Goodness can be inspired in many ways—through wise words, by a person loved and cherished, or from a tragic event—all of which came into play on September 9, 2008 with the death of a young, vibrant and promising 16-year-old named Heather L. Harkness. Heather was admitted to the hospital for an appendicitis attack. She was in good spirits asking for her favorite chicken nuggets and mash potatoes. She showed her mother Susan how to load songs onto a new iPod® and they listened to Alicia Keys, an artist Heather admired while learning to how to play her music on the piano. The next morning, she waited in the surgery prep room thrilled to see the inside of a real surgery room. Her life aspiration was to become a heart surgeon. Meanwhile, the entire medical staff, like most people that knew her, were won over with her infectious smile and joyful attitude. She entertained them all with her favorite impersonations even while she was missing her volleyball teammates as they prepared to play in a tournament. Heather sent them one last inspiring text, “Play hard and WIN!” With only a few minutes before she was wheeled into surgery, she looked at her father David and gave him one last thumbs-up and said, “I love you.”
An hour later, Heather died.
As the fateful day went on, her sister Ashley found a quote on her Facebook page that changed everything—“It doesn’t matter how long you live, but how you live, and what you leave behind.” Was it Heather’s destiny or a destiny she left behind for the rest of us?
She attended Edmond Santa Fe High School and was a key player on the varsity girls’ volleyball team. She also served as historian of the Edmond Santa Fe DECA chapter, and as a youth group leader at Saint Monica Catholic Church. She was a young, passionate girl that attempted to be nothing other than herself. She was a regular person with a regular life. To her, it wasn’t about dwelling on the day’s negatives, but instead putting on a smile and making every day count as if it were your last. She focused on sharing kindness with others and motivated them to always remain true to who they are.