Your birthday. Nineteen. Somehow, it feels different this year.

As I was thinking about what to write today, I went back and looked at what I wrote 10 years ago – on your 9th birthday. Amazingly (or maybe not) it all remains true.

Not that different after all.

…In the middle of the night on October 7, 1998, the doctor had to tell you to slow down; that we weren’t ready for you to make your appearance yet: so eager were you to burst into the world. That has not changed. You continue to burst into my world (and that of many others) with eagerness and full of life. I love that about you.

What has changed? This past year has been one of much change for you and with it, your own testing of emotions, relationships, your very strength and resilience. You have grown as a friend – grieving over the hurt that others can cause, longing for fairness and justice, deeply wanting your intent and heart to be known and understood, standing loyally by those who might be overlooked or not chosen. I love that about you.

You have struggled with your own emotions – the things that hurt, that seem unfair, that don’t make sense. You have raged, wept, sat quietly, and thought things through, often without resolution, without available answers, without any fix. And still you have laughed, played, danced, sang, created, and loved. I love that about you.

Though not through teachers I would have desired, you have learned about disappointment, loss, and heartache. As much has changed in our family you have had the amazing ability to survive ambivalence – letting good and bad, confusion and resolution, celebration and mourning, joy and pain all be true simultaneously. It has been difficult. And it continues. And you wake up each morning (after a bit of prodding) ready to face a new day. I love that about you.

As I have walked through this past year’s days with you, Abby, I have been amazed at your tenacity, your demand for the good, your endless hope, your tender heart, your stamina, your strength, your loyalty, your sense of humor, …your laughter, your singing, your love. I love all these things about you…

In the middle of the night 9 years ago you burst into my life with a cry that left no one doubting your will to live, your unmistakable presence, your indelible, undeniable mark. That is even more true now than then. What is also more true now, is that I love you more deeply and more profoundly than I did then. You have that effect. I am entranced – just as I was the moment I held you for the very first time. I love you.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

Yes, Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

I’m stunned, humbled, and overjoyed (always and infinitely) by the plumb-line that is you – through and through. Oh, how much stronger and clearer that has become in the 10 years since I wrote those words – and in powerful, palpable ways in just the past few weeks since you flew the nest; certainly, without a doubt, in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

YOU are the gift to me – always have been, always will be.

I love you, Abby.