09/09/11 — Goodbye, sweet girl: Layla Williford left a legacy that many adults do not have chance to create

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Goodbye, sweet girl: Layla Williford left a legacy that many adults do not have chance to create

She did not have much time here on Earth, but in her three short years, little Layla Williford has impacted the lives of thousands of adults in and around Wayne County.

And her parents, Jenifer and Weldon, have taught a community about priorities, dignity and courage in the face of insurmountable odds.

Some heard the Willifords' story when Layla was named the 2011 Relay for Life honorary children's co-chairperson.

Others had already been touched by the family's battle through the diagnosis and treatment of Layla's spinal and brain cancer.

We shed tears for a little girl who deserved better.

We hoped for the best for her and her parents.

We prayed that perhaps, this time, there would be a miracle.

But, unfortunately, it was not to be.

Jenifer and Weldon lost their little angel Thursday evening, an end they might have known was coming, but one they must be devastated to be living.

Wayne County opened its heart to Layla, in part because her story was so compelling, but also because she and her family reminded all of us that life is short. They taught us that the limitations imposed by sickness and a doctor's diagnosis do not have to define a life -- or to limit its possibilities.

Layla lived a full life -- and so, too, did her parents -- unfettered by the label of "cancer" or the worry about the number of years that constitute a life well-lived. They made the most of every day -- a lesson so many of us will never forget.

Layla might have only been 3 years old, but she was a fighter, a little girl with a serious diagnosis who taught many how to live and to battle a disease that often shows no mercy.

She was a joy to watch and an inspiration to all of us who will continue on with our lives more thoughtfully because of the lessons one little girl taught us.

There are no words to comfort her parents and the rest of Layla's family. Their loss cannot be fathomed.

But Jenifer and Weldon gave their daughter the gift of not just love, but a legacy. She will be remembered every time a balloon is let go at a Relay for Life event and will be permanently etched in the memories of all those who were lucky enough to have met her.

She will inspire more people to join the fight against cancer -- and help raise money so that other children might have a chance to beat the foe that she was not able to overcome.

She will be a light on days when it seems dark and will remind those who dream of a cure for cancer and those whose lives have been touched by the disease to keep fighting no matter what the odds.

So, goodbye little Layla, sleep well.

You can rest knowing that you have done more than raise awareness for cancer and the need for more research and treatments.

You have taught a community how to live.

Published in Editorials on September 9, 2011 12:43 PM