Tonight when I came home from work, I cuddled my kids on the couch. Held them in my arms, admired their smiles - and their whines after awhile when I just couldn't bear to put them down. I wanted to hug them forever, because I'm learning that we are never guaranteed tomorrow, and time goes by far too fast.
I've been keeping up on the story of Layla Grace, a little two-year-old who is quickly losing her battle with cancer. She has a very short time left, and she has been so very tired that she has been sleeping 18-20 hours per day. When she's up, she doesn't want to be held much, and her poor mother's heart is just breaking. All she wants to do is hold and comfort her little girl. She noted today how she is able to do laundry and clean the house - things she wishes she was back to the days of having no time to do those things - and she regrets all the times she said her little ones were underfoot and she couldn't get anything done, because she'd give anything to have those times back.
I came home to my sweet little Peyton - the same age right now that Layla was when she was diagnosed. I look at Pey's sweet chubby cheeks and mischevious grin. There are days when all I want is for her to nap so I can sleep a little longer, or for her to hurry up and talk so I know what she's saying.
But today - today I looked at her through different eyes.
Today, I held my sweet girl, took in her scent, got as many drooly kisses as I could. I hugged her and smiled with her, and read her a book. I cannot imagine what Layla's mother has gone through, because if either of my kids were sick I think it would honestly take my heart away.
I remembered my mom's last days. The whole year she was sick, we knew she didn't have a lot of time. It wasn't until those last days - the days when she was not aware or awake at all - that I truly understood what it meant to be at the end. I prayed for another day, another week, another month. All of the caretaking and schedules and medications and everything else - I all of a sudden wanted to do that forever, because I realized that very, very soon I would no longer have the opportunity.
All I wanted was to hold her, but by then she didn't know I was there.
So if it was that difficult with my mom, what is poor Layla's mother going through?
I have wondered now for six years why God chooses the people He does to go through cancer. Most of them, like Layla and my mother, don't deserve it. I've been angry at Him, I've yelled at Him, I've walked away from Him. I believe in God, I believe in religion because I believe there is something greater than us...than me. However, I found myself questioning why again today when I was reading about Layla, and a thought just came to me.
No one wants to see good people hurt. No one wants to see our loved ones suffer. It is certainly unbearable. But maybe, just maybe, the stories of people like Layla and my mother serve a great purpose. It took one man, Jesus, to change the lives of so many; to teach them right from wrong, as well as truth and love. So maybe it is the same for Layla and my mom - two people who many of us feel are too unknown to make a difference, but whose stories will forever change for the better our lives, and the lives of so many others. Over a thousand people came to the wake for my mom - 1,000 people. If those 1,000 people thought enough of my mom to come there, then perhaps they brought away from her loss the innate desire to love those around them a little more - and that definitely shows me that her life was not lost through the cancer.
I know that Layla's story made me stop tonight and think about all of the times that I beg for a break from Peyton's curious mind, and how frustrated I get with her tantrums. I thought about how I have to ask Alex 20 times to go to bed before he finally does. And then I thought about how, in a week or a month, Layla's poor mother will start the process living every day for the rest of her life wishing she was able to be frustrated or happy or worried about her little girl. Every day of her life, she will be missing all the things I will get to see about my babies, like their first day of school or their senior prom. My heart is broken for her, and aches for her and I am not even in her shoes, so I cannot imagine how much she is hurting right now.
I hope that somehow, she can find some comfort in the fact that Layla is now permanently engraved in my heart. This beautiful little child will be thought of every day when I see my own children, and I hope her mother knows that Layla has made me want to be a better mother. I won't take for granted all of the aspects of motherhood, be it good or bad or happy or sad, because I get to have those moments -- and that is probably the greatest joy a mother can hold. Layla's story has made me stop and realize that each moment is precious, and that it isn't about all the material things we can buy or how much we can give our kids through monetary means. It's about the love and the moments we share together with them.
Prayers for you, sweet Layla Grace.