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Words spoken at a memorial service for Ashley Long Jan. 31 at LaRue County Middle School assured the relatives, students, and school staff that though gone, she will not be forgotten.
Eleven-year-old Long, a sixth-grade student, lost her four-year battle with leukemia Jan. 8. As a celebration of her life, the student body filed into the school’s gymnasium to hear teachers and Long’s classmate and friend, Sydney Pepper, speak briefly about the positive influence the daughter of Todd and Linda Long had on all those around her.
Assistant Principal Eric Hughes, Long’s former physical education teacher, said the young girl exemplified the idea that it’s not the years in one’s life that count, it’s the life in one’s years.
He recalled when Long returned to school weak from a bout of treatment, she nonetheless wanted to participate.
“I wondered how she could do it,” he said. “She touched so many lives and set an example for each of us on how to live.”
Pepper, who called Long her best friend, said, “Ashley cherished every day that she could come to school.”
Renee Skaggs, Long’s kindergarten teacher, said the girl’s smile could melt an iceberg. Skaggs held up a heavy rope of beads Ashley had made with each bead representing some procedure, from having blood taken to a bone marrow transplant that she had undergone.
“Still, Ashley always had a good attitude,” said Skaggs. “She helped me look at the world in a different way – that our lives are a blessing and a gift.”
Skaggs read a poem from a children’s book about the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to butterfly.
“The caterpillar’s old body bursts forth brand new,” Skaggs said. “The struggle is what gives life meaning – to know there is hope and a future.”
LaRue County Middle School guidance counselor Kellie Sandidge presented to Long’s brother, Austin, a remembrance book of butterflies made by sixth-grade classmates who colored it and wrote memories and messages to the family.
At the end of the assembly, the audience filed outside where students from Ashley’s class, some of Austin’s friends, and family released balloons in her honor.
Just before the release, Sandidge said, “Let Ashley’s memory be a message of hope and renewal carried by the wind.”