Linking Laconically is heartbroken

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The response to Lacey Holsworth's death showed just how much she touched the lives of Spartans and everyone who knew her story.

Since I unofficially took the reigns for Linking Laconically, I've tried to keep it lighthearted and have fun with it, which has made it enjoyable to post every day. Today, though, I've been dreading doing this since shortly after I woke up this morning. Instead of clicking through links on spring football updates, recruiting news and speculation about who's going pro and who isn't, seemingly every MSU related story I came across today was focused on one thing. I read almost all of those stories, and each one brought me to tears.

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Few of us personally knew Lacey Holsworth, even though it felt like she was a little sister to all of us. Spartan fans -- and eventually the rest of the country -- were introduced to Princess Lacey because of her relationship with Adreian Payne. We found out she was battling a form of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma, and she grew attached to Payne during a team hospital visit about two years ago. Then we found out why Payne also grew attached to her. We found out that she had a beautiful smile, that she was more brave and determined than I could ever hope to be and that, even when cancer was slowly taking her life, she was going to remain happy as could be and love, love, love.

Wednesday morning, we found out Lacey passed away peacefully, in the arms of her parents, Matt and Heather. I knew Lacey was sick, obviously, and that she had been back in the hospital periodically in the past few months. But it was less than a week ago that she was courtside down in Texas watching Payne put on a show in a college slam dunk contest. So when I woke up and checked Twitter this morning, the news of Lacey's death hit me hard. And I know I wasn't the only one. #RIPLacey and #LoveLikeLacey trended nationally on Twitter today. Basketball programs throughout the Big Ten Tweeted their condolences to the Holsworths, Payne and MSU, and so did professional athletes as random as Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.

Lacey and her story were on the forefront of my mind pretty much all day. I remember first reading about her connection to the basketball team a while back and being very proud of Payne for being so genuinely kind to this girl. But never did I myself expect to feel so attached to an eight-year-old girl I never met. It happened, though, to me and virtually anyone who knew about her, and I think we're all better off for it.

I can't imagine what Matt and Heather Holsworth are going through right now, but if I ever got the chance to meet them, I would thank them for raising such a beautiful person. I would thank Adreian Payne for being the gentle giant he is and introducing the world to Lacey. I only wish I had the chance to thank his princess for teaching us how to #LoveLikeLacey.

Michigan State, nation mourn loss of 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth; memorial set for April 17 | Detroit Free Press | freep.com

"Continue her legacy! Love unconditionally."

The Journey: Big Ten Basketball 2014 - Adreian and Lacey

Most of us have already seen it, but I know I watched it again today.

Spartan Basketball All Access 2014: Big Ten Championship Edition

Izzo honors Lacey and Payne during the banquet at the beginning.

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