Community says final goodbye to North High student who spent 457 days on life support

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Sunday, February 24, 2019, was the Celebration of Life for Zei Uwadia. Sunday, February 24, 2019, was the Celebration of Life for Zei Uwadia.
Hundreds gathered to say their last goodbyes Sunday, February 24, 2019, to the North High student who spent 457 days on life support. Hundreds gathered to say their last goodbyes Sunday, February 24, 2019, to the North High student who spent 457 days on life support.
Several of the K.C. nurses and medical staffers who helped Zei for so many days made the trip to Wichita on February 24, 2019, to say goodbye.  Here they stand as the family honors their support of Zei. Several of the K.C. nurses and medical staffers who helped Zei for so many days made the trip to Wichita on February 24, 2019, to say goodbye. Here they stand as the family honors their support of Zei.
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

"Zei was not ordinary in really any way," said Josh Kerschen, Zei Uwadia's uncle Sunday afternoon.  "But her destiny is extraordinary."

Hundreds of friends, family and strangers gathered at Newman University to say a last goodbye to the North High student who spent 457 days on life support.

Her story touched hearts across the state and many of them showed up to say goodbye one last time.

There were tears.

"You've left me with a lot to consider," Zei's mother Brie Kerschen said.  "And, while I continue to try, there's no doubt in my mind all the questions I have you already know the answer."

And there was laughter.

"I was explaining how Zei would only allow me to kiss her if I didn't make the kissing sound.  This led to an awkward ritual of me touching my lips to the top of my head and then just pulling them away."  Brie Kerschen twisted her face, demonstrating what she meant to the laughter of those gathered.

Mostly, she and others shared their memories of Zei.

"I've seen Zei step to the edge of death.  I've seen her step inside.  But she always came back."

Except this time she didn't.  In 2017, the girl remembered Sunday for her determination and goal oriented attitudes toward life suddenly suffered from lung failure.  She went on to spend 457 days on life support in a Kansas City intensive care unit, before coming home earlier this month. She passed away a few days later.

"Zei's biggest goal was home," her mother said.  "In the tough days before we made it here I grew more aware that my prayers for her to make it home may not mean what I wanted.  But I still prayed.  She made it up the stairs to cuddle her brother...and her sister...She made it home.  And then she made it home."

Zei's mother and uncle spoke to the hundreds packed into the room for her final goodbye.  But they were all gathered together thanks to the efforts of friends like Sherri Jones, who recruited the volunteers to make all the arrangements, much as friends and strangers supported the family financially and emotionally during Zei's hospitalization.

"I'm so glad that we were able to do this.  So Brie didn't have to go through this and do this herself," said Jones.  "Her family had enough on their plate."

Even the decorations and food at the celebration were donations, from Dillons, Walmart, and Sam's Club.

Her family thanked everyone for their love and support time and again Sunday.  The strength in numbers one of many lessons they learned from "Zei's village" as they call it.

"I could write a book on the lessons I learned from living in the ICU," Brie said.  "The incredible goodness and incredible sorrow sown together with bursts of panic and anger, love.  But Zei is reminding me of survival tool number one - it's really important to have a goal and then just focus on that goal."