The Lilies Project

Caroline Armijo

Funding Received: 2017
Walnut Cove, NC
Funding Period: 2 years and 6 months
November 12, 2020

Danielle Kara Bailey-Lash

AUGUST 13, 1974 - NOVEMBER 30, 2019

The following are my remarks at the funeral for Danielle Bailey-Lash, held on Saturday, December 7, 2019.


This past Sunday, the day Danielle left us, marks the first day of Advent, which is the first day of the new year of the church. We never really know when we are gonna lose people we love. In addition to the heartbreak, I found peace and reassurance by Danielle leaving us at this precise moment. Thanksgiving had just ended and the new church year had just begun. This moment perfectly exemplified all that Danielle prioritized in life. 

First, Danielle loves her family more than anything else. She would always encourage me to prioritize my family when things were busy. Second, within minutes of meeting Danielle, you knew that she wanted nothing more than to be with Jesus in every step of life here on Earth. And as an overachiever, which we used to joke about her overachieving, she was going to be there bright and early on the first day of the new year to celebrate the coming of Jesus. 

“Gray Matter” by Caroline Armijo

“Gray Matter” by Caroline Armijo

Nine years ago on this same first Sunday of Advent, I placed a piece of art on the altar of my church in Washington DC to signify the word Justice. At the time, I had no idea what that word really meant. But it was the word for the week and a piece I had been working on. The art was fashioned out of a small book called “Your God is Too Small.” I had worked on that book as a way to pray for Danielle when she had her second craniotomy in August. I did not believe in my prayers. I was terrified of the heartbreak we all feel now. 

My God was too small. 

Nine years later we can look back on Danielle‘s life and see all of the miracles that happened since then. We are hear today to celebrate  all that she accomplished in that time - and before. The miracles that unfolded around coal ash, something that was basically unknown, but no longer. And how she worked diligently to build community with everyone she met. 

Poor Peoples Campaign LR-0344.jpeg

I was beyond ecstatic on August 13, 2018 which was Danielle’s birthday. It was the first time she spoke in public. At the same podium with Reverend Barber and the former Vice President Al Gore. Although she had spoken out for years in national and international press. 

Poor Peoples Campaign LR-9051.jpeg

Just a few weeks later, our worst fears resurfaced. Danielle needed a third craniotomy. And in those moments of going to the doctor, SHE was the peaceful presence who calmed the rest of us as she prepared for surgery. 


After she rang the bell at Forsyth six weeks later, we were granted a tremendous gift. We began gathering together under the guise of planning for The Lilies Project, a grant inspired by Danielle to make art out of coal ash. It was all that I ever wanted. To spend time with Danielle. And to make art with her and others. When I was with Danielle, as I’m sure is the same for all of you, I felt unconditional love. 


Spending time with Danielle was all I ever wanted in PE everyday of middle school when we walked around the track together or made up silly games with the basketball. It was all I ever wanted when we served as statisticians and mat maids together when I cared nothing about sports. And it was all I ever wanted when I came home from DC and we went out to eat with Jennifer. This last year felt amazing to have spent so much time with Danielle.


A few years ago, I read a story of a small group of people who gathered in a church basement in East Germany. They visualized the Berlin Wall falling. As we know, that happened. The faith of those people and my blossoming faith after witnessing a great unfolding of change, alongside Danielle’s steadfast faith, made me certain the our prayers mattered. My prayers matter.


So we gathered at the library each month with a small group of people - Django, Tammy, David, Leslie, Johnny, Christine, Bryan and others. We talked about our vision for what life will be like after coal ash. We also dreamed about where we wanted to place the art that we were planning Danielle’s persistence and diligence was exactly what we needed to keep us focused on our priorities. 


We were also successful in our advocacy. We were part of a larger statewide effort to convince the governor to demand that that all of the coal ash be cleaned up. And when we got the good news, people from across the state came and celebrated with us at Southeastern, the very place our friendship began. 

Danielle, Johnny and I always concluded each meeting with a trip to El Cabo where we split a side of avocado. We would linger together until we did not have any more time before school pick up. In one of those meetings, Danielle shared the most beautiful bit of wisdom. She said “I always expect that every person I interact with is going to treat me exceptionally well. And they always do!” She said it with her beautiful smile and great poise and confidence. I was so moved by her expectations of the best and how she got the best in every interaction in life. I never once heard her complain over the last ten years. Instead I witnessed her persistence in serving others and building community. 


This fall during her last months with us, she took a social work class in Greensboro so that she could help others as others have helped her. She wanted to give back. And then finally she also won a seat on the Walnut Cove Town Council.

North Carolina Coal Ash Advocates

North Carolina Coal Ash Advocates

Danielle is not here with us to see the fruition of all of our work together. But I feel her guidance as plans begin to crystallize. I know that her presence will live on through all of her visions for a better future of clean air and clean water. None of us in this room can begin to comprehend the full impact that she had on our community, our state and our world. But may we be so moved to seek justice from a place of kindness and compassion for others, embodying Danielle’s Christ-like spirit who expects the nothing less than the very best.