It was a tough day in a small corner of the online world today - we lost little Layla Grace to neuroblastoma sometime early this morning.
I say "we" because, although most of the 40,000+ Twitter followers, FB fans and other online friends never met Layla or her family, we've been following her journey closely, praying for a miracle, hoping that she would find peace and crying for this beautiful little girl while holding our own kids closely. "We" are grieving with her parents and sisters. "We" are more aware of the disease that took her and will help spread the word to help prevent similar tragedies from happening if we can.
This is a shining example of the good that comes from social media. Entire communities are built around the words of others - their stories, daily successes and tribulations, tragedies and joyous events. We celebrate, grieve, pray, hope, laugh and cry with the other members of our community.
I'm fairly new to this - I struggle to find the time and inspiration to post and tend to be hesitant about engaging online. But I also truly care about these people that I follow - whether it is my daily laugh from Amy, a check in with Heather and her family, social commentary from Jessica and Erin or shopping finds from Maggie - I look forward to these interactions every day.
This is why I found myself dreaming of Layla last night and checking Twitter this morning on a regular basis, hoping for good news from Layla's mom, but also knowing in my heart that it was unlikely. She had a tough day yesterday, was clearly deteriorating and it was time for her to go, to be at peace and without pain.
My heart broke when I read that she had passed, as it had been breaking these past few weeks while following her story. I cried most of the day, whenever I read more Tweets from others (and sobbed when I inexplicably subjected myself to a video montage of her photos).
I'm not one who prays very often, but I definitely did for Layla and her family. I still am.
One of the many gifts that Layla brought to this world was a reminder for parents to cherish the here and now with their kids. To recognize that life is short.
I'm going to strive to think of Layla every day when I hug my boys - even when they are pushing me to the edge of sanity (tonight) - I'm going to strive to take a deep breath and find a way back to solid ground. To slow down and kiss their cheeks while breathing them in.
Love to you Layla - you are eternal.