To Georgia Jade, On the Occasion of Our Birthday, Year One

Another year in the books for me. I’m a whopping 47 today. And that, as you’ll come to believe soon enough, is “Really old!”

It hasn’t been a stellar year, if I can be totally honest. Health issues have reared their heads and brought me low, nearly to the brink of death. I spent some time in the hospital, wearing a flimsy gown, freezing, throwing up, and having my FUBAR kidneys poked and prodded and generally fretted over. And I am not out of the woods yet. I am on dialysis, taking a bunch more medications, eating better, trying to exercise more, and waiting on a kidney transplant.

The funny part?

I imagine your mom and dad right about now, reading this to you on your first birthday, and you bored to tears, laughing and walking away to play with your toys.

That is cool with me, kid.

Go.

I’ve watched you do it all year. Go. To loud stock car races and demolition derbies. To a farm. To bed. From here to there as you’ve crawled, then taken your first steps. Big things and small things and in between things that must have all seemed like big things to you. To your parents. To all of us as we watched you grow from a tiny little thing full of boogers to a beautiful baby girl, a toddler, a lover of life.

You don’t know any of this yet. You just smile and go and then do it again after a nap. You don’t know how just seeing your smiling face is breathtaking. Literally. Choked sobs as you do what you do. Sobs of joy, to be clear. When life hurts, you bring joy. Let me say that again . . .

When life hurts, you bring joy.

As I’ve gone through every single thing during this shitty year, I have been reminded, every time I see a picture or a video of you, of the gift this life is. Of the way a smile can light up the world. One day, you’ll understand how cheesy and cliché that sounds, but I hope you’ll also know, deep in your heart, that it is absolutely true.

A smile can light up the world.

As can so many other things we do when we live mindfully and reach out and embrace those in need. I’ve felt that embrace in innumerable ways over the course of the past few months. Among friends and family and casual acquaintances and complete strangers. Compassion and sacrifice given freely. This is the stuff of a life lived wide. Open to being a force for good.

One day, you’ll know this. You’ll have seen it lived. Been told of those who have gone before who lived that way. And how we have all benefited from the kindness of others. At every turn. In every way. If only we open our eyes and see.

But today, on your first birthday, you won’t get all that. You’ll eat cake and play with some new cool and shiny stuff and go to sleep so exhausted. With a smile on your face. And I will do the same . . .

 

 

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