Last Wednesday, our Forest Lake Christian School girls soccer team won their second playoff game! It was a long, intense battle with no score up until the last 15 minutes of the game, during which FLCS scored twice! Our team was ecstatic! Everyone was cheering, hugging, smiling… and there was an unsuccessful attempt to dump water on Coach Mireles.
Afterward, we all headed toward home, but one of the girls made it home before the rest of us…. In a tragic, fatal accident Anna O’Neil lost her life.
The next day, the news hit our school and instead of the typical class schedule, the day was spent grieving, praying, and remembering Anna. That Thursday, and the days that followed, were filled with an immeasurable outpouring of love and support — not only from the community of Forest Lake Christian School, but also from other teams, schools, churches, and pastors in the area.
Students decorated a wall with messages of love and their memories of Anna. Nearby Bear River High School even sent a banner of their own messages of care and consolation.
I have the privilege of making the sports portraits for the school. Anna is an exceptional athlete and since she was involved in three school sports, I had multiple opportunities to photograph her beautiful smile.
And watch her play, both on the court and in the rain…
My daughter was her teammate in both basketball and soccer. This photograph of Anna with my daughter, is now an especially treasured possession and is displayed prominently on my daughter’s dresser.
During that black and white headshot session, we also made a portrait of Anna with her best friend Johnna:
This past Saturday, was the final game of the season. The girls dedicated the game to Anna and there was again a huge outpouring of support. So many people made the 90 minute drive to Stockton to cheer on our girls as they played their hearts out.
Anna’s older sister, Emily, (who was also on the team and was also injured in the crash) received a standing ovation when she arrived. Considering the circumstances, I don’t think anyone expected her to actually play. However, Emily did indeed play for a while and the cheers of support were deafening when she was subbed in, came into contact with the ball, and again when she was subbed out.
During warmups, Coach Mireles was talking to the girls. I don’t know what words of encouragement he had for them, but from the sideline I am fairly certain I saw him speak the familiar words of Romans 14:8.
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. [Romans 14:7-9]
Mr. Mireles is a good coach and a great man. I so respect and appreciate the way he trains, leads, encourages, and loves our students.
This is the story of that final game of the season, from my vantage point: (best viewed in full screen)
We all miss you, Anna, and we look forward to the day when we’ll all be united once again.
Please continue to pray for the O’Neill family and their friends, as they grieve and learn how to live this life without Anna and as they hold onto the certain hope that one day they will both see and hold her once again.