Before a mother of six passed away from breast cancer at the age of 39, she asked her friend to take care of her children. Now that friend is a mother of nine.
Beth Laitkep was pregnant with her sixth child when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She had an emergency C-section so that she could start receiving chemotherapy.
When Laitkep found out that her cancer had spread to her spine and brain, she looked to her close friend, Stephanie Culley, herself a mother of three, for help.
"She said to me, 'If a miracle doesn't happen and I don't make it, can you take my children as your own?' And I immediately said yes," Culley recalled to People.
The father of Laitkep's younger children left while she was battling cancer.
"We grew very, very close during that time and Beth's children became best friends with mine," Culley said. "We became a family while Beth was still alive and we love them like our own, so it made sense for me to take the kids in when she died."
When Laitkep died on May 19, Culley kept her word – she and her husband welcomed Laitkep's six children into their family.
The couple has temporary custody of the children and is due to appear in court in late June to get full custody, according to the Washington Post.
"People call me an angel, say I'm a hero, but I don't think anyone in my shoes would have done anything different," Culley said. "We believe God has blessed us in our lives, and this is the best thing we can do."
"They are exceptional kids," she added. "You can't help [but] fall in love with them. 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."
A GoFundMe page for Laitkep's children has raised more than $53,000.