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She keeps on giving after death

The essay worth remembering was written during her senior year at Orchard Park High, when Lindsay Matthews described why she traded her ballet slippers for soccer cleats. She was a dancer for years, a girlie girl, until she couldn't ignore a passion for soccer that found a place in her crowded heart.

Lindsay was a terrific player. She was an All-Western New York pick her senior year. She was a sophomore at Geneseo State and was having a good season before blowing out her knee. She was fresh off surgery when she was struck and killed by a tractor trailer, one of the few things capable of stopping her.

The accident occurred last Wednesday and she died Sunday at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. For three days in between, there was a convoy of vehicles from Orchard Park, down the Thruway, to packed waiting rooms in Rochester that welcomed visitors who prayed for her until the end.

What exactly happened on Route 63 matters little. Lindsay's death was a tragedy that makes you question the inequities of life.

She had everything going in the right direction. She was born from an athletic family. Her parents grew up in England, where soccer is the national pastime. Her father, Ian, is a soccer official, well-known for his friendly British demeanor. Her parents taught her the game, but more importantly they showed her to be a consummate teammate in the real world.

Every now and again you come across a student-athlete who genuinely fits the definition. And that was Lindsay. She was a talent who started on defense as a freshman, but it would be an injustice to remember her solely for her sport when she was gifted everywhere else.

Last semester, she had a 4.0 grade-point average. She was 19 years old. She was bright. She was beautiful. She was selfless. She was a dream child with a future that couldn't have been more promising if concocted in fantasyland.

"She was perfect, the perfect daughter, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect best friend," said Kelly Burt, her best friend. "That's what she was. That was Lindsay. If anyone could be a fraction of a person that Lindsay was, I would love to meet them. She was the closest person that there ever was to perfect."

And that's why the tragedy seems so senseless. How can we be blessed by such a unique person who offered so much, only to have her taken away?

Lindsay could have spent her summers making more money and living the carefree lifestyle common in her age group, but her idea of a good time was helping the needy and using sports to teach kids life lessons.

They admired her so much as a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club of Orchard Park that they hired her as summer-youth counselor. She had a knack for immediately identifying the shy kids, the scared kids, taking them by the hand, making them feel at home. She coached kids with disabilities.

"Lindsay loved to help people," said Burt, who worked with Lindsay at the Boys and Girls Club. "And the people she loved to help most were little kids. Lindsay . . . loved . . . kids . . . so . . . much."

None of this surprises the people who knew her. Lindsay had a limitless network of friends who were teammates for life, if not beyond. She planned to become a speech pathologist and someday marry her high school sweetheart, Billy Zimmerman. Always, right to the end, she spent life doing for others.

Ultimately, she made the most unselfish play of her career. Her parents granted her long-standing request to donate her organs. A 32-year-old man from Rochester who was in danger of dying will receive her liver. Two young children from Syracuse will get her kidneys.

She'll keep her heart after spending 19 years giving it away.


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