Farewell to a committed believer of Christ

By Art Sphar


One of the comments that I still remember from the shooting of President John F. Kennedy was, “lightning always strikes the tallest tree.” My experience in the forests of the Northwest is that this saying is literally true. Of course, it was not meant literally, it was meant figuratively. In this case it referred to the greatest man, the man who stood out in the forest of other men.

It often seems that it is the one who has the most to give, has the greatest potential, or is most likely to do something extraordinary, who is struck by some tragic event. Often it is the one who is most loved that is taken. Remember that it was the Titanic, the biggest and most unsinkable ship in the ocean, that struck an iceberg and sank in 1912.

Another saying is, “People will not remember what you said. People will not remember what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is especially true of people who made you feel loved. It is a special gift indeed to be able to make people feel special, appreciated, or cherished, especially when they usually feel unlovely because of circumstances, appearance, or handicap.

This is just the kind of person Jennifer Paulson was. She was the special education teacher at Birney Elementary School in Tacoma, who was murdered on the school grounds by a man who had been stalking her. I never met Jennifer, but I was one of the police chaplains who was called to the school a few days after the shooting to help with the debriefing of the school staff. Person after person spoke about what an amazing person she was. They talked about how much she cared about her special education kids, and about her fellow teachers and the rest of the staff there at the school. Everyone seemed to genuinely love her. Everyone talked about how much they will miss her, and how she will never be forgotten. They said that she always wanted the best for her kids, and that she never wanted to give up, even on the most difficult cases. She always wanted to try one more thing to see if it would help. What a shame it is that a person as special as Jennifer Paulson would be taken from us!

Those who knew Jennifer best said that she was a very committed Christian. She was a person of deep and abiding faith. One of the things this means is that, although she is gone from us, she is not really gone. She is living now in the presence of the Lord in a life of beauty that is unimaginable to us. Jesus said, “whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26)

Jennifer is gone from us, but she is not forgotten, either by us, or by the God who created her and made her so special. Farewell and Godspeed, Jennifer. Thank you for all of the lives you touched.


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