I probably should go back a few years... the summer before going into seventh grade I went to a camp that forever changed my life. I was about to embark on a new journey in life. Moving on from elementary school to junior high. This summer camp is where I met my best friends. I went knowing at least a few girls from my church but of course I didn't know many of the girls in my cabin. I remember meeting everyone and by the end of the week we had all formed a group that would remain even until today.
Three of the girls I met that summer are Jennifer, Shantel and Lisa. I remember meeting Jennifer before camp and then I met Shantel the first day of camp. From what I do remember I took Jennifer with me and introduced her to Shantel and many of the other girls. (I love connecting people!) I also introduced myself to Lisa that day as well. Little did I know then what God had planned!
We all went to the same youth group and that helped solidify our friendship. Junior high came and went. It was time for high school! There were so many things we were all looking forward to. Trips with our youth group to the mountains, summer camp and a missions trip that I would not be able to go on but Jennifer and Shantel wanted to go on. It was to New York city. They both applied and really felt like they were going to go. I should mention by now Jennifer and Shantel were best friends. We all were best friends. But Jennifer and Shantel clung to each other. Which would prove to be something Jennifer needed as much as Shantel. While going through the application process for the NY missions trip both of them were turned down by our youth pastor. It was with a heavy heart that he told them they would not be able to go. He had prayed about it and felt the Lord tell him that it wasn't there time.
The trip took place in April of 1993. It was during our spring break. I had gone to Illinois for part of the week and came home in time to go to youth group that Wednesday. I was so excited to be able to hang out with my friends that didn't go on the trip. That Wednesday would be the last time I would see Shantel alive. I still cry. The following day my dad received a phone call from a pastor on staff at my church. He knew my dad well and wanted to be the one to let him know that Shantel had passed away earlier that morning. She died of a heart attack in the shower while Jennifer was trying to call her mom and an ambulance.
I heard my dad on the phone and couldn't figure out why he had a look of sadness mixed with shock on his face. He got off the phone and looked at me and told me the news that changed my world forever. I was living in the downstairs part of my parents house at the time and immediately went to the bathroom that is down there. I shut the door and just sat for what seemed like hours. I didn't move, didn't talk and wanted my dad to come in and say "just kidding"! Anything to make the reality of the situation go away. But that didn't happen.
Two days later our group of friends said "good bye" to Shantel. For the longest time I couldn't listen to Michael W Smith's song "Friends". It's still hard but not as hard as it was then.
Lately I have thought more about this story than ever before. I am helping my parents remodel that part of their house and I will be living downstairs again in my old room. So every time I walk into the bathroom down there it brings back those memories. I have seen how God has walked me through one of the hardest times in my life. I cling to His word:
Psalm 119:81, 114
81My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in your word.
Oh how I cherish those words!