|photo credit: Prayers for Lane Goodwin|
You see, it is not my story. Not at all. No, this is a story of heroism, courage and conviction beyond anything most of us have ever known -- and it is not mine to tell.
Yet, here I am, telling you about Lane Goodwin.
If you don't know who Lane is yet, the odds are very good that you soon will.
You see, Lane, a sweet, brave, 13-year-old Kentucky boy with cancer, is quickly becoming a global sensation. His amazing story has gone viral, urging folks from all over the country, and beyond, to give him a "thumbs up" -- a classic Lane pose no matter what he has faced in his long, brave battle with a rare form of cancer known as alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (or his mother so aptly calls it, the "monster").
Facebook and Twitter have exploded with thousands of well-wishes and photos from ordinary people like you and me, as well as athletes and musicians, news personalities and celebrities, all giving Lane a "thumbs up." Thumbs have been raised by the likes of Courteney Cox and Garth Brooks, as well as by Ugandan orphans, half a world away. Lane's name has been lovingly plowed into fields by farmers, written on the back of dusty interstate trucks and incorporated into national news stories.
I'm sure those close to Lane are humbled by the outpouring of love for him.
Those of us who have followed his story the past few years are smiling at each other through tears, nodding across the intertubes at one another. Like you, we are simultaneously brokenhearted and uplifted.
I must confess here that I do not know Lane or his family personally. Lane's mother, Angie, and I are from the same small Kentucky town and graduated not too many years apart from each other. In a way, I suppose that connects us. We also have many mutual friends, some of whom began the Prayers for Lane Goodwin page on Facebook when he was first diagnosed in March of 2010.
I, like many others from my hometown and the surrounding area, joined his page then at the request of a friend and began to follow sweet, young Lane on his journey. He is like any boy. He is like my boy. He likes playing soccer; cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals; fishing; building with Legos; and swimming. He enjoys spending time with his friends; goofing off with his little brother; and playing video games. He is not too big to snuggle with his mom or fall asleep in his dad's arms. He loves to visit the ocean and have new adventures. He fears nothing, it seems: not the sharks (he swam with those); not heights (he flew airplanes and parasailed); and not even the cancer that has ravaged his young body. He hates cancer, but he looks his enemy in the eye and he fights it.
Though we grieved for the difficult path, we knew he would be triumphant. He would. We prayed it. We believed it.
And beat it, Lane did. This kid is one tough cookie! We rejoiced and praised as scans came back negative after his first battle.
But then last summer, that ugly, horrid beast of childhood cancer returned. Once again, after we shed tears, we rallied the troops and prayed even harder. Lane himself gave us the rally cry. When confronted with difficult medical choices, he told his parents, doctors and all of his friends that he wanted to bring out the big guns and "nuke it."
We cheered him on again as he went to war. Along the way, we met other far-too-young soldiers who have courageously fought and lost their battles with childhood cancer. Ethan. Savannah. Too many others.
For a while, it seemed Lane was beating the odds through new medical trials. Though initially diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, he would be triumphant yet again. We willed it so.
But our hearts were so heavy this summer when we learned that the cancer was back and spreading. And those heavy hearts grew heavier when Lane had a seizure recently and was rushed to the hospital. That's when they -- and we -- discovered the cancer had spread to his brain.
Lane is now home with his wonderful mom and dad, Angie and George; his incredible little (but big-of-heart) brother Landen; and other family and friends. Wise beyond his years, Lane has told the doctors that he understands that they can no longer do anything. He has told his parents that he is ready to go to God.
Though he is physically weak, he is spiritually strong. Like a true and triumphant warrior, he raises his thumbs to us.
Even in his most troublesome times, Lane encourages us. He gives hope to those of us who don't even know him -- but wish we could. His story grows because he gives this weary world what it seems to lack: grace, courage, peace.
Personally, perhaps selfishly, Lane makes me appreciate even more the blessings of life.
I once saw Lane's mom on a night out in our hometown. I wanted to approach her, but I hesitated. She was at a reunion with friends on what I am certain was a very rare outing. She has been by Lane's side every step of the way. I shied away, just happy to see her smiling with others.
