Teen inspires, even in her death (video)
July 9, 2013 at 2:09 a.m.
Updated July 10, 2013 at 2:10 a.m.
The babies played on the living room floor, cheerfully popping Nerf guns and dancing around.
At 4 and 2 years old, they are blissfully unaware of the tears of their parents and the heavy sadness in the air.
They will only know their sister, 17-year-old Jessica Villarreal, through pictures, said the kids' mom, Veronica Villarreal.
"That is all they are going to have of Jessica," Villarreal said as she flipped through photos, still in shock over the death of her daughter.
Jessica, diagnosed in fifth grade with neuroendocrine carcinoma, a cancer that affected her hormone system, died in the arms of her dad, Juan Villarreal Sr., in the middle of the night Monday.
But Jessica, the teen who wasn't supposed to live to see last Christmas, never gave up, said her brother, Juan Villarreal Jr.
"No matter when you saw her or where you saw her, she was always smiling. I don't know how she did it, but she did. I mean, knowing all of the worries she had dealing with this sickness, but she just seemed to bypass it," her brother said.
Going through multiple chemotherapy treatments, radiation treatments and surgeries throughout her life, Jessica was often in pain but worked to enjoy life to the fullest, her mom said.
She spent her last weekend on a camping trip with her family, riding four-wheelers in the mud with her brother and staying up through night to look at stars and wonder about aliens.
"She couldn't bounce too much on the four-wheelers because it would hurt her. So we went at a steady pace until we got to the mud, and she just took off through the mud. We were having a blast," Her brother said, laughing at the memory.
K'Dionne Rabino, 23, met Jessica through her own mother, an assistant principal at East High School.
Jessica was always having fun, Rabino said, whether she was at the Victoria East homecoming she attended with the Guardians of the Ribbon South Texas Chapter, her graduation from high school and even prom.
"The thing I learned the most from Jessica is to always be positive. Even when she was in her lower moments, she was always happy. She just loved every day. She lived every day to the fullest," Rabino said.
Her own family has grown closer since meeting Jessica, learning the value of every moment with each other, she said.
Rabino was so touched by Jessica she started a fundraiser through Facebook to pay for the family's funeral expenses.
As family and friends came by the family's small Victoria home Tuesday to offer their condolences, each walked past the life-size yellow ribbon in the Villarreals' yard - the ribbon that stands up for Jessica and all childhood cancers.
The ribbon has been in front of their house for about six months, Jessica's mother said.
Even though Jessica's battle is over and she isn't in pain anymore, the battle is just beginning for many others.
"She was scared, but she had just talked to us and told us that she was tired and ready. She was just tired. She didn't want to go through it (death), but we told her we all do, and there is no telling how it is going to happen, when it is going to happen or who it is going to happen to," her mom said.