Today’s post is going to be something a little bit different around here. Beyond fitness, beyond nutrition. This is about life, a beautiful life that was far, far too brief. This is a story that is very near and dear to my heart, and one that I need to share for multiple reasons. Yes, this is sad, and it may bring you to tears. But I encourage you to read on anyway, because underneath the sadness there is a story of true strength and determination, one that should be shared.
Almost two weeks ago, my good friend Missy had to say good bye to her baby girl, Leyden. At 16 weeks old, Leyden passed away due to complications of congenital heart disease after a very tough fight on her part. When Leyden was born, it was known ahead of time that she would need surgery to repair three holes in her heart. However, complications during surgery led to intestinal damage, which in turn led to a cascade of multiple organ failure over the course of several weeks.
Throughout this time, Leyden showed her parents, nurses, and doctors that she wanted to fight on, that she still had more left to give. She gave and she gave, until her little body could give no more. Up until the very end though, Leyden fought with unprecedented toughness. She surprised her surgeons, doctors and nurses every day with her resilient spirit, fighting through a fog of morphine and paralytics just to squeeze her parents fingers or open her eyes at the sound of their voice. This, the doctors said, was almost unheard of. But Leyden was a fighter, and she knew that those little squeezes were what her parents needed to get through those difficult days on end in the hospital.
Being able to visit Leyden in the hospital was a beautiful gift that I will forever be grateful for. Her giant blue eyes and infectious smile made everyone fall in love with her instantly. I will admit that the first time I held her, I was scared. She was so small, and I knew that she was fragile — I thought I was going to break her. But the next time I visited and she just cuddled up in my arms, I knew she had a place in my heart forever. The last time I was able to see Leyden, she was unable to give me that gorgeous smile — unable to flash those big baby blues at me. But I knew in my heart that that joyful little girl was in there somewhere, so I gave her a soft kiss on the forehead and whispered words of healing and hope into her ear.
Those words weren’t enough, nor were the prayers, whispers, songs, and hopeful musings of her parents, family and friends. When Leyden passed away in the loving embrace of her mother’s arms, she left a light and a fighting spirit that will live on forever. She is all of our angel now — everyone who’s lives she touched, no matter how brief.
But I’m not writing this today for me. I’m writing to spread the word of Leyden’s strength and determination, and also to help Leyden’s mother, my good friend Missy. The last thing that any grieving parent should have to worry about is paying the remaining medical bills, something that can become insurmountable after a 14 week hospital stay. Please take some time today to send some loving thoughts to Missy, Mike and their families — thoughts of healing and hope. And please consider giving to this fund if you are so inclined. But most importantly, take a moment to love and hug those around you and appreciate them for their own beauty and strength — because we all could use a little bit of Leyden’s fighting strength no matter what life throws at us.
Please — if you share anything I write, share this. Leyden deserves to have her story told, and the world deserves to see how perfect and beautiful she was, if only for a brief stay with us.