Friday, July 3, 2009

Remembering Audra Winkfield

This week, we attended the memorial services entitled "A Loving Legacy" for Audra Puanani Mae Winkfield, the eldest daughter of Bobby and Debbie Winkfield. She was 26 and died "with a smile on her face" in an auto accident in Colorado Springs on June 21st. The woman who first arrived at the accident scene was changed from seeing Audra so at peace even though she had just passed away. She later met Jeremy and Jordan and they most likely left a lasting impression on her life as they witnessed to her in their own way.

It's times like these, we tend to question how unfair life is, especially for someone in the prime of her life. Her father said simply, "God needed her more than we did." The Winkfield Family is a remarkable one... so loving, caring, strong and faithful. The love for one another overflows and at many times before and after the service, it appeared that they were the ones comforting the visitors. They were the strong ones and we were the ones who needed consoling.

About 500 people attended the service at the Saipan Community Church on Wednesday and it was standing-room-only. Brothers Jacoby and Jeremy, along with Audra's fiancee Jordan, gave an amazing and eloquent testimony about Audra's love, kindness and compassion towards others. Jordan described the moment he received the call about the accident to highlights of his relationship with Audra. He recounted a time when he altered his plans from going to the gym to the church, just to be close to Audra at choir practice. Jeremy, in his first public speech, told the story about how he notified his officers about the accident and how God led him triumphantly through the ordeal of going to the accident scene, identifying his sister's body and taking care of her things so that she can be laid to rest in Saipan. Her strong Christian faith naturally attracted others to her and she truly loved others, even though it sometimes led to pain. Sister Tami read a loving letter from Audra's best friend, which drew laughter and tears from the crowd. The Carolinian Community sang as a choir, former Saipan Community student, Shin Kimura wrote, performed and wowed the crowd with an authentic ukulele song and Gabe White played his uke and sang lovingly for his friend. Her uncle, Funtain, read scripture and Pastor Greg's sermon spoke about God's Plan for all of us. Lastly, her entire family went up on stage to sing Audra's favorite song.

One thing I learned this week is that we have a choice each day to be grateful for life and appreciate others or be pessimistic and complain. I know which one I choose. You just never know when your life on earth will end. Audra is celebrating her new life in Heaven now and we know she would have been proud of her family during this tragedy.

Audra served as a Senior Airman in the US Airforce
This beautiful photo showcases her awesome, gorgeous smile!
Bobby, Jacoby, Jordan and Jeremy greet the lomg queue of visitors
For Audra...her favorite color was purple.
Bev & Tami exchange greetings
Jordan and Jeremy... became brothers through this experience.

On Thursday, Audra was laid to rest in the Veteran's Cemetery in Marpi.
Audra... your life touched so many people. We love you!
Jeremy, in his marine uniform looks so sharp! We remember Jeremy as a lanky teen and now he's all grown up and married!
Jordan gave such an impressive speech at the service and we learned then that he'll become a pastor in the Air Force. He said that he's "got his whole life to live and Audra's whole life to live, too".

So many friends have commented on how remarkable the Winkfields are, as their courage & strength and love for God have intensified throughout these last two weeks. They said to everyone, "It was God who gave them the strength they needed." I agree. I don't know how anyone can get through something like this without faith.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your beautiful tribute to Audra, and especially for the pictures. I taught at SCS 1993-96 and had all 4Winkfield kids as my students. I wanted so much to be there for the memorial service but couldn't arrange travel in time. I really appreciate your taking time to post about it.

Kara (Greenup) Post aka "Miss G"
Fayetteville, Georgia USA

Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for your beautiful tribute to Audra. I also taught at SCS, and the Winkfield's were a huge part of my life for the 5 years I lived there. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of the memorial in spirit and I thank you for how you showed honor to God, the family and to Audra.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to create this tribute. I lived on Saipan from 1992-2002, and was fortunate to be included in their family. My Saipan years are a cherished chapter in my life. Thanks again, Brenda Hoffert (Ms. Haddox)

Anonymous said...

Audr was a wonderful person, and her smile was very beautiful. I thank God for getting a chance to know her.

Kathleen Davis said...

Thank for sharing this tribute to the Winkfields and the memorial service for Audra. For those of us who have been a part of Saipan Community Church and School in years past, it has been hard to be so far away during such a difficulty in our friends' lives. Having people like you who take the time to share publicly with us is very special. Thank you.

Russ and Kanae said...

The Winkfield's are such a beautiful family and while they are still grieving, they know that God brought them closer as a family. Yesterday at church, Bobby & Debbie went up to the podium to thank the congregation for all their love, support and prayers.

Peter Elbourne said...

To the Winkfield Family

I is so very sad to hear of Audra's passin. I first met Audra in 1997 on a swimming trip in Sydney Australiaand built up a friendship over of years swimming and traveling through the Pacific Region. It has been a gift to share the wonderful smile and heart felt kindness and gratitude through a friendship which has lasted for what seems a lifetime.

We spent most of our high school years' writing back and forth and it was so nice to hear all about Saipan, the Winkfiled family. Her colorful letters were so vibrant and real I almost felt back in those days that i knew everyone on a personal level. How she was going to miss her older brother heading off to college, he younger brother who she was always so worried about and her wonderful parents who she talked about with sincere love.

As years' passed we grew older and wiser and for some reason managed to keep in touch but not as regularly as we did in our teens but enough to know how we were both doing, how each of our family were doing and what was new in our life. We always planned on catching up but I guess now I know for sure "when" is not certain but "where" is very certain.

To Mr and Mrs Winkfield, Jacoby, Tamiko and Jeremy my prayers are you with all. I am grateful that i got to know your daughter and sister who so colorfully allowed me to get to know you all through the letters we both shared during our early teens. I do hope that some I do get to meet you all in person to celebrate the life of a wonderful person who graced us all with her presence.

Peter Elbourne
Fiji Swim Team 1996-2000

Anonymous said...

FROM the JTAX Group:

As young girls, we go through many different stages in life, sometimes we never saw eye-to-eye, but as we grew older we cherished what it meant to be close friends. In fact, sisters. Audra was very much a big part of all our lives and the legacy she leaves behind touches our hearts in ways we cannot explain.

Audra, your family and friends will always remember how beautiful you were inside and out. We love you and thank you everyday for showing us what it means to be a devoted friend and sister.

From the JTAX Group
Sisters always (Tracy Feger)

B said...

I had the HONOR to serve with Audra while we were stationed at Schiever Air Force Base together. She always had a huge smile on her face and I remember talking to her just minutes before she left Schriever that day and she had that same smile on her face.

Going through was the toughest thing I have had to do in my career. It is very difficult individually and as an organization to lose a beloved person like Audra.

I was so impressed when I met Jordan and Jeremy and I think of them often. I would do anything in the world for them or friends/family of the Winkfields. God has a plan for all of us and we will see her again one day!

Melanie Rabiroff said...

Dear Bobby and Debbie,
I was looking on Facebook to see if you were stilll around and when I came upo broke my heart...
I pray that all of the beautiful memories you have of times spent together will be a source of strength and comfort to you at this painful time....

Melanie Deutsch Rabiroff
Honolulu Hawaii

Karen said...

I too, am looking for you on Facebook and found this wonderful tribute to Audra. We will always remember her and cherish the years we got to know and love her and you her family. Love to you all. Karen and Doug

Andrea Meyers said...

I just learned today of Audra's passing. I remember having her in my second grade class and again in fifth grade at Community School. That smile in her photos looks just like her when she was a young girl. My best to the Winkfield family. I have wonderful memories of all of you.