THE final words of selfless double heart transplant girl Sarah Barton are giving her family the courage to carry on.
Despite their overwhelming heartache, a farewell letter written by the Sunderland teen urging them to live happy lives is helping them in their grief.
Sarah had just celebrated her 17th birthday when she unexpectedly collapsed and died in August, during a day out with her dad Peter.
Mum Beverley, 49, said the letter was found by chance on the East Herrington teenager’s laptop a few weeks after the funeral, when her 19-year-old brother Chris went to use it.
She said: “Chris’s laptop broke, so we said he might as well use Sarah’s and that is when he found the farewell letter. She had obviously written it to give to us if she became really ill again, but she died unexpectedly.”
In the letter the teen wrote: “All of you please, for me, live long, good, happy lives. I’d rather you forget me and be happy, than remember me and be sad.”
Beverley said discovering the letter was bittersweet for her and Peter, 50, who both work as audiologists, because the pain was so raw, but it is now a huge help.
She said: “For the first two months, I kept thinking I would be in this black hole forever, but then it does get a bit better.
“There are some really bleak days, but then you have other days where it is not so bad. It is hard, but we feel like we would be letting her down if we didn’t try to be happy because we know that is what she wanted.”
A healthy child, Sarah became critically ill shortly before her 11th birthday, with doctors believing a virus had caused her heart to fail, and she was given her first transplant.
Two years later, she became seriously ill again and was just hours from death when a second heart transplant was carried out.
Despite all her medical needs, the plucky youngster lived life to the full, picking up the Child of Courage trophy in the 2009 Pride of Wearside Awards, and passing her GCSEs at Farringdon Community Academy with flying colours.
To honour Sarah’s passion for films and media, the Allendale Road school now plans to create the Sarah Barton Film Festival in her honour and rename their annual media award the Sarah Barton Media Prize, which her family is thrilled about.
In her farewell letter, Sarah, who was also sister to Andrew, 22, wrote: “Everyone is going to try and say how brave and inspirational I was, but I wasn’t. And that’s OK, I was just me.”
Beverley, of Lambton Court, said: “It is lovely to see plaques on trees and things, but the award will be a living memory of Sarah.
“I was really keen that she would be remembered for the person she was and not for someone who had had two heart transplants, because that was something she had no choice about.”