Rhododendron Drive

Be the Sunshine

by Kim Lawrence

Sometimes people stay with you. They leave their mark. They make an impression. Sometimes they enter your life for a while. Other times, it’s a brief encounter. Either way, some people shine so brightly that they alter, slightly but significantly, who you are.

This is what happened when I met Linsey Malia in the spring of 2016. We were doing a profile on Ace the Skyhawk for the Stonehill Alumni Magazine, and when I asked the Athletics Department who would be the best student to interview, they said Linsey would be perfect. She often served as Ace and also coordinated the mascot schedule.

I emailed back and forth with Linsey, asking questions about the Ace costume (so hot inside!), why she wanted to be the mascot (she loved that no one knew it was her in there), how she got the crowd excited (dancing and tossing out t-shirts) and tips for being a good mascot (don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone).

But I didn’t get to meet Linsey in person until we did the photo shoot later in June. The shoot was set up in a small alcove-type area outside of the Archives in the Martin Institute. Linsey arrived and changed the energy of the space almost immediately. She was positive, vibrant and so happy to be there. Nicki Pardo, the photographer, asked Linsey to do numerous poses. And she was game for them all: holding Ace’s head under her arm, pointing to the costume, soaring like a Skyhawk, even dabbing. Every picture had one thing in common: Linsey’s bright, beautiful smile.

That night at home, as I caught up with my husband, 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter during dinner, I talked about Linsey—describing her confidence, attitude and uplifting presence. I didn’t know Linsey very well, but I could tell that she was someone who, when determining how to face the day, chose joy. Of course, I framed this as a lesson for my own children about how to approach life and embrace opportunities.

Almost a year later, I was beyond shocked and saddened to learn about Linsey’s passing in a boating accident as she was studying in Copenhagen, Denmark, this past spring—an unfathomable tragedy. In grief and disbelief, the Stonehill community came together on campus for a prayer service. Everyone had the same thing to say about Linsey: She was sunshine. As the campus continued to mourn, students, staff, faculty, friends and family honored her life by drawing chalk suns and messages all around campus. And days later, in the Chapel of Mary, Fr. John Denning celebrated Linsey’s funeral Mass, where her family, close friends and longtime boyfriend delivered intimate and loving eulogies that made everyone both laugh and cry.

The photos that we had taken at that photo shoot now served as part of Linsey’s memorial, as a remembrance. That bright, beautiful smile perfectly captured her spirit. When I talked to my family about the tragedy, my children remembered what I had said about Linsey at the dinner table so many months ago. Her presence had left a mark.

Sometimes people stay with you. They unexpectedly teach you a lesson. They remind you to live vibrantly. They remind you to be the sunshine.

Kim Lawrence is the editor of the Stonehill Alumni Magazine.

As Stonehill mourned the loss of Linsey Malia '18, we all remembered the sunshine she brought to the College. To honor her life, and all the sunshine she brought to so many, spaces across the campus were stocked with chalk and students, staff, faculty, friends, and family used it to bring Linsey's sunshine to the entire Stonehill community. To view photos, visit here.

Share your Story. Submit your 500-word essay about your Stonehill thoughts and memories to klawrence@stonehill.edu.