A Hillcrest Lutheran Academy senior passed away in December following a battle with cancer. Hayley Filippini was loved by her classmates. Her testimony of the Lord’s providence in giving her peace during her journey left a significant imprint on those who knew her. In Hayley’s memory, her classmates are starting an endowment, noting that Hillcrest was Hayley’s favorite place because of how God strengthened her faith in classrooms and that she built lifelong friendships in the dorms. The article below is written by one of her senior friends, Hans Holzner, and gives perspective to how the student body is processing the loss of a classmate, friend, and sister in Christ.
In December 16, 2016, a beautiful daughter leapt into the ever-reaching arms of her Father. Hayley Midland Filippini was a senior at Hillcrest who passed away from cancer. She is the first graduate of the class of 2017 from Hillcrest Lutheran Academy.
Words could never do justice to Hayley. Her smile radiated joy. Her selfless character overflowed with a tender care for all those she encountered. God loved his sweet daughter more than we can ever fathom, and she fearlessly loved him back. Her life, short as it was on this earth, was a thing of beauty. No one who encountered Hayley was left unaffected by her gentle grace. But the fact still remains: She’s gone, and we’re still here. We now face the relentless task of responding. We face a world fractured, a friend absent and a God faithful. We face Hayley, loved; and in this love, surrounded by God’s faithfulness, we find stillness; for love often turns us to stillness. How can it do anything else?
We often say that love is an action. But at times, the loving act is to refrain; to be silent, to be still. We face circumstances in life—the paradox of need, the confusion of grief—that we cannot, try as we might, explain. Responding in love with stillness is not surrender. It’s not giving in to the hardship. Rather, stillness is having the humility to step back, and the courage to trust; the binding love that commits to friendship, holding people together. Stillness is not due to inability. It’s a choice.
The Apostle John recounts in chapter 11, with touching simplicity, Christ grieving the death of his friend, and then follows with the miraculous account of Lazarus’ resurrection. If we examine for a moment the person of Jesus—Immanuel, God incarnate—and the unimaginable power he wields, we realize that the resurrection is not the noteworthy occurrence in this story. No, the God of the universe, the very breath of life in his lungs, moved with love, stood still, and wept. Jesus always had the ability to heal, and yet for a time he chose to be still. This choice is made perfect in Christ’s submission to death itself. Moved by love, Jesus took the cross: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
We are called to be still. God desires for us to be still in him: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a). This life is not easy, but that was never promised us. No, in fact Jesus tells his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As we face these troubles, God tells us, as he did his children Israel in Exodus 14:14, “[I] will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
For us, facing life on this earth confident in Jesus’ glorious victory, few words ring truer than these: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing… As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:5,9, ESV).
So when tragedy clouds joy, be still; for love often turns us to stillness. In that stillness, we abide with our Lord.
Hans Holzner is a senior at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.