I wish I had talked to her, told her that my children and I were praying for Lane, that he was and is a true hero to us -- and that he reminds us of what is important.
But I think she knows.
There is something incredibly special about her son. Not many people can move the world; but her son has.
Lane is her son -- so closely, deeply, her God-given and wonderfully-crafted boy -- and I hesitate to encroach on the sacred space between a mother and a child.
As I see post after post, though, I realize that, in some ways, he is like our son, too. I do not want the Goodwins to hate me for saying that, as they struggle to hold on to all they hold dear. I pray they do not misunderstand.
What I mean is that there is something about a parent's love and desire to protect a child that makes us all protective of Lane. We all hold him now.
While we know we cannot fathom your pain or understand the depths of your despair, we stand with you, George and Angie. We surround you. We reach our hands out to you. There is an army of us, loving you, Lane and Landen.
I have two children, a boy, 10, and a daughter, 15. My heart beats for them, as they are the best of me. Even though they are older, I still sometimes watch them sleep at night. I pray for their safety. I panic if my son slips out of sight, or if my daughter is past curfew.
Once, when my daughter was little and fighting an inexplicable string of infections, she was tested for leukemia. For a weekend, I lived in a dark, black place, fearing the Monday phone call with test results. As Mat Kearney sings, "I guess we're all one phone call from our knees." Life is like the morning mist -- a fine, fragile sheath separating all that grounds and holds us to Earth from the ethereal and unknown.
Thankfully, my daughter was okay. But I ache for other children and their parents, whose lives are forever altered when doctors deliver the diagnosis of cancer or other serious ailments. Why must any child suffer? I will never understand.
Yet I have watched Lane's parents say, over and over and over again, "God is good."
If they can believe that -- even now -- then I can, too.
As Lane's story gains momentum, I find myself talking more to God. The truth be told, I'm arguing with Him.
I say, "God! LOOK! Lane's story is gaining worldwide attention. This is a MAJOR PR opportunity for you! So many are focused on this young man and praying for him. This is your chance to prove who you are and what you can do, to give his family the joy of watching him grow up, to give the world the miracle it so desperately needs. Please grant Lane his miracle. Let the entire world see him healed in this place, in this time, so that his parents can watch him play soccer and fish and swim and wrestle with Landen."
I have this conversation repeatedly with God, like many of you do. I know He hears. And those of us who believe know that He also understands well the grief of Lane's parents.
I don't know what God thinks of my feeble attempts to be His marketing guru. All I know is that while I was lying in bed with all these words running through my head, I initially refused to write them. I am not worthy to write Lane's story. Heck, I'm not even sure it needs to be written. What's happening worldwide is proof that Lane and his parents have told his story quite beautifully.
Still, I felt pushed to write as I prayed. I know this about Lane Goodwin and want you to know it, too: the world is better because he graces it. A child is bringing out the best in us. The globe suddenly seems smaller; our differences diminutive.
Together, we stand strong for Lane. One friend said he gives new meaning to the name "Goodwin." Good. Win.
I see that.
I also see a chance here to make an incredible difference. Friends, it just so happens that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month. If every person who is touched by Lane's story or who likes his Facebook page or posts on Twitter would give even one teeny-tiny dollar to a reputable program dedicated to curing childhood cancer, it would be yet another beautiful way to honor Lane, the Goodwins and all of those who have and continue to struggle with this cruel disease. I am sure Lane's family would give that a big thumbs up.
In the meantime, I thank them for raising an incredible boy, who has touched the world, blessed our lives, opened our hearts
Lane's story is about him -- but so much more. He has become the face, or more appropriately, the "thumbs", for childhood cancer. This brave boy has brought compassion and awareness to all who struggle with disease. I love and pray for Lane, but in his plight, I see others who hurt and fight. I do. I see you, too. I want you to know that.
That is Lane Goodwin's gift to all of us: Benevolence. Empathy. Kindness.
Thumbs up, Lane.
Two thumbs way, way up.