As a graduate of Michigan State University, as someone who has seen pain, illness and events affect my loved ones and as a sports fan I can honestly say that Wednesday, April 8, was a challenge to get through.
Many of you might have heard the story of little Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year-old girl from St. Johns, Mich. who was stricken with a rare cancer that wrapped itself around her spinal cord two years ago.
College and professional athletes alike often visit hospitals to speak with patients and try to help brighten their day, one visit in 2012 from the MSU men’s basketball team changed the program, the lives of many and the way I view the world.
The team visited Lacey, and she was drawn to forward Adreian Payne, one of Michigan State’s star players. After almost a two-year relationship with Payne and Spartan nation, Lacey lost her battle, and according to her parents, “Princess Lacey achieved the ultimate victory. She now dances among angels … The world is a better place because you were in it. Our hearts are broken. We love you Doll. Dance all night … Mommy and Daddy, Will, Mitchell and Luke #LoveLikeLacey.”
I woke up to the news yesterday morning. I was leisurely drinking some orange juice and eating yogurt when I began to scroll through my Twitter feed on my phone. The first tweet I read regarding the passing of Lacey was the post above from her parents. After Lacey captured the hearts of Spartan fans everywhere I began to follow her on social media to add a dose of hope and positivity into social media, which is normally a trivial waste of my time.
Lacey and Payne’s relationship has been featured on shows like Sportscenter, Good Morning America, and the Today Show, making her the queen of March Madness.
It baffles me that such a shining light has left our world. A girl who always had a smile on her face despite the pain she was going through impacted so many people. People die every day, but it is so very rare for someone so young to leave an impression on the lives of so many others.
As yesterday continued on I read many different posts on Twitter and Facebook from friends, athletes and celebrities offering their condolences to the Holsworth family, Payne and the Spartan faithful. ESPN’s Dick Vitale emotionally vowed to raise $250,000 in her name.
I cried over this yesterday. I cried for the loss of a life too soon, I cried for the pain her loved ones must be going through and I cried for the gifts, lessons and inspiration she gave to us during her eight-year stay on Earth.
While I am upset, I can’t help but be happy and thankful that she was able to watch Payne compete in his senior season on the Spartan squad, see him in his final NCAA tournament appearance in New York City, and watch him compete in the Final Four dunk contest in Dallas just last week. The way I see it, she lived for him, fought for him and was there for the team until their season ended, and she could no longer go on.
The outpouring of love, kindness and sincerity I saw from around the country yesterday reminds me that the world is a good place. Good outweighs evil, always, and love conquers all.
The MSU basketball student section, the Izzone, organized for students to gather yesterday to honor Lacey at “the rock,” which is a rock on campus that different groups and organizations paint to spread the word about events or general information. An enormous crowd of people showed up to paint the rock, write a message to Lacey and have a candlelight vigil for Princess Lacey.
Coach Tom Izzo and many players, including Payne, from the basketball team showed up and wrote messages on the rock for Lacey. Izzo later was quoted as saying, “When you do things like this, and you come out like you guys did ... I’m just so thankful you’re all Spartans.”
The unexpected relationship between a small, gorgeous, smiling girl with a blonde wig and a behemoth 6’10’’ college basketball player filled my heart with happiness. The world was a better place because of Lacey and I am thankful to be a Spartan. It is an honor for me to consider myself a Spartan with this little girl who will forever be a Spartan.
Rest in peace Lacey. As Payne said, we all know you are smiling and dancing in heaven now. You, our princess have become an angel.