By Jenny Song
By Jenny Song
Leila Biberaj, who was featured in the Fall 2006 issue of CR, died of hepatoblastoma, a cancer of the liver, on April 7. She was 5.
Full of spirit and passion, Leila loved many things, like swinging on her friend Dustin’s tire swing, winning tickets at ski ball, and playing with her younger sister, Tess, and with her favorite cousin, Armand.
In some ways, Leila was a paradox. She was feisty and had a sense that she could do anything; yet she was also shy, says her mother, Janet. She was a free spirit who loved order.
Leila’s zest for life reflected her personality. If a child’s outlook is “negative, they’ll be negative,” says Janet. “But if they’re positive, everything looks great.” Leila always looked on the bright side.
Vibrant and strong, she “had a lot of energy, personality and gumption,” says Michele Farinet, the parent coordinator at Public School 41 in Greenwich Village, where Leila attended kindergarten.
Once, Janet recalls, her daughter’s best friend had to go to the bathroom, so Leila raised her hand in the middle of class and said to her teacher, “Zola has to go to the bathroom. Do you want me to go with her?”
When Leila was sick, her friends Dustin, Lucas, Zola and Caitlin would visit to cheer her up, and she’d act like every other 5-year-old—playing dress-up, putting on plays, smiling and laughing. “She was so fun and she was so sweet,” says her mother. “We miss her to the bone.”