Pay It Forward For Jayden
Posted on February 13, 2013, 2:00 AM
By Tom Lamb
There was a time when if someone asked me to “stand up to cancer,” I would have walked away. I knew cancer was never going to affect me. I thought all the cancer research organizations, the support groups, the marathons, and the fundraisers were just a way for people to collect money.
My past feelings are hard to admit. They plague me with a guilt that continues to this day.
On June 1, 2010, my 6-year-old son Jayden was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly I was facing this horrendous battle head-on. How could I turn to people for help that, days before, I wouldn’t have given a second thought to?
Jayden fought a gracious battle, one we were sure he would win. Cancer or not, he always lived his life with a smile on his face. I watched him get rounds of chemotherapy while playing video games, laughing and making jokes. Or get a round of chemotherapy, then play a full game of baseball. He made it look so easy. I watched him lose all his hair. I remember kissing the top of his bald head. It just made me love him more.
About two months before Jayden passed, I was at work and feeling sorry for him. I wondered, Will he ever grow up? Will he ever go to prom? Will he fall in love? Is he ever going to get married? I hurried home and woke Jayden up for school. By that point he was on so many medications that his memory was severely weakened. If I asked him anything, I would have to repeat it because he would forget it so quickly. He had been like this for around three months.
Without my asking, he looked me right in the eye and said, “Daddy, just so you know I am never going to get married.” My heart sunk when he told me this. I hadn’t spoken to anyone about what I had been thinking. My mind raced, How would my son with no memory at all know what I had been dwelling on the night before? So with concern, I asked, “Why would you say that to me buddy?”
He looked me right in the eye and said, “God needs me more. I was your angel before I was born.” I didn’t know what to make of this conversation, but I took it with great respect because I had been praying for signs from God of how Jayden’s life was going to go. I decided to get Jayden dressed for school and send him off. Later that day, I got a phone call that Jayden was falling asleep in class and could not stay awake. I raced to his side to pick him up and noticed that he was having small seizures.
That was the last real conversation that I had with Jayden. But I’m grateful for it. It was a final reminder of Jayden’s generous spirit and compassion that everyone who ever interacted with him experienced.
Throughout Jayden’s journey, I thought people would be like I had been before my son’s diagnosis and look the other way. I never expected that our whole community of Midland, Michigan would stand beside us like it was their fight too. You could probably wrap the line around the block with the people who wanted to support Jayden. They showed up with meals. They offered rides. And they were there in the hospital on November 27, 2012.
That day I held Jayden in my arms, rocking him and listening to “I Can Only Imagine” as the nurse pulled out my son’s breathing tube. I waited for him to take a breath of air, but he never did. I knew that he was leaving. I kissed him on his cheek. He had a calm about him. We played his favorite song, Brad Paisley’s “Water.” I whispered in his ear, “Daddy loves you so much, little buddy. It’s okay to go to Jesus.” I just hugged him and rocked him as he passed away.
Jayden’s story does not end there. Shortly after Jayden’s passing, something strange and special started happening in Midland. A woman went to cancel her layaway for Christmas presents because she didn’t have enough money. When they rang up her layaway to finalize the cancelling, they noticed that she only owed a penny. They showed her a receipt that read “Paying it forward, Jayden style,” from a stranger. Drive-thrus around town were going 15 to 20 minutes without anyone paying for their own meal, with each car paying for the one behind them, Jayden style. Someone even dropped a gold ring in the Salvation Army red bucket that was valued at $2000 with a note that said “Paying it forward, Jayden style.”
The movement didn’t stay inside our town’s borders, spreading across the internet and even on the news. A woman in Mississippi needed a new stove, but didn’t have the money for it. She got a text instructing her to bring two men and a truck down to the store. There, she found a stove with a story about Jayden and a note that said “Paying it forward Jayden style.” We have seen similar stories across the US and even in other countries. Jayden’s Facebook page, Keep On Truckin’ Team Jayden, is filled with them.
Every single story that we hear of people paying it forward, from a big stove down to a drink at a fast-food restaurant, reassures me that that final conversation I had with Jayden was something special. Jayden changed a community. In a small way, he changed a country. And in a large way, he changed me. Never again will I turn my back on someone facing cancer. Jayden can’t stand up to cancer anymore, so in his name, I, Tom Lamb, promise to do it for him.
Tom Lamb is from Midland, Michigan, where he is raising three beautiful children (Faith, 12, soon to be 13; Jilliyn, 11; and one in heaven, Jayden) with their stepmother, Nicole Lamb. They spent the past 2 ½ years fighting cancer by Jayden’s side, and lost him 11/27/2012, just shy of his 9th birthday. They recently started the Jayden Lamb Memorial Foundation. Through their struggles, they know what the loss of the child feels like, and the grief that the parents hold when they lose that child. The foundation will help bring hope to families that lose young children to cancer, with the hope of sending them on a VIP vacation somewhere. You can see Jayden’s journey and stories of Paying it Forward Jayden Style on: www.facebook.com/KeepOnTruckinTeamJayden
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