At first glance, this viral picture looks like a simple image of a car seat. In reality, it's a devastating last car ride for a four-year-girl who recently lost her battle with cancer.
For the first three months of Ellie Walton's life, her parents say their biggest problem was "deciding what brand of diapers to buy." That all changed when their baby girl was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Over the next four years, Ellie astonished doctors by surviving a total of 17 surgeries and surpassing milestones they said she'd never reach. From simply rolling over as a baby to learning to walk and talk, she was an inspiration to all who knew her, particularly her mom, dad, and big sister, Ava.
Despite 17 surgeries, 28 rounds of chemo, 42 days of radiation, and countless days in the hospital, Ellie was a playful and loving child. Her mom, Sarah, told ABC News, "She was the kind of kid who would have brain surgery on Monday and by Tuesday she wanted to leave the hospital so she could get a Slurpee."
In the beginning of January, Ellie became more active than usual. Then, suddenly, she stopped eating. Doctors told the Waltons she only had a few days to live.
On the morning of the 15th, Ellie's breathing became shallow and labored. Knowing that this was the end, her family surrounded her bedside and spoke about Disneyland, dinosaurs, and her other favorite things. As her sister, Ava, sang "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," Ellie took her last breath.
Instead of a funeral, the family held a "Celebration of Life." They painted Ellie's nails and dressed her in a specially made gown that was handcrafted from Sarah's wedding dress. They then had her cremated. After picking up her ashes from the funeral home, the family buckled Ellie into her car seat for one last car ride.
Sarah shared the image on Facebook, where it quickly went viral. Many parents who've lost children have been touched by her message, which reads:
"You should be here.
We made you a custom urn. You would love it baby girl. Unfortunately temporary urns are just boxes. That wasn't good enough for you, so I decorated it until your perfect urn comes in.
Driving you home the other day, I was scared, but buckling you in felt normal even though none of this is normal, none of this is right. You should be here. Death is so selfish baby girl. My heart is broken. I'm literally hurting and torn. I know you're in a better place, and yet no place is better than in my arms. I know you're happy and pain free, and yet I want you here. It's been two months since I last kissed your cheek or played with your hair. It's been two months of pure torture, agony, and despair. All I want back is our daily life...I want it back. I want hospital visits back, and chemo back, I want your laughter, and your joyous heart back. The things that brought my heart so much pain only a few months ago I so desperately want back today.
Life's not fair baby girl. You know that better than anyone. I do know that your life brought me so much joy, and looking back, I'm thankful that I made sure to tell you every single day just how much I loved you. I will forever be grateful to have been your mommy.
Baby girl I don't want you watching over me thinking that your passing only causes me pain. You see baby girl, I would gladly take this pain over and over again if it meant that I got to be your momma. 'Cause had I never known you, I would have never known pure happiness. I would have never known to live every moment as your last, and I would have never known what true bravery, strength, and courage looked like. This will change baby girl. I will make it change. I never want another mom to feel this way, and I will fight for these other kids so that no other mom has to buckle in ashes of their babies because you have always been worth #morethan4."