During every moment of her life, 4-year-old Lelia Moran was surrounded by love.
Her favorite place was in her mother’s arms, close to her heart; her father was a catalyst for her silliness, always making her laugh; her brothers were not only her companions, but also her protectors.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends kept the little girl with pink cheeks awash with adoration as she fought medulloblastoma, a brain cancer, for over a year.
That constant support never wavered on Wednesday afternoon when — comfortable in her Ashland home, surrounded by those who loved her — Lelia died.
“Lelia Winsboro Cross Moran. Her name is all the eloquence I have for now,” her father, Michael Moran, posted to her “Love for Lelia” Facebook group. “She has passed. Grateful for all of you.”
Lelia was a bright, spirited little girl who played the dual roles of princess and farm girl, with an equal love for painting and the goats on her family’s Ashland farm.
Before her cancer she was plucky and bold, and her mother, Rebecca Moran, said she ruled the roost.
Her cancer wore her out, and she spent the bulk of her time secure in her mother’s arms, cuddled on the couch. They were connected like that for over a year, since her diagnosis in November 2016.
She was there, safe in Rebecca’s lap, in the days before her death.
On Tuesday, her aunt, Meghan Moran Smith, posted on Lelia’s Facebook group — which has over 1,300 members who share near-constant support for the family — that Lelia was “comfortable and snuggly in her Mama’s arms. Every little sigh and sweet coo out of her mouth is a beautiful gift.”
Lelia spent countless hours in the hospital following her diagnosis. She received chemotherapy that wore her out, and her kidneys started to fail, so she had to start dialysis.
A new tumor was discovered in her brain in early November, and, after a tussle with their insurer, the family started Lelia on new chemotherapy drugs that they could administer from home.
According to updates Smith made to Lelia’s Facebook group, the little girl was admitted to the hospital with a high fever in late November, and it was soon discovered that she had hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain. Eventually she was able to go home, though the effects of the hydrocephalus, along with low sodium, lingered.
On Monday, Smith posted that Lelia was holding on with “one or two exhaled, ‘I love you’s.’ ”
Despite the illness, Lelia’s spunky personality remained during her struggle with cancer. She’d stick out her tongue and pull her mouth wide for her parents, smiling at the sound of their laughter. She’d playfully elbow her brothers in the ribs, and they’d respond by smiling and gently stroking the wisps of hair on her head.
She adored her brothers, Brendan, 6, and Micah, 8. Often when she left the house to go to a doctor’s appointment, she’d request that her brothers go with her. She glowed when she sat between them, as though she was in her element.
Since Lelia’s death, her “Love for Lelia” Facebook group members have transitioned from prayers for her swift recovery to prayers for the family’s recovery from grief, and words of comfort.
“Words cannot express the sorrow and pain we feel for the loss of your beautiful, sweet, Lelia,” one member wrote, while another told the family, “Our hearts are breaking with yours.”
During an interview in mid-November, Rebecca urged those who read Lelia’s story to donate to childhood cancer research.
Medulloblastoma is the most common childhood malignant brain tumor, and in the U.S., between 260 and 500 children are diagnosed every year, according to St. Jude Children’s Research hospital.
“There’s such a need,” she said. “When people are out there, they see these cute, bald-headed kids and everyone stares and thinks, ‘oh wow.’ But Christmas is coming. If you want to donate to something, just donate to pediatric research, because it’s so underfunded.”
Lelia often told her family she loved them. She would wake up in her mother’s arms, express her love and thank her for taking such good care of her.
Since her diagnosis, she and her mother were practically inseparable.
They cuddled together so often, wrapped in a blanket, that at times they seemed like the same person, with one body and one heart.
Lelia would assuredly confirm to Rebecca that the two were “peas and carrots” and her dad was mashed potatoes.
Sometimes she’d dream about peas and carrots, and wake up to sleepily tell her mother.
Lelia’s grandfather, Marty Moran, said a service will not be held immediately for Lelia, as the family grieves.