Emma battled cancer for most of her life. At seven months old, she was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor and her family has left no stone unturned to help her. When she was six, she and her family visited Boston for her treatment, which led to an unpleasant encounter. Brent Gehring was carrying his daughter after dinner, and a total stranger called out to him, “What the f**k are you doing? That’s what’s wrong with kids. Make her walk.”
For a moment, Brent was enraged. But he chose to respond calmly, saying,
“My daughter has been carrying my faith and my strength for the past 5 years since she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She can’t walk but I am happy to carry her because of all the amazing things she has taught me through the years. So I would advise you not to address my daughter in any way other than respectful.”
A Powerful Moment of Kindness
Brent shared this exchange on social media, along with the many things he’s learned from Emma. “I thought this is a powerful moment and a powerful time to share a story of the right way of doing things. To think I would be sitting here five years after post-diagnosis and think that this has been a gift, is crazy.” 
Brent and the stranger talked further and by the end, they were both crying. “One that needed to have his eyes opened to what real life and real love is and one that is always needing a reminder that good can come from any situation,” Brent wrote in a Facebook post. Brent even thanked the stranger for his comment because of its amazing learning experience for everyone. Because of Emma’s condition, the family, including her two brothers Aiden and Easton, went to Boston every three months. And a few days after that trip, the family learned their daughter would need her seventh round of chemotherapy. 
Emma’s tumor started right behind her right eye then spread to the right side of her brain. At the time of this incident, the tumor took over a third of her brain, making her unable to walk without a walker.
“You take for granted that your children will be healthy and to hear that one of them is not I think is just a really hard thing as a parent to understand and come to grips with,” said Kathryn Gehring, Emma’s mother.
“A student of Brent’s coined the phrase, ‘stay Emma Strong,’ and it has caught fire on Twitter as #EmmaStrong,” states the about page on the Emma Strong Facebook page. Since then Emma Strong became a registered nonprofit organization that funds brain tumor research.
Unfortunately, Emma passed away on December 12, 2020, at age eight.
“We have no comprehension of how to do this thing called life without Emma,” her family posts the day their daughter passed, “but we will go forward knowing that she is without pain for the first time in her life. We look forward to the day we see her again someday in heaven. Emma, we will miss you more than you can ever understand.”
In the days before her passing, Emma was in the hospital surrounded by her family. She struggled with seizures, headaches, and vomiting from the tumor swelling in her brain. Her family had rushed her to the emergency room on November 29. She had multiple surgeries from then to try and ease the symptoms.
On December 7, Emma was visited by her brothers and grandparents. Brent wrote a beautiful post that day.
“God gave us an amazing gift yet again when Emma woke up and talked to her brothers/grandparents with lots of smiles and laughter this afternoon. She has struggled tonight with pain and more episodes but it really felt good to see Emma and be together as a family today.”
Spreading Kindness For Their Daughter
The last post on the Emma Strong page is from May 24, 2021, which would have been Emma’s ninth birthday. Of course, there’s no way to ever fully recover from such a loss, but the family is turning their grief into kindness and encouraging others to do the same. “On Emma’s 1st heavenly birthday we are attempting to celebrate all things Emma. One of the goals for the day will be to make others’ days better by completing random acts of kindness… We would love to see a day of Emma helping make the world a better place today.”