Lauren Hill laid to rest

By Dave Andrusko

LaurenHillfuneralEditor’s note. My family will be on vacation through the end of this week. I will be posting an occasional new story, but for the most part we will be re-posting columns that ran over the last year. Many will be strictly educational while some will about remind us of notable victories this legislative cycle.

Lauren Hill was buried April 13 in a private ceremony, one day after thousands filled the basketball arena for a public memorial–the very location where she scored her first basket for the Mt. Saint Joseph women’s basketball team.

Lauren, only 19, suffered from a vicious, inoperable brain cancer for over a year. But she refused to allow the disease to derail her from her dream of playing college basketball. When she scored that first bucket (using her off hand because she was already having serious problems with her dominant hand), the place went absolutely wild.

She died the Friday before, after using her last few months to raise over $1.5 million for cancer research and the spirits of everyone who came into contact with her.

The Associated Press’ Joe Kay and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Daugherty wrote eloquent testimonies to a young woman whose motto “Never Give Up” became a rallying cry.

Kay began his story from Cincinnati by describing Lauren’s gray, metal casket that was wheeled to the Xavier’s Cintas Center where five months before she scored her first basket. There could be, as it wrote, “No more perfect place to remember her.”

The 19-year-old college basketball player was remembered Monday with her own music and words in the arena where she had one of her greatest moments. Only this time, the crowd celebrated not a layup, but a life.

A brief life, fully lived.

Hill died Friday from a brain tumor that had been growing inside of her for more than a year. The Mount St. Joseph freshman devoted her final year to playing basketball, raising money for cancer research, and inspiring others.

She’s still doing that part.

“She made you think: What am I doing with my life?” said Lexy Saraswate, 19, a Xavier student who volunteered to work at the memorial service. “How can I be a better person?”

That was a common response to Lauren’s courage and fortitude and absolute determination not to be pitied but to live each day as it came.

We wrote about the satellite interview she gave to “The View” a few weeks ago. Kay adds

In an interview with the WCPO crew that set up the remote for that interview, Hill was asked how she’d like people to remember her when she’s gone.

“She was a hero and she showed cancer who’s boss,” Hill said.

Daugherty caught that never-give-up spirit in the headline to his story: “Lauren Hill played ‘to the final buzzer’

He wrote about all the people who came to celebrate Lauren’s life, including her high school basketball team, her college team, and Hiram College, the team they played against Lauren in her first collegiate game!

Daugherty talked about Brad Johansen, the Channel 12 anchor

who first told us about Lauren’s fight with incurable brain cancer, said she was “insistent on being vulnerable. She refused to hide. She wanted to be seen.” As her body puffed from the steroids she took to fight the disease, Lauren’s fight went wrenchingly public. The puffier she became, the closer she got to death. It takes guts to do what she did…

Daugherty wrote about asking Lauren last December (the last time they spoke) what she liked about basketball?

“Playing to the final buzzer,” she said. “Not worrying about the last play or the play that’s coming.”

Never give up, in other words. Be in the moment. Play it out. Basketball, again, as metaphor.

Over the months, we tried to share in her goodness. We gave money and said prayers. We shot layups with our non-shooting hands. We cried when she said she didn’t worry about dying. She worried about the family she’d leave behind. We attended her games, read and heard what she said, hoping that whatever magic Lauren had was transferable.

It was. It is.

We just need to act more like she did.

What I remember most was something else she said to Daugherty in that interview.

“Last January, I said to God I’ll do anything to be a voice for this cancer and all the kids that can’t speak their symptoms. I prayed I’d be the voice and that I’d do anything that gave me an opportunity to raise awareness and raise research money.

“I believe God has the last say. And I feel like I’ve accomplished what I intended.”

Daugherty ended his story with the perfect tribute:

You have. Be good, angel. The pleasure was all ours.

You’re needed elsewhere now. Lucky elsewhere.