Straughn High

“I had Kirsten when I was eighteen,” her mother tells me. “We kinda grew up together.”

Straughn, Alabama—thirteen years ago. It was a spring morning. The sun was low. Birds made noise. The Straughn High School football stadium was packed. Coach Taylor read a eulogy.

Kirsten was gone.

She was a softball player. Her Tiger teammates sat in the stands. So did rival teams from nearby schools. Her friends wept. Her family sobbed. It was a black day.

She was fourteen. A deer ran in front of the truck. They swerved. Flipped. It was bad.

“I had Kirsten when I was eighteen,” her mother tells me. “We kinda grew up together.”

Her mother is older now, Kirsten’s funeral is only a memory. But she was a good kid. Straight A’s, cheerleader, student ambassador, church-involved. She was cut from rural cloth.

Between ball practices, Kirsten did youth group. After that, she’d ride muddy four-wheelers until the sun went down.

Then the worst.

Churches in nearby counties held vigil for the unconscious girl. Kirsten’s waiting room saw the most visitors to ever grace Sacred Heart’s halls. Welcome to small-town Alabama. When one falls, so does the whole of Covington County.

They needed a stadium just to hold her funeral.

When Kirsten was twelve, she began talking about organ donation. She became so enthusiastic about the idea, her mother got concerned.

“I thought it was odd,” her mother says. But the girl was nothing if not passionate.

Her organs were in coolers only hours after she flatlined.

Years went by. Life moved on. The fourteen-year-old beauty queen seemed to fade into history.

“I HAD to know who received those organs,” says her mother.

So she wrote letters, but never received responses. She kept writing. Nothing. She almost gave up. Then, one day it happened.

An envelope from Okeechobee, Florida. A mother whose daughter had needed a kidney. It saved her life. The recipient’s name: Lacey.

Kirsten’s mother met Lacey.

Their first meeting was on Mother’s Day—of all days. It was tearful, sweet, joyous. It stung like hell. They became fast friends. The two families even vacationed together.

Then:

“Lacey invited me to her wedding,” Kirsten’s mother says. “We got to the service and Lacey was like, ‘Come outside with me.’ And I was worried something was wrong.”

Only nothing was wrong. Lacey asked her to walk her down the aisle and give her away. It was unexpected. After several embraces and plenty of ruined mascara, Kirsten’s mother agreed.

“I knew I’d never get to see my baby girl fitted for a wedding gown,” she says. “But Lacey’s wedding was a special day.”

Today, outside Antioch, Alabama, a headstone sits on family land. It’s a non-descript slab of granite with the engraved words: “Our Baby Girl.”

Beneath it is a Straughn student. A fourteen-year-old who was barely old enough to have a learner’s permit, but changed the entire world.

And if you think I’m exaggerating…

Just ask Lacey.

23 comments

  1. Sandra Marrar - March 6, 2017 11:12 am

    Just precious!

    Reply
  2. Nancy Kane - March 6, 2017 12:12 pm

    One mother’s worst fear…another’s answered prayer, honored at a wedding. Then again, in prose.

    Reply
    • Lee - March 12, 2017 3:28 am

      and now our Lacy is expecting a beautiful baby girl! Kirsten’s legacy just continues💞

      Reply
  3. DEBRA GAMBLE - March 6, 2017 12:15 pm

    Beautiful story. I live close to Sraughn. Touched my heart.

    Reply
  4. Karen Erwin-Brown - March 6, 2017 12:16 pm

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  5. Michael Bishop - March 6, 2017 1:00 pm

    An immensely sad story, but also a redemptive one, owing to Kirsten’s almost instinctive sense that we live and die for others beyond ourselves. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Carol DeLater - March 6, 2017 2:19 pm

    My best friend suffered a brain aneurysm. They sent her to the IU medical center. I thought, what the heck. They kept her alive. What was going on. Then I realized it was because she was a organ donar. I don’t think much about who she helped. I’m just glad she did.
    xx,

    Reply
  7. Heather Cason - March 6, 2017 2:32 pm

    What a beautiful story and thank you for the telling. We donated our 3 year old’s organs 20 years ago. That day was both my darkest pit and my brightest mountaintop. I never met the recipients but I always hoped I would one day. I did receive one letter from the momma of the little boy who received his heart, it is my most cherished possession.

