Tuesday, May 02, 2006

in memory of Astyn

".....You're nice inside and out." -Aaron
"I think you're going to be a model cause you're so pretty!" -Sarah
"I think you will be a basketball player or a surgeon."
"I don't know what you will be but you will be a nice and funny person." Mike
These are just some of the things that my Lubbock Christian School 6th grade students wrote about Astyn Qubty at the end of the school year in '97. I love to make books (a love which has been passed on to Gracie!). Just about anytime I could incorporate making a book into my lesson plans I would do it. Why just write out a list of adjectives when you could make a book and illustrate those adjectives?

At the end of that first year of teaching, we made 2 class books that I still have copies of. I'm sure there are others around here as well. One book was called, "Please pray for me" and each child had a page where they wrote a letter to their classmates asking for prayers in a specific, or non-specific, area. I bound the letters together and gave each student a copy. Out of respect for her privacy, I won't reveal what Astyn requested prayers for, but I am still amazed at her honesty & openness with her classmates. The other book we made was called "What a 6th grade class!" This one also had a page for each student where all of the other students in the class wrote down their predictions for what that child would be one day. Astyn had such a flair about her. She loved life! I was looking to see what she had written for the other students and noticed that she had circled her predictions on almost every page~so it would stand out. That was Astyn!

Astyn was popular and beautiful~the picture above doesn't do her justice. I think all the boys were in love with her. Seriously. She was always able to make others laugh, including me. There were times when she & I disagreed about whether or not the timing was right for making others laugh, but that's okay. I remember getting a letter from her after that year was over, maybe it was in the summer I can't remember. I still have that letter. I don't know where in the world it is, but I will never get rid of it. I remember she mentioned that she was going to a camp at ACU and she noted that she knew I would like that because I was always dropping not so subtle hints to them about ACU being the place to be! With our school being located directly behind Lubbock Christian University, I felt I had to drum up business for Abilene Christian University! Astyn was a good athlete as well as being beautiful and well liked. She had a mom & dad who loved her immensely and 3 older sisters, including a set of twins. She had a good life.

The reason I'm writing about her in past tense is because on May 2, 1999, Astyn was killed at the age of 14. 7 years ago. She & 5 other girls. They were killed in New Mexico in a bus crash coming home from a church retreat with Greenlawn Church of Christ. I won't retype all of the details because you can read them in the link above or this one if you'd like to. I only taught in Lubbock one year before we moved to Uvalde. I'll never forget Chris calling me at Anthon Elementary School after school was out one afternoon~my birthday actually. I think I took the call in the nurse's office and he was telling me that one of my friends who had taught with me for a time in Lubbock had called and told him about a bad wreck that had involved some Lubbock kids.

He told me that Marion had told him that one of the names mentioned on the news report sounded alot like one of the students I had taught just 2 years earlier. I was in a little bit of shock with my time teaching her running through my mind~kind of like your life going before your eyes. I went into the school library and got onto the computer to read the story. I read the story but still held out a little hope because they had her name wrong. With a name like Astyn Qubty, I suppose that was an understandable mistake. They were reporting that Ashton Cuptee had been killed. In my heart, I knew it was her but I was still holding out some hope.

I went home and checked my answering machine. Laurie Davis, the other 6th grade teacher during my time there, and still a teacher at the school at that time, had left me a message. As soon as I heard her voice, I started crying because I knew. We had not kept in touch since I'd left Lubbock, so I knew. I called her and we talked for awhile. I remember talking to my dad. Like I said, this was my birthday (the wreck had happened the day before) and I don't remember if he had called me or I had called him. It even seems like he had already emailed me or called or something and mentioned the wreck. Anyway, I just remember as soon as I heard his voice I started to cry and said, "One of my students was killed in that wreck."

Oh, it was awful. To this day, I can sit and just try to wish myself back 9 years. Wish myself back to that classroom with those 14 students and cherish those days just a little more. Try to keep the little things little. I remember we read the book that year, "Bridge to Terabithia." One of the main characters, who was a child, died and I remember crying. I also remember the students looking at me like I was a little crazy and me thinking, "Don't you get how sad this is?" Unfortunately, 2 years later, most of them did get it. I keep thinking that it was unfair, that her life was cut too short. SIX girls died in the crash. SIX. To even try to think about the horror that must have been felt by those in the accident is unimaginable.

