I've always believed myself to be a person with an open heart, a person who knows how to love. I know that this early confidence in my capacity to love came from my parents. In particular, my mother, who is the most empathetic and caring person I've ever met. She encouraged me to have patience with strangers who were frustrating, to imagine what kind of situation they might be going through and to cut people slack. In general, she is a major proponent of patience with one another. Patience and forgiveness.
As I've grown, I have seen that other people have added to my mother's lessons on loving. I don't know that I could learn lessons from others without the foundation my parents gave to me.
My wife has added so much love into my life. She is an incredible source of joy for me. She taught me that not everyone was raised the same way or thinks similarly to me. T has opened new places in my heart that I didn't even know existed. My love for T flickered into being one day, and each day the fire has grown stronger and more stable.
But... nobody could have really prepared me for the love that was headed my way when our daughter made her way into this world. Every day, I feel more amazed and more thankful for having E in our lives. The feeling of her cheek on mine, her peach-soft little baby cheek, is infinite. The scent of her hair, the feel of her fuzzy brown blanket under my fingertips, the feeling as her toes grip my fingertips - these are all points of wonder in my life. I miss her when I'm gone; I imagine what she and T are up to; I think about her smiling and cooing and windmilling her arms and kicking her chubby baby legs.
After the birth of our daughter, some things happened that have... further opened my eyes, I guess.
A couple that I know (okay, I don't *know* them, I've never met them or talked to them but I read their blog and my heart knows them) in Canada just lost their three and a half year old daughter to a fatal brain tumor, which wrapped itself around her brainstem and slowly robbed her of all her faculties. Stella passed away yesterday, after living many months longer than any doctor guessed she possibly could. Stella has impacted me. Like E, Stella also had two moms. Stella left behind her two moms and two baby brothers, and a legion of people who followed her story and will miss her shining spirit. My wife never has really understood why I insisted on following along with Stella's life and death - and to a large extent, I can't explain it either, except that I HAD TO. It hurt; I cried often while reading their blogs. I thought about what it would be to lose E, after only knowing her for such a short time. I thought about what they were feeling, what they were going through. My heart was in my throat each time I checked with their website the past week, both dreading and hoping that Stella was finally gone and free of the constraints this world laid upon her tiny body.
Stella taught me that there is magic in the world. I knew there was... but there just isn't anything that illustrates magic better than a three year old discovering something for the very first time. Every drop of rain, each rainbow that stretches over the sky, every time you feel the warmth of the sun on your face - it's all a gift. Nothing is a given.
Stella represents innocence and hope and love and family and frailty. As painful as it was to follow, as heart-wrenching as it was to bear witness to, Stella's family and their journey together taught me how to really love myself. How to love my family. My wife. My daughter. My friends.
Love wholly. Love selflessly. Love without abandon. Love immediately.
This is how I want to live. Like Stella lived.
Already, E is seven and a half weeks old. The beginning of her life is flashing by, and I hate the idea of losing a single day. Even a day where she screams and is miserable and life seems terrible... even that day, I wouldn't want to lose. It feels like in a few weeks I'm going to be teaching her to drive and we're going to go shopping for prom dresses and then she's going to move out of state to go to college. I cannot fathom losing her, not now, not in three years, not ever. I hope that if some horrific tragedy were ever to strike our family, that we could handle it with half the grace and bravery that Stella's moms did - but I hope that nothing like that will happen.
Don't you think the world would be a better place if we all just loved one another a little easier? A little more? Forgave a little quicker?
I do. Stella would have.