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A ray of sunshine gone too soon

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By Michael Hicks

Dear Maggie,
I didn’t know you, but, by all accounts, you were a ray of sunshine. That’s obvious.
The social media posts that popped up in the days after your disappearance and those that somberly appeared last Thursday after the Park County Sheriff’s Office confirmed your passing characterized the person you truly were to friends and family.
There is no possible way to list all those who you’ve meant so much to, but one said person is Shaely Folger. You and the 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Colorado Denver had known each other for 14 years. Shaely may have graduated from Platte Canyon High School in 2016, but that didn’t deter a friendship that has lasted since you were students at Deer Creek Elementary and later Fitzsimmons Middle School.
You grew up together in Bailey. You’ve been a part of each other’s lives forever.
Shaely and I exchanged messages last week, and she told me about your friendship and just what you meant to her. Hearing the news of your passing has been hard for many around here. It was especially difficult on Shaely.
“This day has been a rough one, but I’m getting through it knowing I had the time with Maggie that I did,” Shaely wrote. “I couldn’t be more thankful to have known her and have her as one of my best friends.”
But nothing could compare to her heartfelt letter written on Facebook last Thursday evening. She talked about your bright soul in the classroom and your contagious smile warming her heart every single day. She said you were “the kindest, most selfless person and student.” If someone was in need of a favor, you were the first one to step up and volunteer. You always wanted to make things better.
You were always so active in and around school, from the student council to the Key Club to musicals and sports. As Shaely put it, cast parties weren’t complete without you.
What truly made you stand out was that bubbly, bright personality. People wanted to be around you. “Everybody loved you,” Shaely wrote.
And when you weren’t working on homework, other school activities or helping out at your parents’ restaurant, you were volunteering somewhere else. There was nothing you wouldn’t do.
Maggie, you were adored. That’s what Shaely said, and, from what we’ve all read these last two weeks, I believe them.
“You gave meaning to life. I was always so stressed out with schoolwork, but the moment I would see you bouncing down the hallway, my worries were lifted,” Shaely said.
I could go on and on, just like so many others who’ve expressed their grief in your passing, but who’ve, no doubt, relished the opportunity to have known you these past 17 years. You brought that previously mentioned ray of sunshine into this world that will never be forgotten.
“You have no idea how lucky we all are to have known you. It was a blessing. YOU were a blessing,” Shaely said.
Maggie Long, I regret that our paths never crossed. Though there were opportunities, it just never happened. I missed out, whereas many others didn’t. That said, I know the people who you’ve touched will forever cherish the memories. There will come a time when the grief will subside, and they’ll remember your sweet smile, your caring heart and your passion for life.
As Shaely said, rest in sweet, sweet peace, Miss Maggie. You will be missed.

Michael Hicks is editor for Evergreen Newspapers. He can be reached at 303-350-1039 or via e-mail at mhicks@evergreenco.com.