This story of love shared by Candace Johnson.
Where does one seek to find hope? Where can one truly find peace, feel at home, and be completely real? When feeling lost and unsure of oneself, where can one learn to love?
These answers and much more came to my family in a tiny, prickly, 1 oz baby. You see, in our home, love, and hope are 4-legged words. No parent wants to see their child hurt, struggling, sad, looking for their place in this crazy world but it’s a reality we sometimes have to face. Our daughter, Diem, was hurting. Our once bubbly blue-eyed girl was now broken, fading away, the outside world had dimmed her sparkle and we didn’t know what to do. As her birthday approached a crazy spur of the moment idea popped into this crazy momma’s head. I grabbed Diem and said, “Let’s play hooky and head out of town!”
My husband and I grabbed our little one and headed out to find, what ended up being exactly what she needed. A tiny, pokey, adorable little ball of fur. A hedgehog she named Bryce. Bryce changed her life, her sparkle was brighter than ever. We had our girl back!
Fast forward four years. Bryce was diagnosed with cancer right before our girl’s birthday. We had the talk no parent wanted to have. We told Diem, Bryce was going to die. After many tears were shed our little princess dried her tears and promised Bryce that the best was yet to come. You see, she “Conversed” with Bryce and together they compiled a bucket list.
Every day, when she arrived home from school, she set out to help him check off his bucket list wishes. Meet a dinosaur, see the Eiffel Tower, become a superhero, dress up for Halloween, go trick or treating, just to name a few.
Bryce wanted to go to a concert and meet the band, so a band was formed.
Here’s a look at his tumor.
These are from the night we watched the sunset on our dock, one of the more emotional bucket list tasks.
After many tears, our oldest daughter took Diem down by the water just the two of them and Bryce. They cried, laughed, and hugged.
This completely melted my heart. All these tasks and more were completed, not just by Bryce and our daughter, but by our entire family.
The last check mark was placed on the notebook page and his list was complete! Sadly, reality set in. Bryce’s tumor grew and he began to fade. My husband and I knew it was time. Trying to prepare for this talk was beyond awful. We sat down with our daughter and Bryce. She let him out of his blanket to come see us, but he couldn’t make it. She looked up at us, so beautiful, so strong, so wise and said, “This isn’t the Bryce he wants to be, it’s time.”
She created a special box for him made out of a baby book/box. She wrote him love notes.
The night she told us it was time, she made his final resting place. In his box she placed her love notes and his favorite toy and blanket.
I’ve never been more proud of her in my entire life as I was that moment. He was starting to suffer and his quality of life was diminishing very quickly, she made the most unselfish act anyone can make for someone they love.
One of their favorite things to do was bathe Bryce by candlelight. Bryce had a little boat and Diem would push him around for hours.
The day before taking him to the vet that’s all she wanted to do with him. He was too weak to play so she just held him, gave him one last boat ride, and kept him warm
The next morning we called our vet and arrangements were made. I stood in amazement as I watched our girl hand over her baby, her soul mate, her lifeline, to the hands that would help him cross the rainbow bridge.
His final resting place, the sand pits on our land, facing the mountains and the river.
On his bucket list was to see the Big Dipper. After he passed, I had a star named after him, right by the Big Dipper.
Diem received the most amazing gift, a necklace with the coordinates of his star and its placement by the Big Dipper
I honestly didn’t know what would happen next, how would be cope, how would we heal? He was more than a hedgehog, he was an angel that brought our baby back to us. That night, she looked up at me, I feared her sparkle would be gone, but I was wrong, it was brighter than ever and it was different, it had a fire behind it! “We gave Bryce a great life!” She said, “many animals don’t have that, I’d like a new baby please, one that needs me like I needed Bryce. One that maybe has not had the best life, maybe been abandoned, one that I can show what a great life feels like.”
I’m happy to say, we found just that, in an adorable, frightened, trembling little bunny that would become known as Stewy! Left by the only family he’s ever known, malnourished, a matted coat that could only be saved by shaving him all the way down, he needed us. I try and believe everything happens for a reason, losing Bryce is one of the hardest things our family has gone through, but it was Bryce that gave us our daughter back and in turn, made her strong enough to be able to do the same for another baby that had lost himself. I think the rescuers became the rescued ❤
She held Stewy and they rubbed noses. We all cried. Diem and Stewy laid in bed snuggling that night and I remember hearing her tell him that he was safe now. She also told him that he would never be alone or cold again, and that he would be loved forever.