills" for helping our peers. They were good things to learn,  but the best part was having a whole weekend to goof off with my friends (at one point my best friend Jennie and my boyfriend Andy were at the retreats too). 

So anyway, at the fall retreat there would always be a poster for everyone to sign for everyone else. Kids would write "yearbook" stuff like, "You're rad, see you at school!" and "You're awesome and such a sweetie!" But there were a few that resonated with me reading it now, 10 years later. One of the comments was from Courtney Guenther. 

Courtney and I sort of grew up together and weren't great friends through high school, but part of me thinks that we could have been. She was an awesome Christian. She was very open about her faith and unafraid to stand for Jesus. She was part of our morning prayer group that met every morning at 745ish in the hall by the cafeteria. I remember meeting for prayer every day and being scared because it was around the time Kip Kinkel went crazy and shot his parents and kids at his high school, and the Columbine shooting in Colorado. It scared me to stand in the hall and pray because I was afraid that someone would shoot me because I was a Christian. I remember praying for God to give me strength. Anyway, Courtney was in that group. We were also in Port City Singers, the choir that students had to audition for. That was another class that was so fun. I learned a lot about music, but mostly it was another place to goof off with my friends. (Jennie was in that class too, which just shows we goofed off a lot together in high school under the guise of being "good students"!) 

Courtney went to Hope International University after high school. I was home for Christmas that year (2001) and spent the night at Gina's house, another good friend at the time. Her dad was the vice principal of Astoria High. He got a call about Courtney being in a car accident. We found out that she had been in an accident on Hwy 101 and hit some black ice, hit a guard rail and died. 

I was crushed. 

For such a young, beautiful, faithful woman to have died so suddenly...I couldn't comprehend it. It made for a bittersweet Christmas. Occasionally I have these days where I think about her and feel sad. I feel sad for what might have been, she was such a wonderful person with such a strong spirit and passion for Jesus. Then I remember, she's with Jesus. No doubt about it in my mind. She's so much better off that me who's still here on Earth. I try to remember that all the wonderful things in my life that God has given me (Bill, the girls, my family) are tiny compared to the infinite power and glory of Jesus. 

Courtney's the lucky one. Not that I sit at home all day wishing my life were over...I deeply enjoy where God has placed me right now and I pray that he gives me a long life. But I know that there's something so much better waiting for me. I'm not sad for Courtney, just sad that she's not here right now, and that's a little selfish of me. 

That's me and Courtney on the left in the top picture (apologies to Kami in the bottom picture, this was the best one I camera's a little confusing to me, maybe I'm just "technologically challenged).


Anonymous said...

So, that was my high school where Kinkel went nuts shooting people. It was 3 weeks before I graduated. This article is about Jake Ryker, who tackled the shooter(copy-paste). A few years later, I worked at Sears and Jake was hired as a security guard. I always felt safer when he was around.
~Sarah May

Jeff said...

Dear Addie-

Thank you for this post. I treasure the memories people have about such a wonderful, beautiful, loving girl. It warms my heart every winter as I reflect back on our friend Courtney. It is wonderful to hear about the influence she continues to have in people's lives as they strive to be better people and live in God's grace.

I had the wonderful privilege of dating Courtney in college down in southern california. We became friends in high school through church camps and trips to build houses in Mexico. How fortunate that we were able to continue that friendship into college.

Courtney's death rocked my world. It never seemed fair to me that God would let such a thriving young girl of 19 be taken so suddenly, especially one who was going to change the world in His name.

There are so many memories to share, but the strongest one still resonates in a song I wrote 2 weeks before her death. I remember working on it in my dorm room and not knowing why I was writing a song about death and heaven, but I shared it with her anyways. God was working far far ahead of me.

I walked over to her dorm room the night before she left for Oregon to spend Christmas with her family. She was getting ready to go out with the dorm girls for a last Disneyland fling before they all went home for the holiday. I was sitting on her bed and playing through it for her to get her thoughts... she poked her head around the bathroom door where she was doing her hair in the mirror and looked at me with those big blue eyes and said, "It's beautiful Jeff."

A week later I was playing it at her funeral in Oregon. A line in the chorus was simple and pure and written for this pinnacle of emotion in my life, "We'll sing with the Angels."

And now she has added her voice to the heavenly chorus.

All that said, God was well ahead of me on the path and knew how to prepare me for the worst day of my life. And like you, having come through that period in my life, I am so glad she is happier now and with our God.

So again, it warms my heart to know the impact she continues to have in the lives of people she knew and I'm quite sure ones she never did. The ripple effect is quite real and 8 years later is still expanding the hearts of too many to count.

Thank you for sharing Addie.

God bless,