How Big the Human Heart Can Be

Laney Brown was eight. And she was dying.

Her blood had 70% cancer cells in it, the doctors said.

On December 19, she returned to her home on a small street in a small Pennsylvania borough of 4,000 people.

Her hair was gone. She was breathing through a tube.

What she wanted, she said, was to hear carols.

Word got around the little borough. And two days later, carolers showed up outside the girl’s house.

They came from down the block and from 80 miles away. They were close friends of Laney’s and total strangers. They filled the sidewalks and the street and the strips of grass between the two. They held candles stuck in cups.

And for an hour and a half, 10,000 people sang to Laney.

She lay up in her bed. “I can hear you!” she told the carolers through her mother. And she told them she loved them.

Laney Brown died four days later. And 10,000 hearts broke. More. Surely more.

But for 90 minutes that one December night, 10,000 people crowded onto a street too small to hold them and reminded the world how big the human heart can be.

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