Her name was Lyric—the poetry that partners with melody and inspires fortitude.
Lyric Michelle Collins’ life was brief, but her extraordinary parents filled it with love, prayer and meaning. In turn, Lyric filled hearts and lifted spirits like the joyful music that binds her family and their community together.
To walk into her family home, Lyric’s beautiful face greets you surrounded by her two sisters and adoring parents, Holly Conte and Tremell Collins, in a large family portrait. Pictures of Lyric with her sisters, Maleeya age five and eleven-year-old Alana, as well as with her cousins, grandparents, family and friends are everywhere. Holding her was their sheer joy, made even more precious by her precarious fate. All of their faces tell the story.
Events celebrating Lyric’s birth and baptism and later honoring her life took place in churches as far away as India and on Relay for Life fields throughout New England. Everywhere there was music—because music brought joy, strength, hope and solace at a time when reality was unfathomable.
It all became unfathomable the day after Lyric’s birth. Her doctors at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center confirmed a diagnosis that had been an infinitesimal possibility —brain cancer, a glioblastoma extremely rare in newborns. Her prognosis was only six-weeks.
Doctors at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center knew that Holly and Tremell needed support and Lyric’s care would be complicated. Chris Mastropietro, our certified pediatric/perinatal hospice nurse, was the answer to everyone’s prayers— second only to a life-saving protocol.
Lyric’s first week in the hospital was an anxious blur of surgeries to relieve pressure on her brain, quests for treatments that could save or prolong her life and frequent attempts at breastfeeding to accelerate weight gain and prevent the need for a feeding tube.
There were no miracle protocols on Lyric’s horizon. She continued to nurse with gusto and was able to leave the hospital on Mother’s Day to celebrate her baptism with her family at Grace C.M.E. Church in New Britain, CT.
At home in the loving care of her family and with the support of her nurse, Chris, Lyric nursed,
grew, nursed a lot more and kept growing. By all appearances, she was a beautiful, healthy baby. Five-year old Maleeya, who nicknamed each family member for a favorite breakfast food, named Lyric “Pancake”. Lyric was now her official little sister, and she and Alana planned Lyric’s birthday parties for every milestone.
Relatives and friends all supported them with prayers and by holding Love 4 Lyric fundraisers and selling tee-shirts throughout the region. They marched in her name at cancer relays, and church associates in India celebrated her life with a two-day service.
Lyric celebrated her six-week birthday on Father’s Day. Two days later, on June 17th, her tiny body gave up the fight— Lyric died in her mother’s arms.
Hundreds of people poured out their love for Lyric and her family on June 23rd in a Home Going Celebration at Spottswood A.M.E. Zion Church in New Britain, CT. Her dad, Tremell, honored her at the funeral the way he had comforted her and made her smile so many times before—he sang to her. He burst forth in his strong baritone to sing Stand by Donny McClurkin—it was the poetry, the haunting lyrics that gave him and his family strength.