I began writing a birthday post to my best girl earlier this week. It was about how, after her injury, birthdays have come to mean something more than just balloons and cake and presents. It was deep and heavy and I just don’t think the world needs more deep and heavy right now. There’s so much of that every where we turn these days. I don’t want to relive the suffering, the heartache, the injustice, the pain, the depth of what she has endured in her short nine years. Here’s what I want to put into the world today, on my darling Elena Catherine’s 9th birthday.
Love. Joy. Light. Three words that sum up my gal. She’s what the world needs right now. Who Elena is and what Elena represents is everything that is good and worthy in this life. She is an overcomer, not a victim. She is determination, not resignation. She is gratitude, not cynicism. She is perspective, not close-mindedness. She is peace, not bitterness. She is a uniter, not a divider. She is love. She is joy. She is light.
I was recently talking with Chad about what a great school year Elena had and how grateful I am for the team of people, peers and staff that cultivate this experience for her each day at her school. I expressed how lucky I feel to have her in a place where she is SO loved and celebrated. These things are all quite true, but Chad then added, “But Emm, it wouldn’t matter where we put Elena. Wherever she is, she draws people to her with that light inside her. People love her and gravitate to her wherever she is. She’s impossible not to love.” And he was right. She is love.
While it indeed breaks my heart to run through the never-ending list of suffering, enduring and overcoming that my girl has had to do in her short nine years, I have also been greeted by her every single morning with a grin, a coo and, some mornings, an uncontrollable case of the giggles. What this has taught me is that it never matters what you must endure each day, it’s how you endure that counts. There is no greater inspiration to me than this. She is joy.
Calvin and I were recently reading a book on Helen Keller. It initiated a conversation between us when I became a little emotional reading about the frustration Helen felt as a young girl who was unable to communicate. He asked why I was crying and I told him it made me sad to think that Elena may feel similarly misunderstood or frustrated since she wasn’t able to communicate, much like Helen. I told him that Mommy wishes more than anything that Elena could talk with us. Calvin is a thinker, an analyzer, and I could see the wheels turning. He just looked at me with his big, brown eyes and said, “Nah, Mommy. It’s ok that Elena doesn’t talk like we do. I love Elena just the way she is.” Imagine that. Accepting someone for exactly who they are, seeing beyond what they can’t do, and loving them just where they are. She is light.
Sometimes I like to think that when her heart stopped beating briefly that ugly November day, God held her close in His arms for those silent moments, and with a kiss sent her back to us touched by Him, a light within her burning brighter, more perfect, as a piece of heaven on Earth. I know that she was sent back to us, in her own way, perfected, special, and most importantly, with immense purpose. She is a reminder to me each and every day of the fleeting gift of life, every single morning an opportunity to love more, to laugh more, and to truly rise above the unmeaningful distractions of this world. She has changed me, as a Mom, but moreso as a human. What she has taught me and what she continues to teach me refines me, stretches me and grows me. For a little sweet pea who has never spoken a word, I’d say that’s miraculous.
Today, in honor of our Elena’s 9th birthday, do something that she does every day. Choose joy. Spread joy. Choose love. Spread love. Choose light. Spread light. Look around and choose to see what goodness surrounds all of us. Think of Elena. Think of what she chooses every day. Be the light where you are. Love people for who they are, where they are, what their abilities are. And always approach your day with a smile, a coo or an uncontrollable giggle.
To my darling Laney Lou on your 9th birthday, indeed you are my little slice of heaven on Earth. You inspire me, your Daddy, your brothers and the world around you with all that you are. Your abilities are what make you, you and you couldn’t be more perfect. I delight in your smile, your giggle fits and your big, colorful bows. You are the heartbeat of our family and it is a privilege, a true honor to watch you grow into the beautiful, little girl that you are. Happy birthday my love.