April 5, 2014

Life is the best gift of all

I turn 43 on Sunday. This birthday is more special than any other except one I can’t remember. April 6, 1971.

I’ve shed a few soft tears, tears of joy and thanksgiving, knowing I have already received the best gift I’ve ever gotten. Life.

I’ve seen vivid snapshots in my mind of all I nearly missed.

I would have missed the first dance with my daughter, who looks so beautiful in her mother’s wedding gown, bathed in the soft glow of warm yellow lights neatly strung under a big white tent.

I would have missed my middle son’s sheepish grin as he’s inducted into the honor society. And his first high school goal, rocketed past a diving goalie.

I would have missed my younger son’s first pitch for his varsity team—and all the times he gently touches my arm and asks if I’m okay, always knowing when I’m not.

I would have missed the chance to kiss my wife on the forehead and tell her she’ll be great on the first day of her now job, which starts this summer.

It’s not all about what I would’ve missed. That’s a little selfish.

My daughter would not have had her father’s arm to cling to as she walked down the aisle.

My middle son would not have had his dad to help guide him through the fear of his first day of high school.

My youngest would not have had a dad to talk to him about his first date, his first big disappointment in life or the colleges he might want to attend.

I would have missed so much that makes life worth living, even when it’s sometimes tougher than it should have to be.

I would have missed so much if things had turned out differently on September 2, 2013, a day that still haunts me, a day my family wished they could forget but never will.

The second greatest gift on this my 43rd birthday? Two months of good mental health, made possible by perseverance, the love of family and friends, the grace and love of a God who gave me a second chance—and a new drug that seems to be a potent weapon against bipolar disorder.

I am so grateful for all of those things.

Thank you, God. Thank you, family and friends. I will think of each of you when I blow out the candles and make a wish from the depths of my healing heart. I love you all.