Last month I wrote about my 3-year-old granddaughter, Madi, and her fight with a glioma brain tumor.  This month I’d like to share a remarkable experience that occurred during Madi’s eight-month struggle.

As news of Madi’s diagnosis began to spread at her pre-school and in her neighborhood, many people reached out to Madi’s family, wanting to help in whatever way possible.  Madi’s family were the only Church members in their neighborhood in Columbus, Georgia, but tragedy seems to have a way of uniting people across religious and political differences.  Madi’s family was overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and the sweet offers of help that came from both within and without the Church.

One particularly touching example was of a young girl, Tori, who was 8-years-old.  Tori was participating in a beauty pageant and one of the requirements was to do some sort of community service.  Tori’s mom was friends with Madi’s next door neighbor.  The neighbor told Tori’s mom about Madi.

When Tori’s mom learned about Madi’s sickness, she told Tori of Madi’s struggle and how heartsick she was for this tiny girl.  As soon as she heard about Madi, Tori knew instantly that she wanted to help.  She figured the very best thing she could do was help find a way to heal Madi.  After thinking and thinking about what would be the most helpful, Tori finally decided to help Madi in her struggle by raising funds for childhood brain tumor research.  Tori excitedly called Madi about her idea.  Madi was very touched by Tori’s interest in her needs.

Tori got busy immediately going door to door.  She was tireless as she went from neighbor to neighbor, explaining about Madi’s illness and about her desire to help in a meaningful way.  She raised over $600!  It made Madi feel so special to have this new friend working so hard to try to help find a cure for her.  Tori and Madi had a special bond with each other, right from the beginning.

The much-anticipated day of the beauty pageant came.  Madi begged her mother to take her to the pageant.  Of course, her mother, Angie, was happy to take her.  They slipped into the backstage.  Madi was in total awe of all the beautiful girls with their dresses and make up.   They seemed so elegant!  Madi squealed in delight as she saw each elaborate dress.  Unlike the girls in their amazing dresses, Madi was there in her little polka dot dress.  She was bloated up from all the steroids she’d been given. But an incredible thing happened: every one of them made her feel like she was the most beautiful girl in the room.  She glowed with joy.

Then came time for the pageant to begin.  Madi quickly found her seat in the audience.  To Madi’s delight, Tori won the pageant.  Madi was thrilled!  She was clapping wildly when she was startled as she heard her own name called with an invitation to come join Tori on stage.  She couldn’t believe her ears!   Madi jumped up and scrambled onto the stage, running to give her new friend a big hug.  Then she was completely stunned to receive her very own sash and flowers and crown.   Check out her expression in her picture!  It was a magical day for this little girl who had been enduring so much suffering through her non-stop chemo and radiation treatments.

And Tori, too, was beaming from ear to ear as she engulfed her new little friend in a big embrace.

This friendship was such a blessing to Madi.  While she had been surrounded by family during her ordeal, she had, of necessity, had to cut off time with her friends.  She was at the hospital every day.  Also, three-year-old friends can’t really understand what is happening in a case like this.

But the friendship with Tori was a special gift.  Tori was old enough to understand what was happening to Madi.  Her friendship made Madi feel less alone.  It was very comforting to her.

This is where the story becomes almost unbelievable.   A couple of weeks later, on April 14, Tori collapsed at school and her skin had a greyish tinge.  Everyone panicked.  She was rushed to Atlanta, to the Eggleston hospital where she, also, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Unbelievable!

Tori’s brain tumor was on the brain stem and the doctors thought it could be operable.  They scheduled emergency surgery for the next morning.   Angie’s neighbor called her and told her that Tori’s mom said Tori was scared and wanted to see Madi.

When Angie told Madi about her new friend’s request, Madi was insistent that they go immediately to Tori’s room.  She jumped right up into bed with her.   Madi had brought Tori some presents and some ice-cream.  Giggling and laughing, they shared the ice-cream together.  This was probably the scariest night of Tori’s life.  Tori was comforted by Madi’s coming to be with her.  But finally, it was time to go.  Madi and Angie assured Tori that they’d be praying for her the next morning.

The next morning Tori was wheeled into surgery.  Madi was praying her little heart out for her new friend.  After all, now she had a friend who truly understood what Madi was going through.  It was tremendously comforting to have a friend who understood.

Madi’s  prayers, and the prayers of so many others were heard.  Tori’s surgery was successful!

Seven months later, on Nov. 8, 2011, Madi lost her battle with her brain tumor.

Tori was devastated.  She made a special angel ornament to hang on their family’s Christmas tree every year.  She often visited Madi’s grave.

Tori is alive today.  She’s 20 years old.  She has had a lot of health challenges because the drugs for children’s cancer are really tough on kids.  She’s still raising funds for children’s cancer research to try to find better drugs for children.  She’s set to graduate from Georgia Southern University in 2024.

The two moms still comment on each other posts.  Tori’s mom recently wrote Angie, “We still love Madi.  We’re still thinking of her.  We still hang her angel on our tree every year.  We call Nov. 8 our Angel-versary—the day when Madi became an angel.  Sending love from both of us.”

I often have the opportunity to teach in forums on service.  I always emphasize how the person rendering service is often the person most blessed by the service—even more than the person receiving the service.  It’s a remarkable phenomenon.  I think Tori’s story is a beautiful example of this.  In this case, both girls were blessed by Tori’s kind service.

I love that Gospel principles work in our lives whether we are three-years-old or whether we are 83 years old.  They are eternal principles.  I once excitedly shared with my friend, Debbie Harrison, the results of a recent medical trial that showed that people rendering service were typically much more healed by the service than the recipient of the service.  Debbie’s reply was almost indignant, “Seriously?  We needed science to tell us that??  We’ve known that in the Gospel for years!”  She was right, of course.  I’ve seen this phenomenon manifested over and over again in my work in India with families affected by leprosy, and as a mother.  How blessed we are to know that when we walk in the footsteps of our Savior, we not only can bless others, but we are also abundantly blessed!