When tragedy strikes those affected are not only left to pick up the shattered pieces but also expected to quickly move on to lead a normal life.
A Mayo Middle School student responded by immediately praying when she learned of the tragic and sudden loss of Amy Freeze, Mayo’s language arts instructor. Freeze died unexpectedly of natural causes in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 22.
Seventh grade student Emma Kemper, 12, promptly began praying when she learned the sad news. That morning at the First Baptist Church, Kemper and fellow classmate Maelynn Redmon requested special prayers for Freeze, the grieving family and friends, the Mayo student body and faculty members and Freeze’s former students.
“Prayer was my first thought. She was really awesome and spiritual,” Kemper said about one of her favorite teachers. She added, “She was so spunky and unique and no one can ever replace her.”
Kemper said prayer was one way she felt connected to her beloved English teacher.
“I am a Christian and I felt like this was the right thing to do,” said Kemper. “We really miss her and wanted to connect with her.”
Kemper said youth pastor Trent Horner prayed with the students to shine, be positive and help each other.
Mayo school nurse Sandy Johnson is also a member of the First Baptist Church, and she offered support and grief counseling for the students during the worship service.
“Mrs. Johnson talked with us and helped me out a lot,” Kemper said.
Finding comfort in prayer, Kemper knew she wanted to share that experience with her classmates. She approached her mother, Sandi Kemper, with the idea of a group prayer Monday, April 23, at the school.
Horner recalls that later in the day, “Emma and her mom, Sandi, approached me to be a support person
for the school prayer to help pray with the students and to be there for them if Emma was to organize such an event.”
Kemper contacted district superintendent and Mayo principal Jeremy Larson and received permission to have the prayer vigil. “Emma was the one who spearheaded the event,” said Horner.
She used social media, specifically Snapchat, to quickly organize the prayer group meeting before school started Monday. She posted the prayer information on her Snapchat story and invited groups of people and allowed groups to share her story in an effort to reach as many classmates as possible. The prayer invitation was rapidly shared and copied and many students responded to the idea.
“My mom even posted it on her Facebook page,” she said, noting she doesn’t have a Facebook page because she prefers Snapchat.
“I had to do it because I realized it would help other people with what was going on,” Emma Kemper said.
Originally the prayer was going to be outside of the school around the flagpole but moved to the gymnasium because of rain.
Approximately 100 students, faculty members and several parents made a large circle and joined hands as Horner led them in prayer.
“It seemed to benefit a lot of students, even students who are not familiar with the power of prayer,” Horner said. “Prayer shows unity. I prayed that these students will be there for one another and love one another.”
He added Emma Kemper was adamant Freeze would want the students to come together at a time like this.
According to Horner, prayer helps in such situations and Kemper wanted her peers to know there is power in prayer and students can impact each others’ lives.
Emma Kemper said Horner’s prayer was what they needed.
“He reminded us that she is in heaven and is happy and not to cry because this is very difficult for us but we can pray to get through it and to have good thoughts about Mrs. Freeze,” said Kemper.
When Horner finished, the young girl also prayed out loud.
“Pretty much I was crying so it was difficult but the prayer just came from my heart and I said we are going to miss her and it’s hard but we need to remember God is with us and she is in a better place now,” Kemper said.
She added many of the students cried together in grief. The tears of sadness were beneficial and relieved some of the sorrow.
Being transparent about her Christian faith, Kemper described her mixed emotions and great grief that she and many of her classmates have endured.
“It was kinda process that took time to think about,” she said. “It didn’t feel real and we couldn’t believe it. Everyone is so shocked and can’t process it all because she was at school on Friday.” She described Freeze as a sweet and kind person who made everyone feel special and important even during simple interactions.
Kemper believes Freeze’s love for her students means she wants them to find happiness and not grieve, but she also understands it is important to work through the grief by continuing to pray.
“Prayers help you realize that someone is with you all the time and that’s God,” said Kemper. “He knows what you are going through. No matter what, he is there to understand and even if he doesn’t respond he is there for us whatever we need. And God knows you are perfect.”
As the Paris community continues to feel sorrow, Horner reminds individuals that prayer is beneficial.
“God gives us the ability as Christians to be there for one another,” he said. “It is our responsibility to spread the love of Christ. Ultimately, God is in control and loving even if we don’t always understand the different circumstances.”