I’m going to tell you a story now, a story I doubt I will be able to do justice to the telling of, but a story so remarkable it needs to be heard. It’s about a girl; a humble unassuming farm girl from rural North Carolina who touched a lot of lives and made a difference in the world.

Sandra was a pretty girl who was a grade behind me. She was always known as someone who was kind and friendly to all, and in a genuine way. There are people who feign being friendly but it comes off as a device that suits their own purpose. Sandra was not that type. She was genuine.

The truth is I remember her from school, but since she was a grade behind me, I never interacted with her much. I’d see her around. I knew her name and like most other boys my age, I thought she was pretty.

Her senior year, she was named as the high school homecoming queen, an honor also bestowed upon her older sister five years previous. I don’t know what voting criteria folks use at other places and other schools, but at my high school it was usually a “nice” girl who won the honors, in spite of whatever the conventions of popularity happened to be at the time.

She married a good man who loved and doted on her and she bore them two sons. As far as I know she lived an idyllic life with her family and would have been the stereotype of what the American Dream looked like.

In 1997, I got married to a wonderful woman who moved to North Carolina with me. She began attending my church, the same church Sandra and her family attended. Emily was soon recruited into being a Mission Friends teacher and since Sandra was also a Mission Friends teacher, they became friends. Through Emily I got to know Sandra a little better.

I remember like it was yesterday that I got the news. Sandra had been having headaches and seizures and had been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive brain tumor.

The doctors gave her little hope. It was just too aggressive. They treated her as best they could, but the results were not at all promising.

With nothing to lose, Sandra and her family sought an alternative treatment in Mexico. For a time, the treatment worked. She made somewhat of a recovery and began to appear more and more healthy. Our church became optimistic that she might recover and beat the tumor. We certainly all cried out to God on her behalf, not daily, but many times daily.

For a few months she was stable, and we saw her most every Sunday at church. What an uplifting sight to see!!. Even though she had to wear a wig and her face was puffy from the treatments, she remained every bit the pretty girl she had always had been.

One Sunday she even gave a testimony about how she had felt like she was down in a dark hole, when first diagnosed, but that God had kept her going through the difficult days. Her voice was a small one, but her words were so powerful and so moving that morning it was heard by everyone in attendance.

As the months went by, the alternative treatment became less and less effective. The optimism we felt began to fade. Of course we still prayed for Sandra. We could do nothing else.

Sandra lost the battle one early day in August in the year 2000. She lost the battle for her life, but she won the war when she gained the glory of heaven, residing for all time with Christ. All praise to God!!

Emily and I arrived early for her visitation. There was already a two-hour wait, even getting there early. We heard the family didn’t get home until after midnight.

The following day her funeral was held. The choir loft was filled beyond capacity. Every pew was filled. The balcony was full. There were people standing in the aisles. There were people not able to get in. That’s just how big of an impact that this humble girl that grew up living on a farm made to those who knew her and those who heard her story. One of the preachers commented that Sandra would likely have been embarrassed to get that much attention. She was a quiet work behind the scene type and did nothing for show or attention.

The other preacher said these words, “Many people would ask of God, why me? Sandra never asked that. She asked why not me.”  Oh to have that kind of faith!!!

When the service concluded and we walked up the gently sloping hill to the church cemetery, music played over a PA system that had been set up. It was told that this was music Sandra selected herself once she realized she would lose her battle with cancer. The music was so uplifting that I just had to smile. It was her last statement to the world and just part of her cheerful and humble demeanor.

The next day was a Sunday and our entire Sunday School was taken up by the sharing of just how uplifting and faith affirming Sandra’s funeral had been. Of course we were sad, but just being able to celebrate her life tempered the grief.

Later in the worship service, the pastor asked Sandra’s mother to say the closing prayer. Her words were powerful. She began, “LORD it is just such a joy to be in your house with your people and to know that you hold all things in your hands.” How could a mother who had just laid her youngest daughter to rest a day earlier be able to pray like that. Of course I knew. Faith!!

It has been a dozen years now since Sandra died. I think about her pretty often, although less now than I did in the first few years after her passing. We all have heroes of the faith and I am no different. While I admire the Peters and the Pauls and the Luthers and the Spurgeons, I hold in equal regard that humble little farm girl. I don’t know why God took her from this world at such a young age – she was not yet 40 – but one thing I do know is that even in her illness and eventual passing God was glorified and many of us grew in the faith. I count myself blessed to have known her, even just a little.


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