Afton continues to inspire
Over the past few days, ever since I received the sad news of Afton Wallace’s death, I have thought about what I could say here — in this weekly column — that would in any way properly express my sadness in her death, my pride for having met her, talked to her and learned from her courageous fight, or convey my heartbreak for her parents and the loss of a child.
Words are far too often painful in how they are written or spoken, and far too little are those words comforting.
But, as I read through our recent stories about Afton, her fight against cancer and her push to graduation, I found myself finding inspiration in those words, in those quotes. I found myself, yes still grieving, but more celebrating the amazing girl and woman that she was and the lives she impacted.
All you had to do was see some of the photos of Warren Central’s graduation ceremony Thursday to see how she inspired. Every speech included something about Afton, not because the speakers were seeking an easy applause, but rather they were seeking to sincerely honor a classmate, a friend and an inspiring individual.
Sunday, after The Post published online a brief story about Afton dying, it was no surprise to me and others how fast the news spread, how many comments came in and how many tears were shed — many by those of us at The Post.
Just Thursday, hours before Afton and her WCHS classmates received their diplomas, many of the staff came together in the lobby and took a group picture, showing off our best #aftonstrong poses. Other than proof that many of us need to go to the gym, the photo showed — hopefully in some small way — how Afton’s story had changed us.
But, it was a quote from Afton, which appeared in a Sunday, May 3 article, which resonated with me the most the past few days, and it is one that I know many have seen.
“If you go around moping about how much my life sucks, ‘oh, I have stage IV cancer, and everyone gets to have a normal senior year,’ you’re going to be miserable,” Wallace said. “You have to take the happiness when you can. It’s easiest if you put a smile on your face. Even if it isn’t genuine, it turns into something genuine.”
To Afton’s parents and family, our tears are genuine this week and our hearts are broken, but as we move one, the smiles on our face, when we think of what she meant to the lives of so many, will also be genuine.
From the staff of The Vicksburg Post, thank you for sharing your story and thank you for letting us share it to so many others.