The photograph of a clearing in the woods reveals the happiness that Dayna Less soon expected to come — after enduring indescribable pain for years.
“193 days to go!” it says beneath the image of Less and her fiancé, Adam Keric, as they announced their June 2019 wedding.
Instead, Less’ family and fiancé are preparing for a funeral for the 25-year-old pharmacy resident who died when she stepped out of an elevator into gunfire at Mercy Hospital Monday.
A somber Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson captured the senselessness of Less’ death when he spoke Monday night: “That poor woman that got off an elevator had nothing to do with nothing, and [the gunman] shot her. Why?”
A day later, Less’ family were, publicly at least, talking about certainties.
“She’s a person whose sole purpose in life was to help other people,” said her father, Brian Less, on his way to a funeral home in Schererville, Ind., near where the family lives.
Less was engaged to her sweetheart from Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., graduating in 2012, her family said. In fact, the pair met at a church camp when they were only 9 years old and stayed friends, her father said.
At the home of Keric’s parents in St. John on Tuesday, tearful friends and relatives had gathered. Beyond saying how much they all loved Less, they didn’t wish to speak to a reporter.
Less and Keric had been dating for 10 years. At about the beginning of that time, Less, an only child, began dealing with chronic headaches for which she could, initially, find no lasting relief.
“I can’t even describe the pain,” Less said in a 2012 interview with The Times of Northwest Indiana.
Less and her parents would eventually find a doctor at Georgetown University who performed surgery that finally ended her misery.
“Dayna is a very strong and determined person,” her mother, Teena, wrote in an entry in a blog titled “Dayna’s Story: My Daughter’s Headache.”
“She finished out her Junior year with a 4.2 average in spite of the nasty headaches. She is completing her college applications for fall of 2012. She has told me she does not regret what she has been through. Dayna has learned much about herself, family and her friends.”
On social media, friends remembered Less’ compassion, but also her adventurous spirit. As a pharmacy student, she’d traveled to Eldoret, a city in Western Kenya to work in a hospital there.
In a blog post, Less shares a youthful delight in her temporary home, including Umbrella Falls, where she and friends stood behind the thundering cataract.
“One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen,” she wrote.
In one post, Less talked about a weekend trek and about a local guide who discouraged the women in the group from attempting a hazardous descent. Less did it anyway.
“Nothing scared her,” her father said.
Her blog is filled with both her delight and frustrations about medical care at the hospital.
“It is absolutely horrible to see patients die that would have probably survived if they were in a U.S. hospital. The thing is that we are doing everything possible to care for these patients, but there is not enough staff,” she wrote.
She had learned to play a mandolin-like instrument, the Tamburitza, popular in eastern Europe.
Dennis Barunica, a Tamburitza teacher who lives in Indiana, said in a Facebook post that Less “was one of us” and that he taught her to play brac [a lute-like instrument] and cello in a Serbian music group.
“We would go over [to] her house with whoever could make it and just play until our fingers were sore,” Barunica wrote.
“She had a great short life with a greater future. … My heavy heart goes out to her family, fiance, and church community,” he said. “I don’t have kids, but you know you all are a little bit my kids. My first experience with someone I knew and liked and taught being a victim of gun violence is too saddening to fully describe or grasp. So hug your kid, say a prayer, send good vibes in her name. Rest in Peace, Dayna.”
Contributing: Mitch Dudek