Jacksonville Mourns the Death of Vibrant Woman

Family and friends are grieving the death and celebrating the life of Heather Folden, an 18-year old they say lived her life to help others.

Folden and three other women from Jacksonville were heading to Bible study in Tyler Tuesday night. They were sitting at a red light at FM 344 in Bullard around 7 p.m., when their SUV was hit from behind. All were hurt... but Heather died shortly later.

Heather's father Dr. Larry Folden says, "She just had a way of lighting up the room,and that's what I remember most about her, and that [will] be most special to me."

The pain is clear, though the memories are nothing but joy. Heather Folden's life was short, but family and friends say what she gave to others was more than most could ever imagine.

"When she lay her head down to go to sleep, she had put in a full day, and it was doing things it was helping people," her father says.

Also, she worked hard for her future. She graduated from Jacksonville High in May, and was headed to Texas A&M.

She was in National Honor Society, the Student Council, and she had the best GPA of all athletes graduating in May. Plus, she was tenacious on the basketball court.

"Heather was a sheer joy to work with... hard working, conscientious, intense, [and she] showed by her actions -- leadership," says JHS basketball coach Tony Harris.

Leadership in the Fellowship of Christian Atheletes showed where her heart lay.

"She became a Christian when she was six years old, and I think she lived that out, and she was a good living example of what it means to be a Christian," says Heather's father.

Faith is what Larry Folden says will get everyone, including Heather's little sister, through. So will the knowledge that Heather's death wasn't the end.

"She's better off. She's in Heaven. I have no doubt about that. But, at the same time I want her here, I want her back."

Part of her indeed stays alive here. Larry and his wife decided for organ donation. .

"We feel that's a way she can let someone else live. Even in her death, she can help someone else live," Larry says.

So much good, taken so suddenly is hard to accept... but he says powerless to prevent.

"Humanly, I'm mad. I'm mad. I want her back, but that just isn't going to happen... so I'm just counting on the Lord to see me through, and I know he will."