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.
“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.