You’ve probably heard the news that Muscatine lost one of its bravest heroes, Hayden Daufeldt. My friend Hayden fought cancer for most of his short life and did it with a smile and a love of hotdogs, Minions, and the love of his family, friends, and strangers.

I am extremely fortunate to have gotten to know Cory, Kendra, and sweet Hayden over the last few years. While I will never know the pain the Daufeldt family is feeling, I will continue to speak Hayden’s name and share his story.

Below you’ll find the letter that I wrote a few days before Hayden passed away. I spent a few days at the Daufeldt family home to show my support and to be a compassionate friend. During those visits, I didn’t know what to say or what to do except to be present, be in the moment, and listen.

“Dear Hayden,

You’re the strongest young man I’ve had the pleasure of calling my friend. You fought and fought like a heavyweight boxer round after round. Hayden, I hope you felt the love and support of your family, friends, and strangers who have been praying, thinking, and keeping you in their hearts and minds.

The past few weeks have been filled with visitors to your house to just be with you. I’m so thankful to have been able to spend time with your wonderful parents, Kendra and Cory, and all of your family.

I don’t want to consider this a goodbye because my faith tells me that we’ll see each other soon in heaven, where you’ll be pain-free and welcoming everyone with that smile. Hayden, you truly are a hero and your legacy will be something that I speak about often. Your fight will never be forgotten. Thank you for being my friend for being brave and for sharing your story with so many.

Your friend,