True heroes among us

A dying mother’s request to a best friend — “Will you take my babies?” — has turned into a story of inspiration for the world.

Stephanie Culley, of Cluster Springs, is that friend.

Beth Laitkep was battling breast cancer when it spread, ultimately taking her life on May 19 at the age of 39.

Laitkep and Cully were friends in high school, but grew apart after graduation. Reconnected through social medial, Culley rekindled her friendship with Laitkep in 2014.

The families grew close. The kids begged to spend time with each other. It was almost like the bonds were meant to be.

Then cancer struck.

Diagnosed two years ago while pregnant, Laitkep thought she was making progress with treatments.

Then the nightmare spiraled.

In April, the doctor called Culley to say that Laitkep’s cancer had spread to her brain, spine and nervous system, and there wasn’t anything else they could do.

The mother of six was facing only a few weeks of life.

With Culley by her side, the two sat in the hospital together as Laitkep said, “Will you take my babies? Will you do this for me and keep them together?”

“I said, ‘in a heartbeat. I’ll do whatever we have to do,”’ Culley recalled, a testament to love and faith.

Culley and her husband, Donnie, are now raising not only their three children, 10-year-old Cole, 6-year-old Hayden and 2-year-old Calen, but also Laitkep’s six children, Will, 15; Selena, 14; Jaxson, 11; Dallas, 10; Lily, 5; and Ace, 2.

“God has really laid a blanket of peace over us,” Culley said. “We have adjusted really well. Her children know she is an angel and is with us every day. They have accepted what they have been dealt.”

A new family is growing from the spirit of friendship.

As the word of this incredible heartbreaking story spread, national news outlets traversed on quiet Halifax County to tell this one-of-a-kind story.

An outpouring of support has ensued, including a GoFundMe page that vaulted to tens of thousands of dollars.

What this family is doing proves there are still people who put human kindness, love and devotion above all else.

What a wonderful world it would be if we had more like heroes like this.