Hundreds of people packed the auditorium at Proviso East High School, 807 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood, on Aug. 11 to celebrate the life of Tiffany Battle, 33, a beloved dance coach at the school who died on Aug. 3 from cervical cancer.
Battle, who graduated from Proviso East in 2003, was the coach of the Pirateers, the high school’s competitive dance team, and a board member of Gate Way Music and Arts — a Maywood nonprofit that offers musical education to local young people.
Jeremy Horn, who graduated with Battle, described the lifelong dancer as “a beautiful soul” who “bled royal blue and always showed nothing but the best,” echoing Proviso Township High School District 209’s motto.
Growing up, Battle honed her chops at Mr. Ernie’s Flip, Flop & Fly and Stairway of the Stars Dance Studio. She cultivated her soul at her Downers Grove church, But God Ministries, where she often brought her Pirateers.
During her eulogy, Tracey Young, Battle’s pastor, shared an anecdote that she said captured the lifelong dancer’s essence. Young said that last year she went to visit Battle days before she was scheduled to have surgery.
“I wanted to go over and talk to her just to see where she was mentally, physically and spiritually,” Young said. “I received something that truly blessed my soul.”
Young said that she was prepared to offer her parishioner a “kiss” and a “listening ear” for what the pastor thought would be the laments of a young woman in her prime justifiably angry with what was happening to her.
“I thought Tiffany was going to share with me that she was mad at God,” Young recalled. “Tiffany didn’t give me that. She said, ‘Pastor, I want you to know I believe God. I got faith in God and I’m going to trust God until there’s no more fight left in me.'”
And then, Young said, Battle told her something “that blew” her mind and left her “speechless.”
“Tiffany says to me, ‘Pastor Tracey, if something should happen to me, ‘I want you to have my heart,'” the pastor recalled. “I said huh? She says, ‘No, Pastor Tracey I’m for real. I want you to have my heart.”
Young delivered Battle’s eulogy while wearing what looked like a purse. It was actually a left ventricular assist device — a mechanical pump that’s battery-operated and surgically implanted for patients with heart failure.
“I have been diagnosed with end stage heart failure and I’m in need of a transplant,” Young said. “What you see here has been beating my heart for the last six years. On paper, I should be dead. That’s why my passion is so great for God. Here [Tiffany] is in excruciating pain, suffering, but instead of thinking about herself, she was thinking about me.”
Young said that she quickly waived the offer.
“I said, ‘Baby girl, it’s little old you and big old me. I know your heart is big, but it’s not going to fit up in here,” she said, prompting laughter from the audience. “But the Holy Spirit said to me, ‘Why do you think it was so easy for her to say that?'”
Young cited Ezekiel 36:26 — “A new heart also will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh.”
“The reason why it was so easy for Sister Tiffany to say this to me is because she wasn’t saying it with a natural heart, she was saying it with God’s heart,” Young said, before referencing Battle’s love of the Pirateers and her alma mater.
“This was the best place for this service to be held,” the pastor said, “because this is where Tiffany’s heart was. It was here at this school. It was here among these children.”