A Tribute to One of the Best Teachers I Never Knew
I feel somewhat awkward writing this. I mean, how can one of the best teachers I have ever had be someone I hardly even know? There was Mrs. Hanks from high school who taught me the value of reading some of the great classics of literature, it’s where I learned to spell Dostoevsky. I loved Mrs. Johnson in intermediate school who took a bunch of mediocre singers in 1976 and made them into a show-stopping, award-winning choir; believe it or not, I was a soprano back then. And I can’t forget Coach Chavira who taught me to always clench my teeth whenever drinking from an outdoor water fountain, thanks to him, I have never swallowed a spider or any other bug while taking a drink.
Hanks, Johnson, Chavira, and quite a few other molders of my life…I knew them, had daily conversations with them, and if social media were a thing several decades ago, we would have been online friends. But, only recently has another teacher come into my life…and dare I say, into the lives of so many others.
The best educators can choose from many devices when it comes to teaching a lesson. A teacher can be a wonderful wordsmith and use just the right vocabulary and delivery to drive home a point. Some teachers may use props, games, or other creative ideas to trigger and stimulate the minds of a classroom. But the teacher to which this is dedicated taught in a very different way. They say actions speak louder than words, but the words of this teacher are exalting, and her actions are stunning and poignant.
And…she wasn’t even trying to be a teacher.
Billie Jean Johnson has taught us all how to live as God intended us to live. She is the blueprint on how to be a good and faithful servant. Her battle with cancer was well-documented through social media, and, through that portal, her life and eventually her beautiful entry into heaven taught so many, myself included, how to live with faith, strength, courage, love, and humility.
BJ was a living paradox in that as her body was ravaged by the disease, she became stronger, she was even more resolute in her strength, in her victory. She kept us informed on the specifics of the cancer’s progression. She talked us through the good days and the bad days…the very bad days. And through this she taught us that no matter the situation, we are always to give all glory to God and to have faith in his ultimate plan.
She taught us selflessness. Even in the midst of her agony, she would often make pleas for prayers for others who were suffering through sicknesses. Her journey also taught us the power of prayers.
With Billie Jean, we learned how to have a deeper appreciation for the things that matter most in life. She taught us what love is all about – how to love ourselves, how to love one another, how to love Jesus.
And she did all this with one of the most beautiful smiles.
She unknowingly taught all this and much more to multitudes who only knew her through her Facebook page. I can’t imagine the lessons and blessings that she bestowed to her family and friends.
A few years ago, a pastor passed along to me a true story. He told me of a man who had been battling a terrible disease and had nearly reached the end of his life on earth. A caretaker was trying to make the man as comfortable as possible and asked the man how he felt. The dying man looked to the caretaker and responded that he felt like he was a child on Christmas Eve.
Can you remember back to your childhood and that feeling of joyous anticipation on Christmas Eve? You knew that great gifts awaited you, but you weren’t quite sure what they were, however, you knew they would bring you great happiness. Just as in the story, the man was jubilant in the promise of meeting his Savior. He did now know exactly what gifts from heaven awaited him, but he knew they would be beyond his human imagination.
Billie Jean Johnson, your Christmas has arrived, and the depth of the gifts of love, peace, and salvation that you have received are beyond comprehension. Well done good and faithful servant.
From the bottom of my heart and soul, thank you from someone who may have not known you well, but will never forget you and the lessons of living in Christ that your actions have taught.
A special thanks to Morgan Due for allowing the use of her breathtaking photos, and to the Johnson's for allowing me this intrusion into their beautiful family.