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Hartselle Enquirer

Why I understand

In 2016, Hartselle, Morgan County and much of the State of Alabama was shaken with the story of hope and later, loss, that sweet Kayleigh McClendon gave the community.

A young girl battled more aliments, pain and hopelessness than most people will feel or even see from afar in a lifetime. Her story of bravery told through the heartbreaking, yet encouraging writings of her mother Carrow, left me in tears with each post.

I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but I felt what her presence and fight did for community.

People were unified through the “prayers for Kayleigh” shares, hashtags, events and fundraisers. The color purple was used often to represent her struggles and her triumph as she battled daily to keep her life. Hearts were open and people stepped away from their own selfishness to participate in ways to help celebrate all the fight left in this little girl.

The community rallied, a family fought, but Kayleigh’s life on earth wasn’t meant to continue. God’s plans for here were bigger than many imagined as her story still lives on.

Her inspiration of keep, keeping on and holding your head high through trial still encourages many through their own heartaches.

I know I was personally encouraged by both her life and her memory, simply though the words I read on a page.

Recently, a petition was started in order to name a field at Grady Long park after sweet Kayleigh, There were over a 1000 names were signed on the petition supporting the act.

The Hartselle City Council recently discussed the matter and voted unanimously to not honor the petition.

Here’s how I understand the issue, in the years since the fields were created and from this point on to our futures, sadly, life will change. Great coaches who have worked with our children and teens in our community will pass away, athletes young and old will do the same. Heartbreak will strike Hartselle again. Live’s will be altered and changed. But through fairness, I understand why the council voted the way the did. I was not present at the meeting, but I understand.

Potentially, there will be others with stories similarly to Kayleigh. We will fight for and with each child, teen and adult as the cancers of life continue to bring bondage to our families. But we cannot let the decision of an elected council remove the unification Kayleigh brought.

I do not have children and I don’t understand the pain and loss of a child. I do understand both loss and pain, and I believe that Kayleigh would want the unity to grow, she would want fairness for all, and she, too, would have understanding why her story alone isn’t honored through the naming of the field.

Honor her story, but don’t dishonor our elected officials. They are the eyes to the future and the hearts tying the community together.

Per a comment on social media, which pulled at my own heartstrings, Katie Hall Hasse said in reference to this decision, “Are there enough fields in town to be named after everyone that passes? You have to think about fairness with your personal feelings set aside. That is what the council has to think about. At some point in the future, they will have to tell someone that there is not a field or park to name their loved one after. How do you explain that one can and another can’t? Kayleigh would not care about the naming of the field, she would care more about the arguing and fighting that is going on. Remember her and her journey.”

Lauren Estes is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.