Because Of You

(Originally written on our son Hayden’s 17th birthday, August 31, 2015, but not posted till September 20, 2015)

Dear Hayden,

You are 17 today and I can’t help but think what a journey we’ve been on so far. We’ve taken roads I hadn’t expected, and some I would have never chosen for you, but you have been the most gracious, the bravest, and the best tour guide we could have ever asked for.

Because of you we have learned what friendship was; before you my relationships were pretty shallow. You have taught me that true friends can see me for who I am and encourage me to be better all the while never judging me on superficial things like how nice my house is, or what I do for a living. Our true friends have been in love with you and have been your biggest cheerleaders since they first laid eyes on you, whether it was when you were born, or when they’ve met you as you’ve grown older. You have an infectious way of winning people over.

Because of you Dad and I grew up a few decades and decided what kind of a marriage we really wanted. We’ve worked hard to unburden ourselves of the selfishness and the pettiness that plagued us both early on. You’ve taught us that we need to be the very best versions of ourselves in order to love you more deeply and to advocate for you and your sister more effectively.

Because of you I can spot broken and hurting people a mile away. You have a way of finding people in a crowd, whether it’s a grocery store, a concert, or the library and you touch them. You’ve taught me how to give people grace.

Because of you I love more deeply than I could have ever imagined. There is literally nothing I won’t do on your behalf. I have an inner resolve that won’t quit because you won’t quit.

Because of you I no longer judge people based on outward appearances or their accomplishments. I know the unending power of the human spirit because you show us repeatedly that you will never ever give up. You battle back from surgeries, you fight to regain lost skills from seizures, and you never quit.

Because of you I smile more. We sing everywhere we go and I am a better person for it. Doing life with you, while not always a trip through the tulips, adds to the storehouse of happy memories.

Because of you I have a much better definition of what it means to be a successful human being. Is it the person who has the Ph.D.? Not necessarily. Is it the person who runs a worldwide foundation and touches thousands of lives? Maybe, but that’s not a guarantee of true success. Because of you I’ve learned that life well lived isn’t about accomplishments, it’s about doing the very best you can with what you have, whether it’s how much physical strength you have that day, or whether the muscles in your mouth will cooperate to form a particular word that day. You just do your best.

Because of you I have met some the highest quality people I could ever imagine: people who didn’t take no for an answer when they tried to enroll their child in the local Kindergarten class and ended up taking the school district to their State Supreme Court and winning, a single mom who spearheaded a state wide campaign to force on the of the biggest health insurance companies in the country to start providing therapies to children with autism, and the list goes on.  Because of you I now see all people as having equal rights to have the opportunity to be the best they can be, no matter what the obstacle.

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