So this is a really random post, but a memory from years ago fell into my head last night so I'm writing about it today.
This is Carmen. My earliest memory of her is when she first came to my cell group. We were sixteen, 2009. Cell group had just ended, and we were all going down the stairs to the void deck. I think it was at Daniel's place. Carmen noticed the silver cross around my neck, and asked me where it was from. I told her it was from my childhood friend, with whom I used to go to Sunday School.
"Oh, that's lovely," she said. "My cross was given to me by my mum."
"Oh," I said, and smiled politely. Merp. I continued walking down the stairs. I didn't really know what to say to that. I mean, a lot of things are from our parents because at that age most of our things are paid for by them, right? Like, technically my clothes were from my mum too, and my shoes? I think it was our first time speaking to each other, too, so it was just all a little awkward, Carmen attempting to be friendly and me not really knowing what to say in response.
What I didn't know was that her mother had just passed away from cancer, right before she came over to our cell group. Oh Carmen, if I had known the weight of that simple sentence, I would have stopped right there and cried and hugged you so tight.
Our cell group multiplied a month or two after, and we eventually became closer when all these secondary school boys started coming into our cell group. After a while there were only 4 girls, and only the two of us were the same age. She often told me that she enjoyed our chats, non-superficial and unreserved; and I was always blessed to witness her beautiful soul, so pure and in love with God. Carmen's love is boundless; it overflows out of her heart and spills out to the lives of everyone she encounters. It's extraordinary. I also remember her Beauty Rush lip gloss. Smelled like cotton candy heaven. I remember once we met up for dinner or something before cell group, and talked about what was going on in our lives. She told me about a difficult decision regarding two things very close to her heart. I understood her pain. And then later on at cell group, Jason came around to say a prophetic prayer for each of us. I was sitting beside Carmen, so I could hear what Jason was saying to her, and every word was exactly on point, waves and waves of God's voice sent straight to her heart. Carmen was in tears, and I thanked God for His wisdom. Of course God knows exactly what to say, knowing all, wanting only the best for her. She made the right decision that night.
I think it was that same year, 2009, that we both answered an important altar call at church. An altar call for young people who wanted to dedicate the years of their youth fully to Jesus. It was a big altar call; a response that said "I won't live for myself anymore; I will live the most precious, energetic years of my life for You." I went down because I knew I would regret it later. I went down because I wanted to tell Jesus to have His way in my life now, so that I couldn't decide otherwise later on. So that even if I detested the follow-through, He would still be holding the reins. I wanted to make a choice that would bind me for the best. We both walked down the terraces, and we stood beside each other in the front, together with a crowd of other young people.
In a couple of years, I saw her completely blossom, from that quiet girl sitting at the corner of the room at cell group to such a bubbly, confident woman so full of life, so ready to love the people around her, radiating strength and grace. We both happened to go to SOT (School of Theology) together in 2013 too - at that point, she was coordinating the SOT worship team, preparing to be a worship leader at church, and I was about to start the Christian Fellowship at Yale-NUS. I am still in awe of how far Jesus has carried us from that altar call six years ago. (I've written about this many times, I think.) God has taken the years of our youth to spread His love. He has also taken our hurts and transformed it into compassion, infused it into our talents, helped us become deeper and stronger and more loving individuals.
Here's Carmen's performance at my church on Mother's Day, 2011, two years after her mother passed away. (It starts at 4:57.) I remember I was sitting on my own that day, not with the cell group. And when the video played I was screaming my head off in support. And when she finished her performance tears were streaming down my face and I was cheering like a loony and people around me were staring and I was just like THAT'S MY GIRL THAT'S MY GIRL I'M SO PROUD. And I'll continue being a loony supporter Carmen, because your voice is a beautiful gift that God and your mother have given you, second only to your heart.
Ah well since I'm at it, here's Nightlight by The Sam Willows, written for Benjamin and Narelle's mother who also passed away from cancer in 2002. The lyrics, the video, the voices...this makes me cry too often.