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Smiles Today

Last week was a busy week. Wade had a district baseball tournament. It was hoooootttt. Three days in a row at 5:30 PM, on a hot July afternoon is not cool (as in "cool man" and in temperature.) The first two days we were on the dugout and fan side facing the setting sun. I purchased Kona Ice from my beautiful friend Karey, and poor Kaydence Grace sucked them down and was just laying there, sizzling like bacon in a frying pan. I was sweating so profusely that Abigail made sure to tell me how bad I smelled. I was so exhausted I think that I am still catching up. By Wednesday night, I left Kaydence to stay with her Aunt Jenni so at least she wouldn't suffer another night.

Also on Wednesday, I turned 40. Forty years old. I don't feel 40. Well, I did after the late afternoon heat three days in a row, but I'm trying to process what 40 is supposed to be. I commented on Facebook how thankful I actually am to be another year older, because so many do not make it to that age. I didn't know how true that would be until later in the week.

So my husband whisked me away to Fredericksburg for my birthday. It was nice and relaxing. I tasted some wine, ate some German food, and napped. I also bought fabric from one of my favorite fabric stores. I'd say that was awesome. However, on the way home, I received some bad news. One of my students who just graduated was killed in a car wreck Sunday morning. I felt like I had been punched. This was just not real. This kid, she was as close to perfect as a kid can get now days.

As I rode on the way home, I was contacted by more than one student so that I wouldn't find out on social media because they knew how much I love Mariana. I will always love Mariana. Most days, she was first to my first period class even before the bell. Her friend Cristal was usually running a little late. Together, I figured they averaged to "on-time." My first period class was super small, as in, by the end of the year, there were only six students. I guess one could say, we were a close bunch. We talked about everything as we worked. Cristal actually just told me on my birthday, how much she appreciated all of the advice I would give her and Mariana everyday. And it was Cristal who called to tell me the news.

What made Mariana so special? She smiled even on the days when her life just seemed to be crumbling around her. She could always seem to find something to laugh at. I could give her any recipe or crafty project, and she would do it all with ease. She was an exceptionally talented artist and a hard worker. I'd say she might be the perfect daughter. She was so obedient to her parents, even when I know she didn't want to be. It was like she channeled the character of Ella Enchanted. I wanted her to travel with me and compete in FCCLA SO BADLY, but her parents didn't trust anyone else with their daughter. I have to respect that because it is awfully hard to raise a virtuous daughter in today's world, but they did. Mariana wasn't afraid of failure in the kitchen. She made some of the best food and kept a certain group of young men on task in Food Science. Mariana also asked for my help with some customized shirts. It was actually Mariana, and Cristal, who told me to make shirts and sell them. Mariana was my first customer. Cristal was my second. If not for Mariana, Swanky N Boutique would not have happened. She encouraged me as much as I tried to encourage her and she was one of those kids that found themselves in my classes multiple times a day...and she and her friends ate lunch everyday in my lab.

Her smile. It lit the hallways of our school. She made an impact on people in a very quiet manner. I am so proud of her friends and her graduating class. They have managed to get together a candlelight prayer service together in 24 hours as well as getting the word around that class members can make donations toward flowers for her. These are 18-year-old kids. And they honored her and remembered her. Her service was as sweet as she was. Even when my heart hurts, seeing all of the good makes my cup runneth over. My heart is full. Well done parents.

So today, amongst the random bouts of crying, I tried to keep smiling like Mariana. I know this will sound cliche, but I'm not saying goodbye, but saying see you later. Heaven must have needing some extra light, or possibly a new greeter, because I know that smile is lighting Heaven now. I also believe she will be the first soul I see when I get there. This death is hard to accept, but it isn't my plan. I didn't create her. God takes care of that stuff and I just have to keep having some faith in His plans for all of our lives. I will take what I've learned from Mariana and pass it along...in the form of smiles, encouragement, quiet leadership, kindness and perseverance. Brother Alan was talking about the candles lit tonight and how they light up darkness. That was Mariana, a light in the darkness. Be the light. Someone needs you to be.

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