8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, my heart was broken.
I received a phone call from a sorority sister but decided to ignore it since it was my only morning to sleep in a little, and I was exhausted from Chi Omega sisterhood retreat the night before.
A few minutes later, my phone rings. It’s her again. I finally answer, and receive the worst news I can imagine.
“Mckenzie, something has happened,” Alana Hu said. “Leighton is gone.”
I frantically checked all forms of social media to see if what she said was true.
This had to be a mistake; I had just hugged Leighton, told her goodbye and that I loved her and asked her to text me when she got home.
I even thought about her before I went to bed, but now she was gone.
Then I found it: A sorority sister’s mother had posted on Facebook to please pray for the Williams family and that Leighton had passed away in a car accident.
The rest of the morning was a complete and utter blur.
All I know is that I somehow made it to the Chi Omega lodge, where I was greeted with grieving sisters. Suddenly it all became real.
The next few days were filled with tears, prayers and love.
The Union community filled our house with food, flowers and notes of encouragement.
Chi Omega chapters from across the country joined us in prayer and sent their love in various forms.
I’ve never felt more proud to be a Chi Omega.
As I looked around at a room full of heartbroken sisters, I saw Jesus. I saw how He used Leighton to touch all of us.
We are all better because of Leighton. We loved her sense of humor, monotone voice, encouragement, genuineness and her spirit.
“Why Lay?” I asked God one night in my room.
I couldn’t understand why He would want to take her away from this world, but I knew that God had this planned from the beginning. I stumbled upon a quote the other day that read, “Love the people God gave you because He will need them back one day.”
We loved Leighton, and she loved us.
So how do we move on? We don’t. Life will never be as it was.
It will never return to “normal,” but we’ve been left here on earth for a reason. At Leighton’s funeral on Tuesday, Sept. 24, a family friend of hers encouraged us to “Love like Lay.”
I’ve already heard countless stories of how Leighton changed lives, especially within our sisterhood. So now, here I am, wondering where to go from here, and all I know is that every day I plan to love like Leighton loved.
I have this picture in my head of Leighton in Heaven talking to God and him responding, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
So, to the girl who loved life, laughed until it hurt, encouraged people constantly, never gave up, wore the cutest clothes, was a daughter, sister and friend, you are missed dearly.
I can’t wait to get to Heaven and hug my Jesus, but I sure hope Leighton is next in line.
Leighton, you may be gone, but you will never be forgotten. I carry you in my heart always.
Mckenzie Masters is editor in chief of the Cardinal & Cream.