Tracey-Lee’s legacy will never be far from us
IT'S NOT about how long we live, but how we live that matters.
This is the legacy of 23-year-old Grafton sweetheart Tracey-Lee Schuhmacher, who refused to let a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis get in the way of a full and enriching life.
Dressed in purple and yellow, hundreds of family and friends poured into Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral yesterday morning to bid an emotional farewell to their friend and daughter, who died on February 1 following a double lung transplant.
Former Melbourne Storm media manager and dear friend to Tracey-Lee, Frank Barrett held back tears to deliver a poignant eulogy on behalf of her mum and dad and the team community.
He spoke of a social butterfly with an infectious laugh, a big heart and, despite her small stature, a big voice when she believed in something.
Born in 1991 on May 1, Tracey-Lee was 10 days old when she was diagnosed with CF, a disease that shaped her life in more ways than could be imagined.
Her first three years were spent in hospital, her pre-school days at Ronald McDonald House.
When made Grafton her home, the community accepted her as their own and she in turn became a shining example of how to embrace life for them - with a smile and hugs for whoever came her way.
Mr Barrett met Tracey-Lee through the Starlight Foundation when a wish to meet her sporting idols, the Melbourne Storm NRL team, was granted.
Purple team shirts scattered throughout the congregation yesterday were testament to her ability to turn anyone she met into a lifelong friend.
"If we didn't speak every day, we spoke every other day," Mr Barrett said.
"I remember one night (Tracey-Lee and her friends) came up to have a few drinks after the game. One of the girls was designated driver but they had too much to drink, so we slept in the team room and every time security came out they had to dive under a tackle bag.
"(Tracey-Lee) was always wearing the most uncomfortable shoes, but they looked good and by the end of the night she had them in her hand and a Storm jacket on because she was freezing.
"She was my little brave heart ... the person that everyone wanted to be around."
The Very Rev Donald Kirk said Tracey-Lee grabbed life with both hands, and would live on in the hearts and memories of those who knew her.
As the service ended, a shower of rain made way for brilliant sunshine, the rays bouncing off the dark lenses that masked a sea of welled-up eyes.
In a final gesture a symbol of peace and freedom, a white dove was released in Tracey-Lee's honour but it didn't fly far, perching on a bush among the gathering.
Perhaps a reminder that her spirit will always be around.
EDITORIAL: by Georja Ryan, The DEX deputy editor and digital producer