The mango-licious life is a life of resilience, a fierce resolve to live with fullness and purpose despite life’s unpredictable seasons of adversity, hardship and pain. It seems there are folks who have encountered their fair share of adversity in this life, yet by God’s grace these folks have managed to rebound with unyielding perseverance and many emerge like gold plucked from the fire with a renewed zeal and refocused gaze towards the future.
Despite the battle scars, I recognize from my own adversities that with each experience we emerge as qualified advisers, equipped with tools that can edify, empower and inspire others. Reflection after a difficult season is a powerful exercise. It can offer important lessons for ourselves, and a reservoir of hope to others yearning to live the Mangolicious life.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with a 19 year old college student named Samantha Grady, after church one Saturday afternoon. She shared with me a tragic ordeal that took place at her high school almost 2 years ago, on the most unexpected day, Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018.
The nation was grief stricken as a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others.
Samantha was a Junior at MSDHS at the time. She and her friend Helena Ramsay were in their holocaust social studies class interacting like carefree teenagers when a deranged student, a former classmate went on a rampage firing shots throughout their campus. The gun man fired rounds throughout the school and eventually into Samantha’s classroom. Several students were hit including Samantha. She narrowly escaped after being badly wounded. Unfortunately Helena, her friend was fatally shot and killed in the rampage. Samantha believes Helena’s bravery and quick thinking during the tragic shooting saved her life.
As we sat and chatted I was in awe at how this beautiful poised young lady, could have gone through such a horrific ordeal, almost two years ago, and miraculously rebound with such tenacity, grit and perseverance. Samantha credits her recovery and renewed strength to two important anchors in her life: Her faith in God and her incredible family.
Samantha admitted how difficult the ordeal was and recalls how angry she felt when she learned that her friend Helena and 16 other folks had died. When I asked what nuggets of advice she could share with other grief stricken people, she emphasized how important it is to acknowledge our pain and not try to dismiss the grief or pretend all is well.
When the dust had all settled, she recalled how earnestly she prayed and asked God to heal her broken and aching heart. Over time Samantha remembers receiving such peace and assurance from praying and meditating on God’s word despite the storm. She said “I could not have made it through without prayer and the unyielding belief that God was still in control.”
She acknowledged when the news cameras left and the lights faded, her family’s love was the tangible force that kept her from falling apart. “It’s important to surround yourself with folks who truly know and love you” Samantha said. Her mother and Father, Jim and Sally Grady are devoted Christians who prayed and interceded for Samantha and all the hurting families as they clung to each other through the darkest days after the MSDHS crisis.
Samantha also mentioned, during the subsequent months of recovery, she found herself slowly going back to things she enjoyed like reading, music, painting and cooking. “Those are things that brought me joy amidst the sorrow.” She added, you never fully get over the memories. Little things can trigger a flashback. As such she pointed out “Its so important to find purpose despite the unrelenting pain in your life. It’s knowing and reminding yourself that God has you here for a reason and what you are going through is only temporary.”
With Valentine’s Day approaching and almost two years now behind her, I was curious to hear what Samantha Grady was up to these days and catch a glimpse of her vision for the next chapter ahead. Although petite in size, Samantha is a heavy weight champion in musical talent. She plays 5 instruments, sings and released her first album “How Beautiful” at age of 14, then this gifted nightingale dropped her second album “Heavenly Home ” just a few years later. She looks forward to producing more music that brings individuals into a deeper worship experience with the Lord.
With aspirations to become a doctor on her mind, she’s currently enrolled in college as a Biology major, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science Degree. Her dream is to some day open her own clinic to provide medical care for the poor. She has her eyes set on attending Loma Linda for medical school in the future.
In her spare time Samantha loves catching up on the latest Korean flicks, enjoys leading the children’s choir at church and connecting with her network of friends. Lady Grady, as I fondly call her, blushed as she shared dreams of being married with kids someone day “in the distant future she adds with a grin.” She also hopes to publish her biography and travel the world. Given her tenacity support system and relentless drive, I think the best is yet to come for Lady Grady.
I thoroughly enjoyed our chat and give thanks for this amazing young lady who personifies what it means to live a mango-licious life, a life of resilence, with renewed hope and a sense of purpose.
Samantha’s reflection is a sober reminder of the fragilty of life, immortality of love and the need to be grateful for the blessing of each new day. “Every sunset brings with it the promise of a new dawn” – Tanya The Mango Lady
As we approach the anniversary of the tragic episode that rocked MSDHS on February 14, 2018 and took 17 precious lives, my prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and the countless others who still struggle through unspeakable pain. Holocaust Survivor, Corrie Ten Baum in the book entitled Hiding Place reminds us “Deeper than the deepest pain that any tragedy can bring, God’s love is deeper still” May God send ministering angels with healing vessels of peace and strength to comfort your souls. Keep the faith and know you are in our thoughts and prayers. #MSDStrong, #warriors, #resilience, #love #mango-licous-life #parkland
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