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Family mourns, seeks aid

NATCHEZ — Grace Marie Murphy was a child with vivid spiritual awareness who comprehended her own mortality, traits most 9-year-olds don’t possess.

Born with cystic fibrosis, a disorder that affects the endocrine glands causing the production of abnormally thick mucus that blocks the function of vital organs, Grace used her lungs, and eventually a single lung, to sing anyway. Grace, referred to as a “redheaded spitfire” by her pastor, died Sunday at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson.

“She was a happy child,” her big sister, Elizabeth Collier said. “She was singing most of the time. Her favorite song was Hannah Montana’s ‘The Climb.’ Grace was a God-loving child, and nobody was a stranger. She was happy all the time.”

Elizabeth said her dad, Carl, Grace’s guardian parent, works, but her guardian mother Janice was home with Grace all the time.

“She never left her side,” said Collier. “She did her breathing, medicine, feeding, everything.

“Cystic fibrosis worked on everything in her body,” Collier said. “She was constantly in the hospital. In 2009 Grace had her right lung taken out. After the lung was taken out, she was as good as gold. In Jackson, the hospital was a home away from home. It was good treatment, they did the best that they could do. The nurses were like sisters and brothers to her.”

Grace, in fact, wanted to be a nurse and treat children with cystic fibrosis.

Grace’s pastor, The Rev. Curtis Wilson of Cranfield Baptist Church in Roxie, said Grace always apologized for missing church because of her illness.

“She loved to be at church,” Wilson said. “She would say, ‘Brother Curtis is going to be mad because I can’t come.’ She loved church and being a part of it, being with the people who picked on her, loved her, and being among the people.”

Wilson said that Grace had an acute spiritual consciousness beyond many adults he knows.

“Before she died, she had already seen Jesus or some angels, because she knew way too much to be a 9-year-old child,” Wilson said. “She had a special awareness of God and how he worked beyond her years. It was amazing. She would tell her mama, Ms. Norris, ‘Don’t cry, it’s going to be all right, mama.’ She wanted to be buried with a rose in her hand because she wanted to give it Jesus when she got there.”

Wilson said everyone is rallying around the family, and people are calling wanting to know what they can do.

The family needs financial assistance to give Grace a proper burial. An account has been opened at Regions Bank to assist the family with burial costs. Contributors can visit any Regions Bank location in the Natchez area and give to the Grace Marie Murphy fund in the account of Janis and Carl E. Norris.

Funeral services will be 11 a.m. today at Cranfield Baptist Church.

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