About six years ago a dear friend posted asking for prayers for a little guy from her church that had been diagnosed with brain cancer.  We all see those kinds of posts every day. Many, many of them. I don’t know why some of them really hit home and sort of settle in the corners of our hearts and minds and others don’t, but Eli did.

Like many others, I watched him fight a battle that no one, much less a child, should ever have to fight. Through the ease of social media, I watched this family deal with the laughter and the tears, the pain and the frustrations; all of the things that come with the horrific disease that had invaded their life. They did it with grace, love, generosity, and hope. Until the day that hope died and they knew that, in the end, this monster was going to win. But, they didn’t let it. Not easily. They continued the research and the treatments, and didn’t go down without a fight. In the process, they made life as normal as possible for their family while making memories that will, hopefully, bring comfort to them in the future.

One thing they did early on was decide that they were going to give back in some way. Once they carried hundreds of DVD’s to add to the library at St. Jude’s. They took donuts to the nurses that had given such wonderful and loving care to the children in their charge. Target House received laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. Toys and games for the children that were spending months in the hospital undergoing treatment. They set up a charitable foundation to raise money for cancer research. A well in Africa bears Eli’s name thanks to someone that wanted to make a difference in his honor. I could go on and on if I could remember all that they’ve done. Instead of letting this monster named cancer suck all of the good out of their lives, they used it to create good things in a nightmare world.

I tell you all of this because while they were just trying to get through the days, sometimes just the minutes, they were inspiring people all over the world by the way they lived their lives. The strength, courage, and faith they have shown is remarkable. Most people would have collapsed under the burdens they’ve had to endure. They have been a light in a dark world.

They will be the first to tell you that God has sustained them.  God has been their strength along every step they took in this horrific journey. THAT has been their message to the world. Rely on Him and He will get you through. Not their will, but HIS.

Last night, Eli’s earthly life ended peacefully and this world got a little bit darker.  But, his eternal life began and his little body is whole and healthy again. What a wonderful gift Christ gave us when he sacrificed himself on that cross so many years ago-salvation and eternal life. That is what will bring his parents comfort as they face the days ahead.

I added Eli and his family to my prayer list that night six years ago and have prayed for him so many times since then. Those prayers won’t end just because he’s gone. They’ve added so much to my life and I have never even met them that I count myself privileged to be able to pray for them.