KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Braxten Goodwin walked across the stage to receive her bachelor's degree in 2019, her extended family, packed in an overflow room and watching from a screen at Lincoln University in Columbia, Missouri, burst with pride.
When she gave birth to her first child in Kansas City a few months later, a dozen family members sat around the waiting room, eager to shower her in love and support.
But when she delivered her second child in July after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Goodwin was alone. Family held their breath and said their prayers from home.
They had witnessed her long list of accolades, but never expected to see COVID-19 tear her life away from them so soon.
Goodwin was 24 when she died of the virus in early August. Now her family, still wading through grief, is urging community members, especially those who are pregnant, to get what Goodwin at the time felt she couldn't: the vaccine.
Braxten Goodwin was bright and energetic, family said. She was an athlete and an honor's student up until the day she completed her criminal justice degree. She loved the Los Angeles Lakers and being a mother.
Born into a family of preachers, ministers and musicians, she quickly took on a talent for all of the above, writing poems and sermons, preaching to young people, and joining the band and choir.
But her grandmother, Pamela Goodwin, was proudest of the moment she watched her become a mother.
"I saw her strength then, and I saw Braxten change from trying to be grown, to step into adulthood," Pamela Goodwin said. "She grew up overnight, and that was really exciting to see her transformation."
Goodwin last saw her granddaughter — last heard her laugh — when family gathered on July 4th. A few days later the young woman got sick.