My Superhero

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My heart is absolutely broken today and I really lack words that come close to touching all that’s on my mind.  Sweet Louie went to be with Jesus.  I’m angry and I’m sad and I’m so confused.  But I’m so incredibly blessed and honored to know this sweet boy and his precious family.

I’ve shared Louie’s story before a few times and how I was so honored when Laura and Josh allowed me to capture these precious memories for them.  When Louie was first diagnosed, just days after his second birthday, it shook my world.  Even though I didn’t know Laura that well, my mommy heart ached for her.  Louie and my Cam are only six weeks apart and we were pregnant at the same time.  Laura teaches at the studio where my daughter takes dance lessons and that’s how we originally met.  As Louie spent time at CHKD going through treatment and recovery, I followed along on Facebook as this amazing story unfolded.  So many times I wanted to send her a message to say if she ever wanted pictures just to let me know and I would be there.  I could never work up the nerve (some things just seem so silly) but she posted that they’d never gotten Louie’s 2nd birthday pictures done and was anyone available to come to the hospital to take them.  (At least that’s what I think it said.  Honestly, I didn’t finish reading the whole post before I feverishly sent her a message!  It was truly a God thing!)  We met up in a little grassy patch outside of CHKD in Norfolk and captured some of the sweetest smiles I’ve ever seen.  That was the first time I met Louie and I knew he was a fighter.  I knew he was tough and he would never give up.  And I knew I’d never be the same after meeting him.

I was able to meet up with the Vanderslice family a few more times throughout this journey – when baby Lennon arrived, before Louie started chemo again when the cancer returned last fall, and most recently last Christmas Eve.  To say it’s an honor to help this family tell their story is an understatement.  That face brings me and SO MANY others so much joy.  His smile will brighten up any room and you can’t help but laugh when you’re with him.

I struggle with not only what to say but what to feel.  I’m left with so many questions about why this happened and how this is part of God’s plan.  Some questions I don’t think we’ll ever know the answer to, at least on this side of Heaven.  But what’s clear is that this little boy, this baby, and his amazing family have touched so many lives and I belive have brought people closer to Jesus.  Through the faith and testimony of his parents, though his courage and his strength, and through the kindness and generosity of strangers reaching out to the family, the love and hope of Jesus SHINES.  There’s NO denying that.

I feel like God has laid two things on my heart today.  I’m reminded of the story of David and Goliath.  It’s Cam’s favorite story and he loves hearing it over and over again (we even have David and Goliath action figures and I’ve got to come up with a David costume for Halloween…).  When I tell him that story, I like to remind him that God used David to do BIG things, even though he was little.  You’re never too little to do big things for God.  Louie was only a baby and his body was so sick, but God used that little boy to do BIG things.  If God can use a little shepard boy or a bald little boy with cancer, what’s our excuse for not stepping up to the plate?  Louie’s life is such a testament to God’s mighty power and His awesome love.  He touched thousands and thousands of people all around the world.  That smile!  Those sweet laughs shared on facebook videos!  All while a battle was raging in that little body.  Louie faced the giant.  The giant did not win.  Our hearts are hurting here, but Louie is dancing with Jesus free from pain and sickness.  That’s the second verse God showed me.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

God wins, guys.  In the end, God wins.  Today sucked.  But God wins.  He’s got this.  My prayer is that He wraps his big Daddy arms around Louie’s family and hugs them tight in these rough days.  There are so many hurting hearts today and I just pray that God will comfort those that are hurting and bring His peace that passes all understanding.

Josh and Laura, you guys are rockstars.  You are such a testament to God’s glory and His faithfulness.  We love you guys so much.  You have an army of prayer warriors behind you ready to support you in any way you need.  Thank you for sharing this sweet boy with the rest of the world.  Louie’s story is far from over.  He’s still sending big waves into motion.  His story has shown so many what hope looks like and how big God’s love really is.  And his journey has brought awareness to issues that people don’t know about and don’t want to talk about.  Pediatric cancer takes the lives of thousands of children every year and yet only receives 4% of government funding for cancer research.  These children, our children, deserve more than 4%.  For ways you can get involved or for more information about childhood cancer research, I urge you to check out The Truth365.

Louie’s Celebration of Life will be on Friday at Community Church and I was thinking how awesome it would be if on Friday we could all do three random acts of kindness, one for each year of Louie’s life.  Can you image those big waves on the ocean?  It’s all about spreading love and showing people how awesome our God is.  You’re never too little to do big things for God.  

If you’re looking for somewhere to start with your random act of kindness, please consider donating to St. Baldrick’s and help fight childhood cancer.  Laura is going to be shaving her head later this month (yes, for reals) to honor Louie.  Cancer’s a big a scary giant, but our God’s bigger.  And He uses us to do big things.

Fly high, sweet boy.  Give Jesus a big fist bump for me.

You can follow Louie’s journey on Facebook and Instagram by searching for #TeamSlice432.

