No one knows how many days they have on this earth. But Bill Kohler knew his 10-year-old son, Ayden, didn't have many. After doctors diagnosed Ayden with a rare cancer, they guessed he had one year left to live, at best. He made it eight months. But Bill and Ayden did so much together to make the most of those months. And when the cancer finally won out, this dad's heartbreaking goodbye is a tearful reminder to cherish the ones you love while they're here.
When Bill Kohler, an army veteran, came back from Iraq, he was broken. He turned to the bottle for comfort until God sent a tiny angel to save him. That angel was Ayden.
"My whole world changed," Bill said. "He saved my life."
After Ayden's birth, Bill completely turned his life around.
"I just threw myself into him," Bill said. "Once that happened, it was like a bunch of good things started happening. I finally got into the VA, I started therapy."
Ayden grew into an active, fun loving child. Always on the move, Ayden played a ton of sports. But when he collapsed suddenly at football practice, they learned something was seriously wrong.
Only A Little Time Left
At first, doctors thought it might just be a concussion. But Ayden's health just got worse. He started losing his motor and verbal skills.
"He was so lethargic," his dad recalled. "I had to carry him everywhere. He couldn't walk. He was losing motor function, constantly sleeping. The look in his eye was just a daze, like he wasn't even there."
That's when doctors found a tumor on the 10-year-old's brain stem, which extended to his cerebellum. They diagnosed him with a rare cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.
The prognosis wasn't good. Doctors estimated Ayden had only eight to twelve months left to live. And with such little time left, Bill was determined to make the most of it.
Bill and Ayden filled any time between doctors visits and treatments with adventures. Strangers from all over donated through a GoFundMe page so Ayden could work his way through his bucket list. He and his dad took hunting and fishing trips, attended basketball and football games, and even went backstage at the WWE to meet his wrestling heroes.
"We're trying to cram a lifetime into a few months is what we're trying to do," Bill said.
In God's Hands
As Ayden's health continued to decline, it got harder to do things. But just spending time with the ones he loved was enough.
"No matter how this turns out son, I will be by your side," Bill promised. "The whole way."
And as his time on this earth grew shorter, the conversations grew more difficult. But Bill leaned on a higher power for strength.
"What if I don't get better and die?" Ayden asked him.
"It's in God's hands," Bill replied.
And finally the time came for Ayden to find healing beyond this earth.
Dad's Heartbreaking Goodbye
When Ayden passed, it was at home. The house was packed with everyone who loved the little boy so dearly. His dad was preparing to do an interview with a local news station when he was called into his son's room. Ayden was gone, but his dad's heartbreaking goodbye was caught on tape, which he allowed the news outlet to share.
"I'm sorry I that couldn't do more," Bill lamented over his son's body. "Go run again. Play again. . . You've given me the purpose in my life."
Those final, tender moments are heart-wrenching. It's a powerful reminder to make the most of each day. We know Ayden has found healing with his Heavenly Father above. But our hearts ache for the grief his earthly family is experiencing.
Bill's hope in sharing Ayden's story has always been to help raise awareness of pediatric cancer. And we know that God will always find a way to use our pain for something greater.
“There has to be a purpose in all this,” Bill said. “And I think bringing attention to (DIPG), trying to get more funding, is what we’re trying to do. I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”
Neighbors turned the street a sick girl’s favorite color just before she headed to Heaven.