I lay in bed, gazing at the ceiling, unable to sleep. My nerves are on edge and my mind begins to wander. How could we do this again? Can we handle this? What will the future bring? Excitement mixed with trepidation – common emotions for a soon-to-be parent.
A few hours later, I hold her in my arms and gaze into her eyes for the first time. All my worries are cast aside. She is perfect and I am instantly at ease. The entire world lies in front of her and I will be there to hold her hand, to teach her, to guide and protect her on this journey.
Thirteen years later, another sleepless night, and I think of her. I always think of Julia. My mind takes me back to the eve of her birth day with all my worries and fears. Never once did it occur to me that we would celebrate her birthday without her. I never dreamed that this would be the future.
But today, my forever eight-year-old little girl becomes a teenager.
I spent much of last night swallowed by my grief again. It never goes away. It has become a part of me like an ugly old tattoo, the mark forever etched on my being and so often covered to keep it hidden from the rest of the world.
I begin to think of how Julia lived her short life – a life of joy and optimism. I think of how she cared for others and worked to bring them happiness and hope. I think of her grace and kindness. And, I think of all she taught me.
So today, there is no time for sorrow. I intend to meet the day with optimism, just as Julia taught me.
Today, I choose happiness.
Today, I celebrate Julia. I will think of her, and I will smile.
And to honor her thirteenth birthday, I will give Julia what she would think was a perfect gift; I will do something kind for a perfect stranger.
Remembering how Julia chose to celebrate her birthdays by giving her presents to other children, I plan to pay it forward – to “give someone a hug”. Perhaps I will buy coffee for the person behind me in line at the coffee shop or I will drop off canned goods at the local food pantry. I will do something kind for a stranger, with no desire of recognition or reward, and I will think of Julia.
A perfect gift for our perfect girl.
Today, I will think of Julia as the organization that she bears her name, that she inspired and started, ships more “hug” boxes to children with cancer. And I will smile as Julia’s Grace makes a payment towards a home remodel to assist another family as they prepare for when their child comes home from the hospital.
All gifts given to perfect strangers on this special day.
Thirteen years ago, I held Julia in my arms and looked to her future, so many possibilities and wondrous things were going to happen. Today, my arms are empty, but I think of all Julia has given to this world, all those she has helped, and all the happiness and hope she continues to bring.
Today, I celebrate Julia and I smile… because I know she would be happy too.
Happy Birthday, Julia. Happy Birthday, my sweet Stargirl.