Kimberly Jean McCurdy wasn't much different from other youngsters who love to sing and draw and run.
She was a typical tomboy who liked baseball more than Barbies. Her favorite outfit, frilly at the neck, was nonetheless blue.What family and friends remember most about the 3-year-old perpetual-motion machine was her olive skin, big brown eyes, pug nose - and endless energy.
"She was always in motion. She was one of those kids who would not let down," her mother said. "She was a little feisty fireball; you always knew when she was around."
Her absence was equally noticeable.
Her fun-filled, happy childhood ended abruptly. And for nine years the giggles and wiggles were stilled. She lay semi-comatose for all that time. And then, perhaps mercifully, Kimberly died this month - three days before her 13th birthday. Her family and friends like to believe that she is now running and playing and smiling once again. She left behind a legacy of love that united a community for nearly a decade.
It was in 1980 that Kimberly's childhood was robbed by medical science gone awry. Complications from medication administered in a dental office sent the child into cardiac arrest and into a deep sleep.
Her eyes were closed. But the hearts of others were opened.
Her parents, wanting to keep their young family together, refused to institutionalize their daughter. She was taken back to her room in their Sandy home.
There, a community rallied.
For nearly six years - in three shifts - more than 500 volunteers performed massage therapy to stimulate her senses. Their tender touches helped dilute the fear of death but did little to restore life to the small, limp frame.
Yet, like Kimberly's parents - Judy and David - many Utahns continued to harbor the hope that the silent body would someday wake up. "I think any parent would hang on to that hope. You just don't give up on one of your kids, because you want so much for them to be better," Mrs. McCurdy said. That hope kept mother tethered to child; she rarely left the house.
"The people who came probably helped us more than they did her. I know I am her mother and love her more than anybody, but I feel I shared her. They all loved her too."
Kimberly was the McCurdy's second child. Heather is 11 1/2 months older. In fact, had Kimberly lived, both would be 13. The playful pair attempted often to pass themselves off as twins, but few were tricked by their pranks.
Heather is blond and fair; Kimberly's pageboy was brown.
The family also includes Megan, 10; Matt, 9; Zach, 6; and Landon, 3. Each shared a special bond with the bedridden sister.
"The experience we went through will change us for the rest of our lives. For the better," said Mrs. McCurdy. "They (the children) are much more tolerant, compassionate than most kids their age. If they see someone with a handicap, they are not stand-offish. It has made a difference on how they view other people."
But kids are kids. Their devotion to Kimberly wasn't diminished by their need for a more normal life.> When other medical problems - brittle bones, bed sores, weight loss - threatened her life, Kimberly was placed in the South Davis Community Hospital, her home for the past three years.> Two or three times a week family and friends drove to Bountiful to be near her. The glimmer of hope persisted.
"Sometimes I think she knew we were there. Sometimes it was like she was there fighting to break through," Mrs. McCurdy said. "Other times it was like there was nothing; there was only love."
For Judy and David, there was excruciating heartache.
Concerned about the quality of their child's life, little by little they had to "let go."
Other parents feel the fear of giving their teens their independence. But few know the pain of telling their daughter "it's okay to leave."
There was no life support to turn off. Just a prayer to be said, a plea for an end to the suffering.
Two days later Kimberly died.
"I know I am going to miss her. At least I could go hug and kiss her, but I feel this is the best for her," Mrs. McCurdy said. "Any parent would after this long. We feel the life after this one will be much better for her."
The McCurdy home is full of budding plants from the Jan. 16 funeral - a constant reminder of the hundreds of Utahns who tried to give God a helping hand.
Mrs. McCurdy, determined to write a note of thanks to each, wants people to feel peace with Kimberly's passing.
It was the words of a child that gave Judy and Dave that comfort.
"It's OK, Mom. I know she's happy. She's running and jumping and skipping," an innocent Megan said. "She's not even tired anymore because she's been sleeping long enough."