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Lauren Hill Memorial: Songs in the key of life

Doctor: She died with 'Hero' playing on her iPod
Posted: 12:25 AM, Apr 14, 2015
Updated: 2018-11-16 01:41:43-05

CINCINNATI – For all of us who didn't know Lauren Hill like her doctor and her family knew her, it might be a surprise to find out that, in some ways, she was just a normal teenager.

She loved music and she took her  iPod everywhere. Her songlist was always playing, her oncologist said, even when she went to heaven.

One of the Lauren Hill moments we heard about at her public memorial Monday night was Lauren's last moment.

"As Lauren surrendered with her last few breaths, on her iPod, which was always playing with her playlist, the song 'Hero' by Enrique Iglesias started and played as she took her last breath here on earth," Dr. Mariko DeWire said as she read her eulogy to the crowd at Xavier University's Cintas Center.

How fitting, especially for a 19-year-old who came to define "hero" to Tri-Staters, who told WCPO last month, knowing her death was drawing near, that she wanted to be remembered as "a hero, a hero who showed cancer who's boss."

It wasn't a night for mourning Lauren, though there were plenty of tears from her Mount St. Joseph basketball teammates and others. There was plenty of celebrating, too, encouraged by the five speakers who hailed her courage in the face of her inoperable pediatric brain cancer (DIPG), her determination to play college basketball and her selflessness and compassion to become the voice for the mostly 5- to 9-year-olds who get DIPG and, in the process, to raise awareness and more than $1.5 million for underfunded research for her rare disease.

RELATED: See a photo gallery from the memorial service .

Her pastor, Corey Potts of Trinity Christian Center, asked the crowd to cheer for Lauren, as if she had just scored one of her two layups in her first basketball game in the same arena last November. The crowd responded with 18 seconds of clapping and celebrating.

RELATED: Pastor: Why we celebrate Lauren Hill

There was plenty of Lauren's favorite music – right from her iPod - to brighten the mood. Following a 2 ½-hour public visitation, the memorial opened with a procession to the arena stage accompanied by  "You've Got A Friend."

The coaches from the Mount St. Joseph and Lawrenceburg High School basketball teams laid Lauren's jerseys on her casket. Brooke Desserich, executive director of The Cure Starts Now, draped Lauren's superhero cape over an easel. Even the Hiram College basketball team – the Mount's gracious opponents in Lauren's first college game – drove 264 miles to participate in the ceremony.

Lauren's family – parents Brent and Lisa and high school siblings Nathan and Erin - sat stoically through the one-hour tribute. DeWire got Lauren's parents to smile when she affectionately referred to Lauren's "stubbornness and determination."

When the event was over, Lauren's family walked out behind her casket with Lauren's favorite song, Katy Perry's "Roar," blaring from her iPod.

You don't have to be 19 to know the familiar line from that song:

"I am a champion and you're going to hear me roar."

DeWire, Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where Lauren lived out her last few weeks, said she and Lauren became good friends following her diagnosis 17 months ago. The doctor had a personal connection with her patient, saying she and Lauren shared "a love for family, friends and our favorite Bible verses."

"I was also blessed to share our love to eat broccoli daily," she said.

"Lauren has taught me what it means to be brave," DeWire said, and the doctor explained, in her best Sesame Street, what B-R-A-V-E stood for in Lauren Hill.

"The B is she is a believer foremost in God. As printed on one of her T-shirts, 'Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.'

"The R stands for radical game-changer. She has revealed to us that one person can make a difference. Her face and voice represents all the patients who have faced DIPG.

"The A identified Lauren as an awesome artist. She expressed her feelings and thoughts through words, music, drawings and paintings. One of her favorite pieces of art was from high school of the Northern Lights and her hope to see them in person someday. Upon her diagnosis, she painted a canvas with bright colors of what she envisioned of the tumor and how she would attack the tumor through art.

"The V stands for victorious hero. She is a victorious hero in how she faced the diagnosis and continued to live out her life. She was determined to beat DIPG by taking charge and not allowing the diagnosis to impact her life and life's mission. Her stubbornness and determination were the foundations to help her win and become victorious.

"E represents her everlasting legacy. Lauren has forever changed the face of DIPG. Her mission to increase awareness has now been completed. Now she holds all of us accountable to move the field of research at a rapid pace resulting in a cure. We, the neuro-oncology community, as she quotes, will 'never give up' until we can tell families and patients that a cure is possible. We are honored and committed to carry out Lauren's legacy.

"She truly is a victorious hero," DeWire said to finish her eulogy, and Iglesias' song played.

SEE the lyrics to the song below.

There will be a private funeral and burial for Lauren on Wednesday.

You can donate toward the goal she recently set - raising $2.2 million - by contributing to Lauren's Club 22 Fund. You can make a one-time donation or pledge a monthly or annual gift.

"Hero"

Let me be your hero

Would you dance
If I asked you to dance?
Would you run
And never look back?
Would you cry
If you saw me crying?
And would you save my soul, tonight?

Would you tremble
If I touched your lips?
Would you laugh?
Oh please tell me this.
Now would you die
For the one you loved?
Hold me in your arms, tonight.

I can be your hero, baby.
I can kiss away the pain.
I will stand by you forever.
You can take my breath away.

Would you swear
That you'll always be mine?
Or would you lie?
Would you run and hide?
Am I in too deep?
Have I lost my mind?
I don't care...
You're here tonight.

I can be your hero, baby.
I can kiss away the pain.
I will stand by you forever.
You can take my breath away.

 

Oh, I just want to hold you.
I just want to hold you, oh, yeah.
Am I in too deep?
Have I lost my mind?
Well, I don't care...
You're here tonight.

I can be your hero, baby.
I can kiss away the pain, oh, yeah.
I will stand by you forever.
You can take my breath away.

I can be your hero.
I can kiss away the pain.
And I will stand by you forever.
You can take my breath away.
You can take my breath away.

I can be your hero.