To my dear Elizabeth,
This week you will turn ten – a decade old. You are our millennium baby, and for that and many other reasons, you will be forever special to us.
You are the child who came after Gabriel, your brother in heaven. You are the child who would not exist if things had not have happened the way they did. By your very existence, and in the most tangible way possible, you showed us that life can follow death, hope can follow despair, and that God’s love is brighter than the sun and all the stars blended into one.
I fought for your life in ways you’ve only begun to comprehend, dear one. Through you, I learned that doctors are human and there are moments in life when a mother’s love trumps the expertise of one proud physician. I learned that sometimes we are called to fight for those we love, even when they are only an inch long.
Toward the end of my pregnancy with you, you stretched my body beyond what I thought possible. You also gave me a scare when our your cord wrapped around your shoulder, when the intensive care unit swept into our labor and delivery room and whisked you from me. And then you let us know, with that hearty cry, that you were meant to be among us. Following that: my joy – my overwhelming joy – that after all of the worries, you WERE!
Fleeting scenes I remember from your first couple of days home: fresh, purple orchids on the table from your godmother; your beautiful, brown eyes; your round little body that fit so snugly in my arms and on my chest. We skipped the crib – you slept in our room, near our bed, close to our voices.
Back then, your older sister treated you so tenderly. I wish we could replay for you the sweet scenes that took place then as you drew her nurturing instincts out of her for the first time. You were her baby doll, and for whatever reason, for a while you were “Dee Dee.” Her Dee Dee.
I also remember how, whenever the song, “Brown-eyed Girl,” came on the radio, Dad would sing it to you (it used to be “my” song but you replaced me on that, and I gladly stepped aside). Sometimes, he would sing it to you when it wasn’t on the radio. I remember your rosy cheeks and shiny eyes and your soft, chunky legs moving with glee as your eyes met. I remember you in your baptismal garb, white as snow, a sleeping beauty.
Now you, staunchly in the middle as you are, float through our world, one day as the inept younger sister, the next, as the expert older one. You will navigate well through life because you can handle either end. You are a peacemaker, ready to sacrifice if needed, but always aware of your own needs as well and determined to have them be met.
Right now, you are a comrade of mine. You are the one who looks at me with those knowing glances when your youngest brother says something adorable that we both know, if we pay too much attention to it, will throw him into a frenzy. We have a secret world, communicating only through brown-eyed glances that require no words. I cherish this bond that is so uniquely ours.
This fall, you will be the biggest fish in the small pond. Enjoy it. The following year, you’ll be the small fish in the big pond. Just don’t forget about the guppies, one of whom will be your little brother. I have no doubt you’ll come through for me in helping guide him along. You will be his safety net when he’s in need of it. Someday, this role of protector will come in handy.
I’m proud of you, Beth. You are a bright girl who is very capable in school, who requires very little help from others. You never fail to attract friends, and yet I’m proud that you are not necessarily the leader of the pack; that you will hang on the edges fairly comfortably, observing instead of insisting on being center stage. Unless, of course, you’ve earned the spotlight; at that point, you do step up to the plate and shine.
You are not perfect. None of us are. I know you get down on yourself when you mess up. Perhaps too down. But there’s no need for that. Every hour is a new hour, and life is too short to stay mired in your mistakes. You might not realize this, but your virtues far outshine any of your character flaws. You are a light, shining brightly. I see it and many others do as well. The world would be a darker place without you in it.
I hope you enjoy this week, your birthday week, and the energy it will inevitably produce as the school year comes to a close. Summer will be here soon and wonderful adventures await you. I wish for you an enjoyable year in this tenth year of your life.
With love always,
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