Breaking News Bar

Hundreds show to celebrate Makanda

  • Purple ribbons, many with messages, adorn the fence outside Ewing Grade School, a tribute to Makanda Williams from her classmates.

    Purple ribbons, many with messages, adorn the fence outside Ewing Grade School, a tribute to Makanda Williams from her classmates.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Messages tied with purple ribbons to the Ewing Grade School fence expressed sentiments of love and kindness to the family of Makanda Williams.

    Messages tied with purple ribbons to the Ewing Grade School fence expressed sentiments of love and kindness to the family of Makanda Williams.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Family and friends released purple star balloons to honor Makanda as she was laid to rest at Benton's Masonic and Oddfellows Cemetery.

    Family and friends released purple star balloons to honor Makanda as she was laid to rest at Benton's Masonic and Oddfellows Cemetery.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Makanda Williams lost her battle to DIPG on Apr. 28, but her family has vowed to continue the fight.

    Makanda Williams lost her battle to DIPG on Apr. 28, but her family has vowed to continue the fight.
    Courtesy of Sarah Carlton/Facebook

 
By Holly Kee
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 5/4/2018, 10:53 AM

Over 400 people in a sea of purple gathered in Whittington to celebrate the life of Makanda Williams on Wednesday, about equal to the entire population of the community.

There were tears, especially when the service began with an audio recording of Makanda singing "You are My Sunshine" began to play; but was also laughter as those who spoke about Makanda recalled her zest for life.

Last May, Makanda was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a very aggressive and rare childhood brain cancer that strikes children between the ages of 3 and 10.

There is no cure and the survival rate is less than one percent.

Makanda lost her battle on Apr. 28, but she left a legacy that touched the lives of people around the world.

Makanda's cousin, Ashley Kearney, set the tone for the eulogies. "Sarah was the greatest mother anyone could have," she said, detailing the strength that she exhibited in making sure that Makanda had the best chance at beating the tumor.

She spoke about the lives Makanda had touched.

"Coming from treatment in St. Louis, she saw a homeless woman and worried about what she would eat," said Ashley.

That worry led to a phone call home where family members put together a care package that Makanda delivered to Bonnie, who became Makanda's friend.

Makanda's service marked a first for the Whittington Church, a live stream of her service so her friends in Mexico and literally around the world could share in the celebration of her life.

Rev. Mark Minor noted the rows of her friends from Ewing Grade School. "Don't let this be the end," he said. "One of you may find the cure."

"She was unique, a free spirit," said family friend Jim Muir. "She went deer hunting with her dad, John," he said, "not because she wanted to kill a deer, but more because of the camo makeup. They said they measured it by the pound."

Telling other anecdotes, both touching and humorous, Muir said, "We may never realize the impact of one short life."

Muir told those gathered that Makanda's was "a story heard around the world."

Like Kearney, he noted the thousands of dollars that had been donated to help Makanda. "There will still be fundraisers in Makanda's name," he said. "That money will help to continue the fight, to fund research for a cure."

Sarah Carlton has vowed to continue fighting for other children with DIPG, the tumor that took Makanda.

Several area musicians lent their talents, Sarah Lannom, Joey Kosma, and Samantha Ziehm performed "The More I Seek You," the song played when Makanda was baptized.

Justin Holman followed with two numbers, including Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole's version of "Over the Rainbow."

Makanda's trip to the cemetery, in a small hearse pulled by a motorcycle, brought people out of their homes and businesses, flanked around the Benton Square adorned with purple ribbons, to say farewell.

At the cemetery, bagpiper Les Lannom played several tunes including "Amazing Grace," one of Makanda's favorite hymns.

As the service ended, family and friends released purple star balloons that floated freely in the breeze, a tribute to the free spirit that was Makanda.

Some of Muir's last words were lines from a Garth Brooks song. "Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I'd have to miss the dance."

Even when the odds were stacked against her, Muir said Makanda never quit.

Sarah has vowed that Makanda's journey is not over - it's just begun.