LaKeasha “Keasha” Rutledge met linebacker Chris Draft in Charlotte, N.C., when he signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2005.***
The talented cheerleader worked with Draft on his charitable foundations until she was diagnosed with the terminal disease (lung cancer) last year, according to the news obituary published in the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail.
Knowing their time together would be short, the couple married on Nov. 27. Keasha was so frail by the wedding that she made her way down the aisle in a wheelchair. A video of the wedding, posted with the Daily Mail story, shows the couple sitting in chairs as they took their vows.
The bride died Dec. 27 at age 38.
In a post on the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s website, the groom wrote: She courageously faced lung cancer, showing us all with every breath that we all need to hold onto life and love with both hands for as long as we can.
He added: Not just an inspiration, but a light, and a force that led the way with a beautiful, sweet smile and bright shining eyes that both belied the pure steel of her strength and determination. . . Strong is too pale, too shallow and too small of a word to describe Keasha’s vibrancy. . . Quite simply, she was ferocious. She fiercely held onto life, and love with a forcefulness that was absolutely awe-inspiring and completely breathtaking.
More than 2,400 friends and strangers, who were touched by the Drafts’ love story, have made entries in the online guest book accompanying the family-placed death notice in the Greenville (S.C.) News.
This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.