QUINCY -- For Grace Meyer, this particular end only serves as a stepping stone toward the next beginning.
Grace's family, including mom Anne and dad Jeff, celebrated her recent graduation from Quincy High School with a drive-by Sunday afternoon celebration outside their home on North 18th Street.
No gifts were accepted, only the written thoughts of those who took part, centered around what they felt "makes Grace special."
Grace, 18, whose electric smile lights the world around all of those near her, has long battled spina bifida, epilepsy and other health issues. She's conquered more than 60 surgeries.
With zero complaints.
And she takes great pride in inspiring others.
"I sure do!" she said, her words punctuated by that trademark smile.
Anne said the idea behind Sunday's event was to collect the tributes in order to "make a special book for Grace." Some of the memories were also mailed to the family.
"We're extremely proud of her and what she has accomplished," Anne said. "It would have been easy for Grace to withdraw and not be involved, but she's always upbeat and happy.
"She loves to be around people and never meets a stranger. Walking with Grace through the halls (at school) or even out in public, she seems to know everyone. She has an awesome attitude."
The love and admiration for Grace at Quincy High School was shown last fall when she was selected homecoming queen.
"That ...," she admitted, "had always been my dream."
Grace is planning to take some more classes next school year at Quincy High School while working toward involvement in John Wood Community College's College for Life program. One of her goals is to work in the veterinary field.
"I would like to be a veterinary technician, or maybe a child-life specialist -- someone who works with children who are approaching surgery," said Grace, who is the youngest among the five Meyer girls, a group that includes Makenzie (27), Breanne (25), Jordan (22) and Keiley (20).
Anne is thankful for all the help Grace has received, and all that is yet to come.
"There have been so many people who have helped our daughter become the young woman she is today," Anne said. "She has a way about her to bring a smile to everyone and to change lives."
Grace has never been bashful.
"She's always been pretty involved," Jeff said. "One of her biggest thrills was getting to meet Jonathan Van Ness of (the Netflix show ‘Queer Eye')."
Van Ness and his "Fab Five" cohorts were in town to film an episode centered around the makeover of then-QHS instructor Kathi Dooley.
There was an instance when Van Ness gave Grace a hug during the October 2018 filming of the special that debuted in July 2019.
"But that (scene) didn't make it on TV," Grace said.
Grace was always a regular at QHS football and basketball games and even helped coordinate the Sparkle cheerleading squad.
Music is another of her loves, and she enjoys a wide range of genres. She went through a Michael Jackson phase, was a big fan of One Direction and then Disney music. Right now, the "Hamilton" production is a big favorite.
"I like musicals," she said.
Grace recently celebrated what would have been her graduation date during a five-week stay at Children's Hospital in St. Louis. It was around this time Anne said she found herself thinking of those connected with the Quincy Public Schools who have had such a lasting impact on Grace's life.
"There is no end -- teachers, paras, principals, bus drivers and riders, security, principals, nurses, cooks and cafeteria workers, secretaries ... counselors, coaches, superintendent, board members, parents, students ...," she said. "I know I have probably missed some, but you get the idea. There is no way I would know where to start or how to stop with thanking everyone for the impact (they) have had. Thank you for accepting her for who she is. Thank you for being patient with her. Thank you for caring for her. Thank you for believing in her. Thank you for encouraging her. Thank you for loving her."
Roy Webb, superintendent of Quincy Public Schools, event sent out a special message on Facebook to Grace on Sunday afternoon, both congratulating and lauding her.
Many first became aware of Grace during her efforts to help add an ADA-approved trail at Camp Sacajawea, located off Ghost Hollow Road in southern Adams County.
"Operation Trail of Freedom" was Grace's Girl Scout Gold Award project. She spearheaded a plan designed added sidewalks, ramps, two concrete pads and more in and around the Camp Sacajawea grounds.
Grace's goal was to provide a way "for kids with disabilities who are in wheelchairs ... to enjoy nature." She's still involved in the ongoing project.
Grace often wishes there were more than 24 hours in a day. She simply has too much to accomplish, and is never intimidated by a hectic schedule or anything else life may throw at her.
"She's never discouraged," Anne said.
That ever-present smile on Grace's face backs up her mom's claim.