by Thomas Gibbs
Tom and his wife Karolyn are special friends we’ve known for many years. They helped us begin the Claire Renee’ Goudeau Memorial Fund and along with others, worked to help build it to what it is today. We are grateful God sent us friends to help us on this journey. We are thankful for Tom and Karolyn - their caring and kindness, their patience and empathy, and their love of Claire.
The following appears in The Advocate Human Condition special feature
She was a beautiful, vivacious fourth grader with occasional bouts of shyness quickly liberated by an enchanting smile and sparkling eyes. Her life was a happy song that brought joy to her parents, family and friends.
That melody was shattered by the devastating diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor that would, despite prayers and valiant medical care, cause her death.
Claire Goudeau died when she was but 9 years old.
However, Claire’s life transcended death, and therein lies the rest of the story. In many ways, the miracle of Claire’s life began with her death.
Claire’s journey to death was heroic and truly inspirational. She faced death with fierce opposition while accepting her mortality with honesty and integrity. She was the calm presence amidst the pain and anguish experienced by all who surrounded her.
Claire was steeped in faith befitting a saint and wisdom well beyond her tender years. Her faith allowed her to see her pending death with the clarity of God’s vision — that measures worldly life against eternity.
The final verse of Claire’s life remains unwritten. The reason is that, Claire, in death, stirred the hearts of many who witnessed or later learned, the greatness of her life. Claire touched many lives and then, most importantly, that gentle touch forever changed those lives.
This world is a better place because of a little 9-year-old girl who died oh so young.
A foundation was formed to memorialize Claire. “Pancakes for Claire” was started to raise funds to support scholarships for students attending Claire’s school, St. Jean Vianney. The project was and remains an overwhelming success with multiple scholarships awarded over the years to worthy students.
Some of those initial students are now adults who proudly give Claire, via her example in life and financial support in death, credit for being a contributing factor in their great accomplishments.
Claire’s death had a special impact on her fellow fourth-grade students. They prayed for her; they visited her; and they faithfully stayed by her during her fateful sojourn. All were indelibly linked together by her death.
Those dear friends still cherish Claire and keep her memory close to their hearts. Claire’s legacy has been manifested by the simple act of naming a child after her. Or, the classmate inspired to become a pediatrician.
Others, many others, openly acknowledge to this day, the significant impact Claire had on their formation into adults.
The message is clear. God cast Claire upon his waters, and the ripples of her life seeking an eternal shore still touch this mortal world. While the sad death of a young child is inexplicable, Claire is proof to all, that life by her words, her actions, her example, no matter how shortened, has meaning and purpose to us, even beyond death.
The great poet once wrote: “ No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Those words resonate especially at this moment in time where a person in some distant land may impact you or your neighbor. We must recognize we are each singular, unique but an intertwined part of the whole of mankind. Your words, your actions have an impact and consequences far beyond human comprehension.
Claire’s life is a cogent example of that fact.
“We are all in this together” is our mantra. Choices we make, actions we take, verily have consequences. Let us therefore resolve to be ever mindful of the example we set, the choices and actions we make each moment of each day.
We can and must each make a difference, today and beyond, just like Claire.
by Jade Gaudet Gautam, Lieutenant JAG Corp, US Navy
Jade was one of Claire’s special childhood friends who lived just down the street from us. We have kept in touch and follow her adventures around the world. In 2013 we invited her to share some memories about Claire at the annual awards presentation which usually takes place in early May after the school mass. The presentation took place this morning via video conference until a more formal presentation can take place in the fall. We so pleased that this year we are announcing six awards to deserving students who exemplify personal characteristics including love of school, love of others, and commitment to excellence in school and personal life, doing what you have to do even when you don’t feel like it and doing it the best you are able.
Thank you, Jade for allowing us to share your memories from your talk in 2013.
When Mrs. Susan first asked me to do this, well at first, I thought I couldn’t talk about something so dear in front of a crowd. But then I started to think about what special memory I should share so that you could get a glimpse of the cheerful girl I spent my childhood with.
I started to think about the time we decided it would be a good idea to turn my parents’ bathroom into a swimming pool room. We actually flooded then entire bottom floor of their house and ruined all the wood floors.
I also thought about our embarrassing front yard Spice Girls concerts and our day long go cart rides where we would just ride and talk all day. We loved to play the board game Life, watch the movie Clue, and dress up as each other trying to fool our parents into thinking we were the other.
But the memory of Claire that stands out to me above all of that – and at this point I can’t even remember if I was there or was told about it – is an encounter Claire had with another girl. A girl came to the Goudeau’s front door, and Claire noticed this girl seemed just really down, timid, struggling with something, and then she noticed she either didn’t have hair or was losing her hair. Claire just smiled at the girl, pulled off her hat and wig and said, “Don’t worry; I don’t have hair either.”
Despite her discomfort, her hardship, her pain, at such a young age, Claire always found a way to reach out to another person in the silly, child-like way that was her.
A part of my childhood was taken when Claire died, but I think I was given the most beautiful gift – I call it the gift of life. With this came not only the ability to understand the value of life and to never take a day for granted, but most importantly it made me understand the impact we have on other’s lives - and what we choose to do with this is up to us.
So, it is in this spirit of Claire that I have described, that I hope the recipients receive this award and try to embody the beautiful person that was Claire, choose to have a positive effect on others, and encourage all those around them to do the same.