“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” — Jeremiah 29:11
MAHOMET — A Mahomet teenager’s family and friends are clinging to good memories and her favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, in the wake of her death.
The community is in mourning this week after Mackenzie Byrd, 16, who fought a congenital heart defect and was awaiting a heart transplant, died Monday at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Her parents posted this on the “Prayers for Mackenzie” Facebook page: “Heaven gained the most beautiful angel today. On this day, Sept. 2, 2019, at 12:20 p.m., our beautiful heart warrior went to be with the Lord. We feel so blessed that we have had 16 beautiful years with you. You fought so hard and with so much bravery always. My beautiful girl you sure did leave your mark on this Earth. So proud to be your Momma & Daddy. Until we meet again my sweet angel. We love you always and forever.”
Hundreds of people offered condolences to the family and tributes to Mackenzie on the Facebook page.
Visitation for Mackenzie is planned from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday with a celebration of life at 5 p.m. at Grace Church, 800 W. Oak St., Mahomet. Blair-Owens Funeral Home, 102 E. Dunbar St., Mahomet, is in charge of arrangements.
Mike Case, family-life pastor at Grace Church and a close family friend, said Mackenzie had Shone’s Complex, a congenital heart disease.
“She struggled with that since the day she was born,” Case explained.
The Byrd family connected with Grace Church after MacKenzie’s mother, Melissa, was contacted by Lynsi Stewart, worship arts director, who also has a heart defect.
“Lynsi met with Melissa after Mackenzie was born and kind of began that relationship with” the church, Case said. “I’ve known Mackenzie for four years, mostly as her youth pastor. Mackenzie is not only just a member of our congregation, she is my next-door neighbor.”
The teen and one of her sisters often spent the night at the Case home with his youngest daughter.
“She was one of the funniest people I believe I’ve ever met,” Case said Wednesday. “She spoke with her eyes many times what she was thinking. She didn’t have to speak. She just gave that look.”
Mackenzie’s family and other loved ones have relied on their faith to get them through their loss, he noted. Good memories help, too.
“We have a great hope (in the resurrection, but) we’re sad because we don’t get to have times on Earth with her,” Case said. “The family has been poring over memories. The memories just kept pouring out (and have) mostly just caused laughter.”
Mackenzie was “a gal who had this congenital heart defect ... it affected her heart, but it did not affect her life. That’s how she lived. She lived life to the fullest,” Case said.
The teen was known not just for her tenacity in fighting her health problems but also in at least one other area: games.
“Her favorite thing was board games. She loved to play games,” Case said. “She liked to win and would win at all costs. We like to say we either play by the rules or Mackenzie’s rules. She was competitive that way.”
Chad Benedict, principal at Mahomet-Seymour High School, where Mackenzie was a student, said grief counselors are available for students and staff. The school hosted comfort dogs Tuesday to help.
Case said Mackenzie did makeup as part of activities with the drama club at the high school her freshman and sophomore years, although she was too sick to do so as a junior.
“She was involved in the drama department at Mahomet,” he said, sharing a spate of memories of the teen. “She loved her family, and she always had friends over. She had a great love for her mom and dad and her two sisters.”
The faith in God and Jesus Christ that Mackenzie held and her family has is helping sustain them, Case said. They believe they will be reunited with her one day.
“That’s what we hold onto and what we know to be true,” Case said. “They have constantly mentioned the healing that she’s had.
“Her heart doesn’t hurt anymore.”