When Meredith Legg Stapleton learned in late January that she had one month to live, the 26-year-old Huntersville, N.C., resident prayed for two things: She wanted to see enough snow to build a snowman and she wanted to see her beloved North Carolina Tar Heels play Duke in person one last time.
Stapleton died Monday night after a nearly four-year bout with a rare case of ocular melanoma, but not before she was able to see both of those prayers answered.
When Stapleton was referred to hospice on Jan. 23, her family returned the tickets so someone else could use them, but Stapleton demanded to get them back once she found out. "She was going to the Carolina-Duke game," GoHeels.com’s Adam Lucas wrote, "no matter what anybody with a stethoscope said."
"When the doctors had the talk with me, I wasn’t scared or nervous," Stapleton told the site. "I just wanted to make sure I lived it out and lived it up."
Feb. 12 finally came, but with it came more than six inches of snow, an uncommon accumulation for her area. That was more than enough to build the snowman she prayed for — his name was Olaf — but it was also enough to prevent Stapleton and her family from making the two-hour drive from Huntersville to Chapel Hill for the game.
Fortunately for Stapleton, that same snowstorm impacted Chapel Hill and the game between the two rivals, located just 8 miles apart, had to be rescheduled for Feb. 20 — an act of divine intervention if there ever was one. And on Feb. 20, after a medical procedure earlier in the day, Stapleton was there, in the front row of Section 125, for UNC’s 74-66 win over the then-No. 5 Blue Devils.
"The players were running up and down the court, and I just watched her for about two minutes straight," Stapleton’s husband, Christopher, told GoHeels.com.
"I was so amazed by how beautiful she was, and how elegant and at peace she looked. People were screaming and jumping and I would clap because everyone else was clapping, but then I would go back to her. It was two of the most beautiful minutes I have ever had. I’m going to keep those moments in my head forever."
Things took a turn for the worst shortly after Stapleton and her family headed back home after the game. But when she died Monday, father Basil Legg said she did so at peace — a calm that can surely be attributed (at least in part) to Stapleton’s final prayer being answered.
"I’m that person you watch the game with who is always yelling at the screen," she told GoHeels.com on Friday. "To me, it’s a lifestyle. It’s like I was born with it. I have loved Carolina basketball ever since I can remember."
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