I recently experienced one of the most difficult times in my life as I lost someone who is not only very close and dear to my heart but someone who has helped change and shape so many lives. Arthur V. Strawbridge, Jr., affectionately known as “Straw”, started off as my gym teacher from 1st-12th grade at Peterson-Warren Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist private school in Inkster, MI, but grew to become my second dad, uncle, confidant and “buddy”. He was more than a teacher, he was an educator and his lessons went beyond the gym and classroom. He inspired his students to believe they could do anything and always encouraged us to at least “try”. I remember in 1st grade when Straw discovered that I could run really fast. While that may not seem like a big deal to some, he took notice to me and my skill and often challenged me. He would have me race against both girls and boys in my class and because of my fast feet he later dubbed me as the “fastest girl in the 1st grade”. This was something I never forgot because of how special he made me feel and over the years he would often remind me of this.
Straw was the type of person that you could talk to about anything and he would never judge you. He would always give you his honest opinion and leave the decision making up to you. He was one of the most selfless, caring, encouraging, dependable people I know. He treated his students as his own children and he never showed favoritism, he treated everyone equally. Even after graduating from PWA I still had that closeness with Straw that I believe a lot of people who graduated continued to maintain as well. Even after his students graduated he was still interested in knowing how they were doing and he never missed an opportunity to tell his former students that he was proud of them.
About a month or so before my wedding I decided that I wanted trumpets played in the ceremony. Straw was the first person that came to mind, along with another trumpet player from my church. I asked him if he would play for my wedding and I remember him being so nervous and saying that he didn’t want to mess up my special day. I told him that he wouldn’t, I trusted him and I wasn’t taking “no” for an answer lol. So he agreed and practiced every week up until the wedding. He didn’t have to do it, he could have said no, but instead he whipped out his trumpet that I’m sure he hasn’t played in years, he practiced and he played at my wedding. He did that for me and my husband! That’s the type of person Straw was – always willing to help.
Prior to Straw’s death he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and when I found out I was sad but I was confident that he was going to be okay because of the type of life he lived – not only was he healthy, he also lived a life of service, so I just knew that he was going to be okay. When I heard of Straw’s passing I was devastated. I was even more devastated to learn that he didn’t die as a result of the prostate cancer, but instead due to heart failure. I know that you aren’t supposed to question God, but the simple question of “why” went through my head constantly. I didn’t understand why God would allow such an amazing person to go, especially when he was just days away from retiring from teaching at PWA and he was so eager to start a new chapter in his life. Every time I would log onto Facebook I would see his countdown to retirement. It was just so sad that he didn’t even live to enjoy his retirement.
A few days after his death, I kept saying that I wished I could have just told him, “thank you for everything” and that I loved him. So many opportunities I thought about that I could have said those words and just let him know that he was appreciated. That same night I had a dream that I saw him and I ran up to him and hugged him. I thanked him for everything and told him that I loved him. He said, “I love you too and I’m proud of you.” Then I started crying. He chuckled and said, “you always crying” (which is something he said to me whenever he saw me crying lol). Then he said, “it’s going to be alright, I’ll see you soon.” I believe that God wanted to assure me that I didn’t have to weep over the loss of my buddy and that everything is going to be okay. Also, that I have to get my life in order so that I CAN see him again soon.
Without a doubt I knew that I was going to go to Michigan for the funeral and I knew there would be a ton of people there because of the outpouring of love, support, comfort and memories experienced all week on Facebook. Just seeing so many people young and old coming together to honor and celebrate the life of a legend was overwhelmingly amazing. I saw people from PWA that I hadn’t seen in years – it was like a reunion. It was a beautiful thing to come together for him and his family and I know he would have loved to have seen so many people young and old. The service, although very difficult, was beautiful and a wake-up call. I kept saying I didn’t understand why God would take Straw and that it just didn’t make sense, but it actually made perfect sense and became so clear to me. Straw was a legend because he lived a life like Christ. He served people educationally, spiritually and emotionally. He was a great example to everyone of a true man of God. No one ever had anything bad to say about him and to have the entire church packed out for his funeral just goes to show the type of impact he had on people. There was those from afar who couldn’t come and as a result the service was streamed online. Where they do that at?!
I believe that the life and death of Straw is the very thing that will save a lot of us. I not only want to leave a lasting impact on others but I want to live a life that is pleasing to God – I want to make it to heaven. I believe that God laid him to rest at this point in his life not only to save him but to wake a lot of us up and show us how real this thing is getting and that we have to get our lives in order so that we can make it to the kingdom. If we don’t live a life of Christ and surrender ourselves to him, how can we expect to be saved? That’s what Straw showed us – how to live like Christ. From this day forward I’m choosing to be more of a selfless servant, an encourager, a true Christian. I want to hear God say, “well done”, and I want to see my loved ones who died in Christ. So for those of you who knew Straw and/or have lost loved ones, I encourage you to live a life of service for Christ so that you can see them again in heaven. Let’s not get so caught up in the things of this world that we forget our ultimate goal – which is HEAVEN. I pray that we keep the things our loved ones have taught us in our hearts and that we live out those things.
Remember that you are blessed so that you can bless others <3
RIP to a legend – Arthur Strawbridge, Jr. I love you and I’ll see you soon!!