That’s my daughter over there in the picture. She’s eight now, and that’s a fact I seem to struggle with on a daily basis. It seemed only days ago that I held her for the first time—held her in one hand, almost—and she grabbed my finger and squeezed. There are moments in life that moisten eyes long determined to remain calm and stoic, and that was one of them for me. I still remember that moment. I always will.
If that moment was days ago as my memory suggests, then it was only hours ago when she said her first word (“Dada,” of course) and mere minutes when she took her first steps. Then came the diabetes. I suppose that should seem like seconds ago, but it doesn’t. That seems years more than the meager four it’s been.
Isn’t it strange how that happens? How the world sometimes seems to shrink the good into moments but stretch the bad into eternities? True in my case, at least. Because there are days—and this is between you and I, dear reader—when the many moments of hearing my daughter laugh are overcome by the moments in which she’s cried, and the days of peace are swallowed by nights of fear and worry.
I suppose in that regard I’m no different than any parent. We fear and worry for our children. We protect their innocence and their happiness, we covet it, because we know the ways of the world. We know it’s dark and scary and that it isn’t fair, and we know that one unfortunate day they will know it too, and we vow to make that day as faraway as possible. Because we are parents, and that is what parents do.
Not so for my daughter. In many ways, the blessed ignorance that is childhood ended for her after four years. She is burdened with knowledge no child should be forced to carry.
She knows already that life is not fair.
It’s a fact she must face daily. It rears its teeth when her classmates are on the swings and the jungle gym and the kickball court and she must sit on the bench sipping apple juice because her sugar is low. Bites her when the headaches slam into her skull when her sugar is high. Its shadow looms every two hours when one of her little fingers is pricked and bloodied. It engulfs her in bruises on her arms and legs from the four insulin shots she must get between the time she rises and the time she sleeps.
And yet she continues.
She continues in spite of her bouts with tears and anger, and perhaps because of them. Because even now at the age of eight, she is searching for answers. God has a purpose. He must. There are times when I believe the difference between her and me is that she is sure of that and I merely hope.
But there she is in that picture, showing me—showing us—that belief is the seed from which actions grow.
She is taking part in the Juvenile Diabetes Walk held at the park in the city. In that picture, she has discovered she is not alone. There are others like her, children who have also been burdened with the knowledge that life is not fair. She walks, and as she walks she knows that each step is raising money for research and a cure for what ails her broken body.
Strapped to her is the pack carrying what she can never stray far from—juice, test strips, a meter, a finger pricker, insulin, syringes, cotton balls, Skittles, a book listing the amount of carbohydrates found in the most common foods, and a terrifying Glucagon syringe in case the worst happens (it never has, and thank you, Jesus).
She walks in the Saturday sunshine. Walks among the birds and the ducks and the others like her. Walks the 1.3 miles around the park.
And then walks around once more.
She had to take that second trip. It was neither required nor expected, it was her decision.
I will keep this picture, and I will remember that day. I hope she does, too.
Because it taught her an important lesson, maybe one even more important than the fact that life isn’t fair. And that lesson is this:
We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose what we do with what happens to us.
We can choose doubt or faith. Love or hate. Strength or weakness. Courage or fear.
We can choose to stop or we can choose to walk.
My daughter chooses to walk. Every day. And then she chooses to walk once more.
And for that, I am grateful.
And for that, she is my hero.
This post is part of the blog carnival on Gratitude, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.