    Reply
  8. Shirley - March 6, 2017 5:10 pm

    I worked at Straughn School. I knew Kirsten well and her mom and my daughter were good friends and cheerleaders together in school. Kirsten was one of the sweetest and most loving young ladies I have ever met and she is missed terribly. Her smile would light up a room. We will see her again one day! ❤

    Reply
  9. dedra - March 6, 2017 5:37 pm

    Thank you! I also lost my daughter who was 14 in a trajic accident. She had the most amazing smile, a competitive cheerleader, straight a student, God loving young lady who was the absolute joy of my life. I lost her 6 years ago and I still struggle daily. She to was very adamant about organ donating, we had talked at length about it. Her organs went to 5 different families. I would love to meet them and know them, but that truly helps knowing the difference she made. Thank you for your words, they truly are special

    Reply
    • Lee - May 8, 2017 3:06 pm

      bless you and your family on the loss of your precious daughter. I always found it “odd” that Kirsten talked about being an organ donor at such a young age. Like really, who does that? But I guess God gave us both smart daughters that He knew was going to fulfill their life’s duties sooner than others. I miss her each and every day, just as I know you do. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children and should have to suffer here without them. But I will say this, what amazing girls we had to raise such smart and loving daughters!
      Prayers for you in this journey without your daughter. And much love from one grieving Mama to another❤️😓

      Reply
  10. Jeannie - March 6, 2017 6:30 pm

    Tears. Too many young, bright, caring young kids leave too soon. Leaves holes in the hearts of those who knew them and those that just heard about them. I know her mother is proud and loves this piece that you have written

    Reply
  11. Kay Keel - March 6, 2017 8:03 pm

    Such a beautiful story! Thank you Sean for reminding us…

    Reply
  12. kathleen - March 6, 2017 11:25 pm

    beautiful story!

    Reply
  13. Tish - March 7, 2017 12:56 am

    Thank you for finding and sharing this beautiful story

    Reply
  14. John Jay - March 7, 2017 2:27 am

    Great Story, Sweet Story, Covington County and Straughn are special. I’ve never seen a place that gives like Opp, Andalusia, Florala, Straughn, Red Level, Pleasant Home and the lot…it simply amazes me….and this little girl well she exemplifies the heart of this county….we ain’t got much, but we’ll give till it hurts, and then we’ll give some more….but wait, that’s not just Covington County, it the real South. Thanks for the story!

    Reply
  15. Sam Hunneman - March 7, 2017 5:20 pm

    no words

    Reply
  16. *Teddi* T. - March 12, 2017 3:34 am

    Well, I can barely see to write to you for the tears streaming down my face at the present time….This has hit me close to home (figuratively & literally) we live on the AL line(MS side) I was hit by a pulp wood truck that hit my s10 head on drivers side & flattened the cab nearly killing me… anyway, that’s in my past – well, sort of… Now the other thing, our oldest daughter’s name is Lacey! (born way after the accident) See why I just LoVe YoUr WoRk!!!! 😂😂👼 Have A Blessed Day!!

    Reply
  17. Deanna - May 8, 2017 10:34 am

    You are a blessing to us all! Keep up the GREAT work!

    Reply
  18. Cheryl - May 8, 2017 4:03 pm

    On a day I was feeling low, this reminded me of how wonderful life can be, even in the bad times. Lovely story, lovely young girl!

    Reply
  19. Butch - May 8, 2017 6:02 pm

    I remember when this happened. My ex-wife and I were still married and lived on Gantt Lake, close to Straughn. We had nice and nephews who were her classmates and attended the service with them. Thanks for sharing this epilogue it has surely made my day.

    Reply
  20. June Roulaine Phillips - May 10, 2017 8:37 am

    *tears

    Reply
  21. Mary - May 13, 2017 5:06 am

    Beautiful tribute to Kirsten by one of my favorite writers. You captured her, her sweet mom and our community well. And what a blessing to meet Lacey and know that God is still redeeming joy from pain.

    Reply

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