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19 thoughts on “My Superhero

  1. Sue Bambery says:

    Wow…incredible Maggie. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story when so many of us just can’t find the words.

    • Leslie Blair says:

      This story hurt my heart as i read it…but it also warmed my heart.. thank you so much for sharing. and the pictures are wonderful.. I did not know little Louie, but i have known his grandma Since she was alittle girl. Yes little Louie is in the arms of God now..He is dancing with him.

  2. Ruth Chester says:

    Your thoughts and words are so well written and your photographs really capture the spirit of a true warrior. We have been following Louie’s journey and praying for him and his family. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photographs and for your suggestions on ways to pay it forward. Louie has certainly touched our lives and his short life taught us volumes.

  3. Karen Smith says:

    My heart is broken too. I do not know this family but that doesn’t matter. As I sit here with tear filled eyes I know that I know Jesus is holding him close. I pray God will give this family peace. A peace that passes all human understanding. I will promise and commit to doing 3 nice things for total strangers Friday evening if I have to make 3 trips to Starbucks, chic filet and Target or wherever! It would be great for us all to share what we did in the “Vanderslice” wave!

  4. Faith Blanford says:

    This is awesome & truly heartfelt. Louie & his family touched so many lives. Thank you Laura & Josh for sharing Louie’s incredible journey with us. He is dancing with the angels & will be there to greet you when your time in this earth is over. Heartfelt prayers to all of you.

  5. Barbara Lester says:

    I did not know Louie or his family but followed his journey. I met a beautiful lady Laura Cartino in Florida this summer at at softball tournament in Disney World’s ESPN. We follow each other on Facebook. One day I made the connection wirh Laura and Louie and his family. Although my prayers for Louie were absolutely heartfelt I now had a personal connection that tore at my heartstrings. Laura kept me updated via personal messages through Facebook. The courage of this family and this child warrior amazes me. The strength God bestows on us during the times we think we will never live through. Louie and his family fought the fight and has shown to many of us that we are survivors we can fight the fight with all our being. Giving up was never an option for this beautiful family. I will continue to pray for Louie and his family and friends that they may believe in the Devine intervention and know that Louie is with all the Angels and free of all the pain. God Bless you in your giving such a beautiful account of the journey that has brought us here today. 😇🌹

  6. Stacey Tatum says:

    These are such beautiful pictures. You absolutely feel the love and the huge impact had on everyone who followed this story. I went to school with Laura and as a mom myself, my heart breaks for her and her family. I may not be in VA anymore but I followed this story and I am appreciative and hope it helps out other families going through the same tragedy. God bless u Louie!!!! Fly high with the angels sweet boy!

  7. molly4estharms says:

    There’s a huge knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat as I read this. My heart aches for you all. I would be honored to do 3 random acts of kindness on Friday in remembrance of that beautiful little angel. You’re all in my prayers.

  8. Cate Baker says:

    So sorry for the loss of this sweet boy. My heart is breaking for this amazing family. My daughter has fought this fight also, and you are correct that 4% is nowhere even close to being enough to fund research for new treatments for our babies. Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach is raising money via “The Dolphin Dash” a 5k run/walk for Alex’s Lemonade Stand “. It would be wonderful if we could honor Louie by supporting this wonderful cause. Please visit oceanlakeshighschool@vbschools.com to register.

  9. Connie meekins says:

    Beautiful tribute and wonderful pictures he was a handsome little one prayers for family friends and please prayers they can get thru these sad times run with jesus Louie we will all see you one of these days

  10. Tamy Lemke says:

    Louie’s grandparents attend the same church we do. We heard about his story last year and went to the gathering at CHKD last Christmas around the time you took the pictures above. We have never met any of them, but their story has captured our hearts. My 9-year-old considers him to be like a brother to her, though they have never met and she has followed his story daily, laughing and crying along with the rest of us. We took battery operated candles with us that night and one of them has randomly flickered on and off on its own a few times since then. However, since the day Louie went to be with Jesus, that light has flickered and also come on and stayed on for sometimes hours at a time. I keep making sure it is off and it keeps coming back on. I cannot attend Louie’s celebration of life today in person for various reasons, but I am honoring his memory as you suggested. We are making ripples to help send big waves in the ocean by donating to St. Baldrick’s, donating to a fund to help build a new home for a missionary couple who is fighting through severe injuries from an accident and a husband who is now paralyzed, and purchasing encouraging books for a friend who is struggling deeply with some family issues.

    I have seen pictures online before where a family member has passed and somehow they were able to put them into a family photo in like a “ghost” fashion. It would be amazing if that could be done once the newest Vanderslice joins the team.

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful words and the precious pictures and memories.

  11. Angela says:

    This little man is ruling heaven with his huge smile and energy! Louie’s journey is an inspiration to all who followed and reads about him and his family. His legacy is showing everyone that no matter how bad he felt he had courage, love, strength and a gorgeous smile to hide the pain! Praying for his parents to get through this challenging time🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

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