It's the new year and as most of us are fond of doing around this time, I've been reflecting on the past 12 months and pondering the year ahead.
But enough about reflection, for now. What I really wanted to do, was show you and tell you about the most special gift that I received this Christmas. Don't get me wrong... I really love everything that I received, but there is one gift that stands out among the rest - and in the spirit of full disclosure, made me cry. They were familiar tears, but more than anything else, they were a pure manifestation of the deepest love I have in my heart. A mother's love. I honestly felt like my heart would bust wide open.
Our grown daughter is the light of our lives. She's beautiful and she's smart, but what makes her so incredibly special, is her heart. She possesses an infinite capacity for love, compassion and empathy. When she was just a tiny wisp of a girl, she would beg me to stop the car whenever we would pass someone along the street who was elderly or looked a bit disheveled. For some reason, she always assumed that these folks were all alone in the world and she insisted that we take them home with us, where they'd be safe and warm and we could take care of them. It usually took the rest of the day, to convince her that they'd be OK.
Although I thanked her later when she called on Christmas morning and even admitted that it made me cry, I don't know if she had any idea how deeply her gift impacted me. I won't go into all of the detail right now, but it's something she made for me as a kind of remembrance of her little sister, who we lost eleven years ago.
You see, her father and I spent an awful lot of time away from home during the time that our youngest was fighting for her life. We thought constantly about our first born during that time, but the hospital was over an hour away from our home and during the few hours a day that we weren't at the hospital, we pretty much moved in with a family member who lived close by, while she stayed with friends and family back home.
She was sixteen at the time and very much in her own world of hormones and teenage angst, and no matter how many times I asked if she wanted to talk about it with me or her dad, or anyone at all, the reply was always the same. "No, mom. I'm fine. I talk to my friends." We spoke on the phone every day that we couldn't spend with her and she came down with family members when she could, but it was incredibly hard on all of us. I can't even begin to tell you how it can tear you up inside when you are faced with spending all of your time and energy focusing on the needs of one of your children, while the other needs you just as much.
She still keeps her feelings very guarded. As much as I wish she would share her innermost thoughts with me, we all have our own way of coping and moving forward... and I respect that. What keeps me from worrying too much about her, is that I know that she always finds a way to express the things she feels. This time, it was through her beautiful handmade gift.
When I unwrapped the package, the first thing that I saw were the blue letters, printed in her own hand. As I tore the paper away further, I saw one and then another brightly colored leaf, lovingly and carefully applied to the branches of the tree. I knew the words without looking at them. I'd read them, over and over again, day after day, night after night, sitting in a dimly lit hospital room.
But I still felt the need to read them out loud. So, I cleared my throat and began. I read the familiar words, as my husband sat and listened while I struggled to get the words out. Without lifting my head from the frame in my hands, I knew that his eyes were filling up with the same salty, stinging tears that were threatening to spill out of my own.
Like most parents, we always wondered if we were saying and doing the right things. Did we listen well enough or push hard enough when it mattered? Should we have done things differently? Did anything we said or did right, sink in when it was supposed to?
I have my answer when I see this beautiful child who is now an incredible young woman; No, we may not have always done or said exactly the right thing. Yes, we've made our share of mistakes along the way. But we've loved our children with all that we have inside of us and we did the very best that we knew how to do.
And in this crazy, wild, sometimes heartbreaking ride called parenthood... that's enough.
I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy and Love Filled New Year