When I first discovered cake decorating in the summer of 2011 it had been a year since losing my mother to kidney cancer, a year and a half since losing my grandmother, and I had just been downsized from my job. I was in really rough shape. Most days I felt lost, most nights I jolted awake seeing my mothers face as she looked laying in the hospice bed… gone from this world. I sobbed myself to sleep for months after she passed and the world appeared as though covered in a grey film. The first few months I do not even really remember. At that point I began to explore the cake world, looking around at all the beautiful works of art and wishing I could make them. Then I found Icing Smiles on facebook and sat and read story after story of child after child battling terminal illness- many of whom never got to see their cakes or only lived a short while after. I cried for new reasons then. I made a promise to myself that I would work as hard as I could until I became good enough that Icing Smiles would ask me to make a dream cake for one of these incredible children. In August of 2012 they emailed me asking if I could make a dream cake for a young lady in Oviedo who was living with neuroblastoma and who liked to film make up tutorials on YouTube. My heart leapt in my chest and when they said they had also asked someone else but had not heard back I very fiercely said I will do it! This felt like the most important thing I had ever been asked to do in my life and I knew in my bones that I had to be the one to do it and no one else. I wanted to see what this child looked like and get to know her in some small way so I sat and started watching her videos. And fell in love completely with Talia Castellano. That afternoon I felt my heart crack and I cried so hard for this beautiful child with wisdom in her eyes and mischief in her smile who radiated joy even though she knew this disease would probably take her life. I was in awe of her. Eventually I found out that celebrity was fast approaching her life as the media showed interviews, blogs talked about her and people around the world really sat up and started taking note of this tiny firecracker with the face of an angel. I worked my heart out on her cake. It was the biggest I had ever made at that time, it had a lot of little things to be included that made Talia happy and all I could think about was if this turns out to be this childs last birthday I have to do everything I can to give her the best of me. She is celebrating her very existence. Her birth. Her life. This is the way all families should see their children- as a precious gift that we are not guaranteed to get to keep. Her party was incredible. There were gambling tables, candy and cookie tables, an Elvis, a photo booth, DJ, the works. As I waited, standing out of the way of the friends and family gathering, a hush fell over this huge room. A feeling of excitement. A buzz that I could almost feel against my skin. And I knew she was there. This tiny gorgeous girl in hot pink surrounded by all of her sweet friends. A crowd of happiness and support. The air in that room was just different than it had been before. She changed it. Just being her energy filled self. Talia moved from table to table, looking, touching, smiling, her friends right there with her. My husband and I were in the back by the cake table. I already had tears in my eyes seeing the reality of her. All of the reality of her. The beauty and the terribleness of what she carried on her shoulders. She was brought finally to her cake and her face lit up and it was all I could do to not sob. That is how I feel, now, remembering and writing this. She put her arms around me and I loved her like she was mine. She smelled so pretty and sweet and was so tiny and frail but her eyes were so big and knowing. She had seen and felt things I could tell. Felt them deeply. She thanked me so kindly and told me she loved her cake and then as the cameras started flashing, being the savvy young lady she is, she looks at me and says “Which side do you want to work first?” and it struck me as so funny that she looked so delicate and frail but oh no she knew exactly what to do and what she wanted. From the moment her arms went around me to thank me I vowed that I would stand witness to each of her days until there were no more days. I knew I could pray for her but that only God could ever save her. That she was something so special this world could not contain her. I stood back and watched her smiling and laughing with her friends. Before we left that night the song We Are Young came on and all of the kids were circled around Talia dancing and jumping and I fought the tears again. Because yes, that night, she was young, and she did set the world on fire. I play that song often and think of that moment when she had everything within her. The fire, the passion, the life, the energy, and the kindness. All that made her Talia. Every day for nearly a year I have followed Talia on her social media sites, watched her on Ellen, at the music festival, read news articles and interviews, watched her vlogs. Loved her. Wished she would be here forever taking over the world one heart at a time. As I bore witness to her journey I changed. I stopped jolting awake and sobbing so often, I stopped fearing so deeply that since my family has died one by one that I would be next, felt my fears and defiantly said I will do it anyway, felt ill and told myself if Talia can live, truly live, with this beast she lives with then I can live with whatever was making me uncomfortable. I slowly began to let go of my mother and all the other family I have lost in the last 3 years. I began to realize that whatever beast I live with I cannot let it define or break me. That I can use it as fuel. That I can look that beast in the eyes and say yes you may be fearsome and mighty but I am bigger and stronger and you will not keep me from feeling joy. I began to heal. Because of this little wise girl who never even knew what she had done for my heart and life. Talia earned her angel wings on Tuesday, July 16th 2013 at 11:22 am. And I hope she now knows how deeply I thank her for what she gave to me and how she blessed me without ever knowing she had. May God bless you, Talia.[nggallery id=31]