FINDLAY, OH (WTOL) - Each year, The Northwest Ohio Komen Race for the Cure is named "In Memory of" someone whose lost their brave battle with breast cancer.
This year, Findlay's Race will honor Sheryl Gray.
"With her hugs, you knew that she loved you. Her smile, her hugs, everything she was about, her art. The way that she put her mascara on was beauty," said Jenn Stillings, her daughter.
Gray was a mother and proud Nana. Her life before breast cancer involved proud moments with her kids and snuggling her grand babies. She was an artist and healthy cook who warmly shared those gifts with others.
"She was a co-founder of the Bluffton Food Market. She made salsa. She made strawberry jam. She was a work of beauty in the kitchen, with her art, with everything that she did," said Stillings.
She even beautifully battled cancer, twice. But the chemo, blood transfusions and tests became too much.
Faced with more fighting, Sheryl decided it was time to rest and enjoy the short time she had left.
"She looked at me and said she just wanted to die gracefully. And that was hard to swallow. And selfishly, I wanted her to fight, but her fight was over," said Stillings.
Sheryl spent time organizing her thoughts into a journal for her family.
Sheryl lost her battle with stage four metastatic breast cancer on November 4, 2006.
"In my mind, we had some more time to talk," said Stillings. "That next day, my plan was that we were gonna get up, we were gonna spend as much time as we could with her. So, I got ready and at about 10:18, my husband was sitting on the couch out here listening to music and Josh Groban came on. It was, 'You Raise Me Up,' and something in me just told me that she had passed. I got the phone call from the hospice nurse saying that she had passed at 10:20. And the nurse said that she had asked if she wanted my brother and I to be there while she was going through this process. And with everything that she had which was not a whole lot, she said,'no.' Even in her last moments she was selfless."
Just a few years later, Sheryl's family began to run in Toledo and now, in their home, Findlay.
"I don't want them to have to go through it," said Stillings. "I want my daughter to not ever have to experience breast cancer. I want there to be a cure. I want there to be more birthdays celebrated. I want to be a Nana. When I cross that line, I always think about at my weakest moment when I want to stop, that I have to push forward like she did and crossing that line is a huge victory for our family because we have done it again without her physical presence here. I have to think what our life would be like if she was here."
Sheryl did leave a piece of herself in that journal, and in her family and friends in Findlay, who will run and walk in her memory in this year's Race for the Cure.