She was a beautiful, vivacious fourth grader with occasional bouts of shyness quickly liberated by an enchanting smile and sparkling eyes. Her life was a happy song that brought joy to her parents, family and friends.
That melody was shattered by the devastating diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor that would, despite prayers and valiant medical care, cause her death.
Claire Goudeau died when she was but 9 years old.
However, Claire’s life transcended death, and therein lies the rest of the story. In many ways, the miracle of Claire’s life began with her death.
Claire’s journey to death was heroic and truly inspirational. She faced death with fierce opposition while accepting her mortality with honesty and integrity. She was the calm presence amidst the pain and anguish experienced by all who surrounded her.
Claire was steeped in faith befitting a saint and wisdom well beyond her tender years. Her faith allowed her to see her pending death with the clarity of God’s vision — that measures worldly life against eternity.
The final verse of Claire’s life remains unwritten. The reason is that, Claire, in death, stirred the hearts of many who witnessed or later learned, the greatness of her life. Claire touched many lives and then, most importantly, that gentle touch forever changed those lives.
This world is a better place because of a little 9-year-old girl who died oh so young.
A foundation was formed to memorialize Claire. “Pancakes for Claire” was started to raise funds to support scholarships for students attending Claire’s school, St. Jean Vianney. The project was and remains an overwhelming success with multiple scholarships awarded over the years to worthy students.
Some of those initial students are now adults who proudly give Claire, via her example in life and financial support in death, credit for being a contributing factor in their great accomplishments.
Claire’s death had a special impact on her fellow fourth-grade students. They prayed for her; they visited her; and they faithfully stayed by her during her fateful sojourn. All were indelibly linked together by her death.
Those dear friends still cherish Claire and keep her memory close to their hearts. Claire’s legacy has been manifested by the simple act of naming a child after her. Or, the classmate inspired to become a pediatrician.
Others, many others, openly acknowledge to this day, the significant impact Claire had on their formation into adults.
The message is clear. God cast Claire upon his waters, and the ripples of her life seeking an eternal shore still touch this mortal world. While the sad death of a young child is inexplicable, Claire is proof to all, that life by her words, her actions, her example, no matter how shortened, has meaning and purpose to us, even beyond death.
The great poet once wrote: “ No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Those words resonate especially at this moment in time where a person in some distant land may impact you or your neighbor. We must recognize we are each singular, unique but an intertwined part of the whole of mankind. Your words, your actions have an impact and consequences far beyond human comprehension.
Claire’s life is a cogent example of that fact.
“We are all in this together” is our mantra. Choices we make, actions we take, verily have consequences. Let us therefore resolve to be ever mindful of the example we set, the choices and actions we make each moment of each day.
We can and must each make a difference, today and beyond, just like Claire.
— Gibbs lives in Baton Rouge