Keeping a friendship from schooldays to the brink of middle age is a wonderful thing. Being willing to change your life in a radical way for such a friend must be exceptional. But that’s what Stephanie Culley did when her best friend, Beth Laitkep, died of breast cancer last month at the age of 39.
Beth asked Stephanie if she would take care of her children, who numbered not just one or two, but six. The children themselves chose Stephanie to take their mother’s place. And Stephanie and her husband said yes. They already had three children of their own.
Doesn’t that bowl you over? The Culleys increased their family from three to nine children overnight, and they are looking to make this permanent. First they have to get legal custody, then later, they say, they will discuss adoption.
Others in their Virginia community also helped the dying mother and her children, and a GoFundMe page has raised over $20,000, but Stephanie and her husband Donnie now have to be mom and dad to the bereaved children – the youngest of whom is two – as well as their own. That’s heroic.
But the Culleys see it as a kind of thank-you to God for the blessings they have received in their family life. Stephanie told the Washington Post: “We believe God has blessed us in our lives, and this is the best thing we can do.” She even talks as though God has done them a special favour:
“They are exceptional kids. You can’t help fall in love with them,” she said about the newest members of the family. “That day was the first day of our new life. I feel like our life is complete now. Those six kids were the six links we were missing from our lives.”
One obvious blessing is the fact that the Culleys have an intact family. Beth’s children were not so lucky. The father to the older children wasn’t in the picture, and the father to the younger children left as their mother was battling cancer, reports The Post. That the two mothers stayed firm friends for so long was certainly a blessing to the Laitkep family.
Friendship and faith have fostered a very special kind of generosity in this case. It’s a heart-warming and encouraging story at a time when we are asked to believe that faith is superfluous to human wellbeing, and all you need is a big, kindly government to make up for life’s misfortunes.