I Can Only Imagine
“I can only imagine what it would be like when I walk by your side”. These words are the beginning of a song with the same title sung by Mercy Me. No matter where I am every time I hear the song it always takes me back to the funeral service of our sons’ beloved kindergarten teacher, Ms. Denise. I along with my sons and husband had gone up to Big Bear Mountains for the weekend. Since our cell phone had no reception in the woods there were several missed calls. On the day we headed back home once we were out of the woods I began to listen to the messages that had been left. Tears rolled down my face when I heard two messages with the same bad news. My husband looked at me and I shook my head. He understood not to ask me anything at that time. Concerned for me because I was five months pregnant at the time he reached over and held my hand tight. When we arrived home and the children were asleep I told him that Ms. Denise had passed away. We discussed how we would break the news to our children. Our oldest son Angel was in second grade, and he adored his kindergarten teacher. Our youngest son Andres was in Ms. Denise’s kindergarten class at the time, and he also loved her so. The next morning after they ate their favorite breakfast we held our sons and explained that they will no longer be seeing Ms. Denise, because God had called her to heaven. We huddled in a circle and embraced each other. Tears began to flow from their little eyes down to their cheeks, and as they landed on my hands I too began to weep.
During the week all we could do is learn to accept the fact that Ms. Denise was gone. It was very difficult for Andres to go to school and not see his beloved teacher in the classroom. We anxiously waited for the day of her memorial service, so that we could express our sorrow with others that knew her, and say our last goodbyes. The day finally arrived.
As I enter the hot and stuffy room holding one son in each hand, it’s apparent that there is only standing room along the east wall of windows overlooking the garden. A somber sensation abounds in the service, and sadness emerges on my face, and flows into my heart. As I listen to the reminiscing stories of the individuals whose life she impacted, I’m not surprised to see they range from the very young to old, from bikers to pastors, and many ethnic backgrounds. Gradually laughter permeates the room and the somber sensation is lifted from the atmosphere. Key strokes of the piano begin to play her favorite song. When I hear the first words leave the singer´s mouth my eyes overflow with tears because of our great loss. However at the same time I’m overwhelmed with joy because she is with her creator, and a smile appears on my face. Once the song ends I walk out on to the garden where she soon will be laid down to rest; along with more than 100 people singing and crying. The reminiscing continues between sounds of laughter, sobs, songs and clapping. Finally everyone that had enough strength to speak had said their last goodbyes. As I’m listening to the last words being spoken by the pastor I feel my four year old son tugging on my hand. I look down at him and with tears in his eyes tells me “I did not get to say goodbye.” I walk him over to the casket and the pastor stops speaking, there is silence. My son begins to silently utter “I love you Ms. Denise, you are the best teacher in the whole world. I miss you.” Tears once again overflow from my eyes as I hold my son, and wipe his tears away I begin to sing. I can only imagine.
Ms. Denise will never know the impact she had on the lives of so many children, teens and adults. Her memory lives on by the words she spoke, the actions she took to proclaim her faith in God to different generations. Her memorial service attests to the fact of the diverse population she reached. Young children, conservative teens, troubled teens, biker clubs, karate instructors, choir singers, rock bands, and the list goes on and on. When she looked at a person she did not see a human being she saw a soul.