Parable of a princess

The disease is far from unique, and the courageous stories of struggle and perseverance have been told before.

That didn’t stop Lacey Holsworth from reaching our hearts in a special way during her own battle with an enemy we know all too well.

The 8-year-old cancer patient, who befriended Michigan State basketball star Adreian Payne and became a household name last month during the NCAA Tournament, passed away on Wednesday. It was a heartwarming fight with a heartbreaking ending – unfortunately common, given we lose over 600,000 people to the disease annually in the United States.

Most of us have witnessed the evils of cancer on a personal level. Yet Lacey’s tale – from the sibling-like kinship she developed with Payne, to the smile she refused to relinquish in the face of devastating adversity – found a way to briefly captivate the worlds of both college basketball and social media in a very intimate way.

What made ”Princess Lacey” special?

First, she represented everything we, as human beings, aspire to be. We hated the fact that Lacey’s innocence, purity and unconditional love – all of life’s greatest natural gifts – were being taken away from her far too soon. There is something so painfully unfair about seeing children suffer at all, let alone a fate of this magnitude.

Whether you read about her in a newspaper or saw the story on television, Lacey also became the patient you have known. She was a relative, or a friend, or even an image of yourself. Her family, and Payne, were the support group that you’ve been a part of – one that does everything it can, despite feeling helpless and lost and alone.

I wept openly the first time I saw a video of Holsworth and Payne together. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure why. Of course the story is an emotional one, and being both a father of two young daughters and a Spartan fan had something to do with it. But Lacey was on my mind the rest of the night, and has been ever since.

I later found out my reaction wasn’t out of the ordinary. People of all ages and backgrounds were responding in similar fashion. Lacey may have been a stranger to those of us watching from afar, but she stood for everything we love about and want from this world – doggedly challenging an evil force we collectively detest.

Matt Holsworth, Lacey’s father, released a statement that asked people to ”continue her legacy! Love unconditionally.” Lacey may no longer be with us, but the best way – the only way – to honor the memory of lost loved ones is to do just that.

The spirit and heart we show while we’re here is a gift no disease can touch. This is just our latest reminder from a beautiful young girl we won’t soon forget.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net