by Jakob Aggers
The students at Lewis-Palmer High School see her every day. They pass her as they enter the school. They notice her at sporting events, cheering and standing watch.
Sometimes they say “hi.” Sometimes they nod. Sometimes they pretend not to see her. They move on with their day.
They know her, sure. But how much do they really know?
They don’t know that she grew up poor, on welfare, as the second oldest of eight. That her mother sold her family’s food stamps to buy beer and cigarettes. That she ate acorns, wild carrots and radishes, because her family had no food.
They don’t know that she got married at age 17 to a friend of her brother. That when they first met, he felt bad that she didn’t have shoes, invited her to sit in the car, and put his Army jacket around her. “He was a gentleman,” she recalled.
They don’t know that she used to be a bodybuilder. That she started working out when she lived in Longmont 25 years ago. “I got very skinny and built,” she said.
Yes, the students at Lewis-Palmer know her. But how much do they really know?
They don’t know that she attempted suicide twice in her life: once when her former fiancé died of cancer, and another when she was in shambles about her marriage.
They don’t know that she was diagnosed with Stage 3 and 4 breast cancer, and that she was given one year to live. “Lord, I’m tired of being here and I’m tired of being hurt. I’m coming home,” she said.
They don’t know that just when she was ready to give up, her son spoke to her. “Mom, you pray about everything,” he said. “Why not pray about this?” And so she did, and she pulled through.
And then she knew that God is the only one to give life and the only one to take life. “I asked for forgiveness,” she said. “I am alive.”
They don’t know that she has a great heart and an even greater faith. “This is why I am the way I am. I know there is a God, and I know he will always be with me.”
They don’t know that she prays for students who are struggling. She does it quietly to herself, so that she is the only one who knows. “Life is done in seasons. Spring, summer, winter, and fall. It may feel like winter now, but spring will come and flowers will bloom again.”
Yes, they know her.
She is Mrs. Janice Pieper, a campus supervisor at Lewis-Palmer High School. They know her as ‘Jan.’
And she sits at the entrance of the school, having seen Heaven and Hell alike. She loves, but says nothing of it. And she watches them, while they walk past her and nod; and she knows how they struggle.
And so she prays for them. Silently, as they pass.