I will forever be grateful for the fact that Chris & I were able to go to the funeral. For me, funerals offer closure and I am so glad we were able to drive the 6 or 7 hours to go. I remember hugging her best friend, Sarah, and not knowing what to say but knowing that in 6th grade they had been literally connected at the hip and wondering how in the world it was that Sarah wasn't with her that weekend. The image most seared into my mind though is that of Aaron. Astyn was buried in a white casket and the students were encouraged to sign it. At one point, I looked down at the front of the auditorium and he was the only one down there, kneeling down signing it. I just remember having this overwhelming urge to go back in time 2 years to our classroom where we were just doing 6th grade stuff. I remember thinking that he shouldn't have to be signing that casket. It just didn't seem fair.

The funeral was upbeat as far as funerals go. They read some entries from her journal where she had expressed dismay at stuff that was going on in the world and a desire to go be with God. I know her family is missing her today just a little more than most days. I know God can work good through anything and I pray that someone was touched through her life & death as I'm sure they were. Below is an excerpt from an article about her funeral:
The funeral for Astyn at Green Lawn Church of Christ was meant to let her tell her story, said Doug Hale, the officiating minister.
Hale relayed a letter Astyn had written to family and friends.
The letter recalls how Astyn was thinking about them in prayers and that even though she might not have known the position they were in, that ''God will take care of everything. There is a reason for everything, and God loves you very much.''
She wrote that she and family and friends would be reunited in heaven and told them that they could come stay with her.
''She's inviting us home,'' Hale said.
Fraze read a letter that Astyn's father, Johnny Qubty, had written to her.
The letter recalls the father missing Astyn's ''laugh, funny faces and the awesome smile.''
He recalled going to lunch, to a movie and shopping with Astyn before the trip to New Mexico.
He wrote that God would take care of Astyn until friends and family could be with her again and that the Lord would keep her playing basketball so ''she could beat her dad in a game of one-on-one.''
He told her to keep practicing for when they are reunited for their game.
Hale also read snippets from a journal Astyn wrote during last weekend's retreat.
She asked God to put stronger faith in her heart, and gushed about trees, grass, flowers and the sky, noting they were God's creations.
In another passage, Astyn wondered what is beyond Earth and why people make the world gross in spite of God's works.
Astyn's mother, Diane, recalled an early harbinger of her daughter's faith. While her mother drove her home from Tuesday School, Astyn, 3, asked her, ''Who loves me, mom?''
After further inquiry, Astyn said, ''Jesus.''
Dear Lord,
Please comfort the Qubty family today. Wrap your arms around them and give them peace.
In Jesus' Name,


mrs. mayo said...

Wow. It's a small world. I grew up in Lubbock - my family and the Qubty's are good friends. Thanks for this beautiful tribute to Astyn. When I opened your blog and saw her picture, my heart just dropped. I will say a special prayer today.

Erica said...

That is such a sweet tribute. I think a lot of times families feel like others forget but we do not. I have experienced the loss of family and it is something you never forget. What a precious heart you have for others. Your family and friends are so blessed by your spirit. Thanks for giving me the oportunity to pray for this family today.

jettybetty said...

I remember when that happened--can't believe it's been 6 years. Some things just don't make sense.

Meredith brings up the "Bridge" book on her blog this week.

Is tomorrow you bday???

Jacinda said...

I'm not getting email notifications from you when you comment. This is the 2nd time it's happened. I wonder why???

And yes! 33!

elizabeth said...

I remember when that happened.

I have always thought stories like this were so sad, but being a mom changed my perspective on deaths of children.

I can't imagine all the love, time, tears, frustrations, and laughter that went into raising Astyn only to have her whisked away without so much as a goodbye.

A great reminder to be grateful for our children and for the day that we have.

Malia said...

That was a beautiful tribute. One of those memories you'll take with you for your entire life. Never forgetting where you were and what you were doing and always learning from it.

btw...happy birthday! hope you have a great day!

erin said...

I have a blog now!

Nessa said...

Wow. I would have to agree with Mrs. Mayo, it is a small world. I was one of your students at LCHS back in '99. I actually still have one of the books you mentioned in the blog. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember thinking how do we go on without Astyn, she is the most popular and loved girl in the whole school. But we did. I don't remember how but we did. I haven't cried over Astyn's death in about 6 years until I read your blog. To this day I believe that God took her at exactly the right moment in her life... the time when she was closest to Him. This is beginning to become a blog in itself so I will end with saying thank you for your awsome tribute to Astyn.

Lori said...

What a beautiful, beautiful tribute. My daughter, Kali, was the one who invited Astyn to the retreat, and they got separated into different buses because Astyn took too long at the convenience store and had to ride the other bus. Astyn was there for Kali at LCHS when she was new there. She never did fit in with her class after Astyn left them. Astyn would not leave Kali behind no matter who objected, because she was loyal like that. Kali and Astyn had such a beautiful friendship, and she will never be forgotten.