Yesterday I received some absolutely devastating news. I found out that one of my amazing students passed away at St. Mark’s Hospital on Saturday at only 19 years old due to Pneumonia. I could not get ahold of myself yesterday to stop the flow of tears that kept coming throughout the day. I feel like I’ve lost a child or something. After some intensive prayer, I was finally able to feel some peace yesterday evening. And I’ve been a mixture of happy and sad as I’ve reflected back on my memories of her. But since all of my memories of her are happy, I am feeling blessed to have had the chance to get close to her. I’m grateful for my knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and knowing that this isn’t the end. She’s just on the other side now. But it’s startling and it has caused me to reflect on what a precious gift life is.. and the people that are in mine. I’m especially grateful right now for every student I’ve had the opportunity to teach and for the bonds and friendships I’ve made. Today, I was asked to contribute a memory or two of her for her eulogy. It turns out writing something for a eulogy is pretty hard, and I’m sure I wrote too much. But here’s what I came up with:
Brittney Crowder… how do I say this? How do I write a ray of sunshine? From the first second she entered into my classroom I knew she was special. Brittney walked in with a big sparkling smile on her face and introduced herself and my first thought was, “this has to be one of the most polite girls I’ve ever met.” And when the woman who claimed to be her “sister” (a.k.a. mother), Cassandra came in, and the sarcastic banter between them began, I knew teaching them was gonna be a hilarious ride. And it was. They kept us all laughing. Probably the funniest part about it was hearing this typically sweet, happy girl throw out sarcastic zingers and smack talk in every classroom game as soon as it got competitive.
But one thing I’ll never forget about Brittney was her selfless attitude. She apologized more than anybody I’ve ever met because she put everyone before herself, never wanting to inconvenience anyone. She never ever failed to ask me about my day or my life or what I did over the weekend — not once. She was consistently helping everyone around her. She was one of the smartest students I’ve had, and she knew all the answers to my questions in class. I was always impressed by her ability to retain information. But she held back from taking over because she wanted others in the class to have a chance to participate too. It was so funny to watch her when my students played a speed vocabulary game, because she always knew the answer first, but she would slowly and carefully write the word out in fancy lettering so it wouldn’t be such an obviously hard beating. And then she would doodle her name or my name on the board while she waited.
Brittney was positive, she was funny, she was witty, she had a brilliant white smile that lit up everything. She had an easy and contagious laugh, and she radiated happiness, despite all the hard and terrible things she occasionally alluded to that she had experienced in her young life. She was focused and knew what was important. She was creative and she never held back expressing her love with words and hugs and gifts and notes. She was thoughtful and aware. She was never too busy to help or to stop and talk. She was respectful and considerate. And she had an impact on everyone she came into contact with simply because she cared about them. And there was a maturity in her beyond her years. I think, even though she only spent a short few years on the earth, she fit a lot of living into them.
My favorite memory of Brittney is probably when she took it upon herself to make a video for the Medical Administrative Assistant program in order to recruit more people to enroll. She re-wrote the lyrics to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” and Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie.”
One day on break in class we decided we’d teach one of the other students how to do some dance moves like the Jerk, along with the Cat Daddy and the Reject and the Dip and Crumping. And then we taught the Dougie to the Career Services Department. She filmed it for the video and we laughed our guts out every time we watched it. And then she made me rap her “Teach Me How to Dougie” lyrics, which she revised to “Teach Me How to Study,”… into her phone… with my earbuds in to hear the beat of the song. It was one of the funniest moments ever, sitting in the computer lab, getting my white girl rap swag on. And then she told me I sounded like Lady Sovereign and had a legit rap career ahead of me. Ha ha!
I keep imagining she’ll walk through the door again with her hood on and her headphones in and her big smile asking me how I am. I absolutely love Brittney. She truly became my dear friend over the course of her time at Everest, and will always hold a special place in my heart as one of my favorite people. It feels like she’s gone way too soon, but I know she’s up in heaven radiating that same happiness and love she was famous for here, laughing and exchanging stories with everyone around her… and maybe even teaching them how to Dougie.