There is no doubt - not even for one second - that the most beautiful things I've seen this year have nothing at all to do with the mountain heights and the ocean waves.
It's been people.
Exposition of heart and soul.
Moments and conversations and extensions.
There was a sight today that took my breath away.
It's hijacked my mind and memory and it affords me little room for anything else.
It was a daddy holding his week-old daughter in the crook of his arm.
Can I back up?
Right from the beginning of Kindergarten one of Sasha's favourite friends has been a little girl named Sophia. She is always smiling - and not just half-way. Her smiles are full of life and her eyes sparkle. She is vivacious, fearless and warm. She is quick to throw her arms around Sasha for a hug and loves to chit-chat with the moms that volunteer. "There is something with so much substance in that little body", I remember thinking within the first few weeks of school.
Sophia's Grandma always dropped her off and picked her up from school because her mom worked. Her Grandma and I would visit sometimes after school as the girls played on the playground. As we shared, Sophia's story came out...
Sophia's dad, Ciro, lives in the hospital.
A few years ago, it was detected that Ciro had two blood clots in his brain that occasionally caused him severe headaches and difficulty with his vision. After living with this inconvenience for awhile, his doctors recommended surgery to remove the clots. The end result of this surgery is a man who has not left the hospital for more than a few hours in a year. Ciro suffered significant brain damage in the process of surgery and has been left unable to walk with limited use of his limbs. He has had difficulty eating - as his swallowing reflex was compromised. His body has withered away and he has had to fight tooth nail to be where he is today.
A young man in a hospital bed.
As Sophia's Grandma related the story to me, she expressed concern for her daughter, Lisa. "Lisa is 5 months pregnant" , she told me. She seemed torn for Lisa - thankful that her daughter's dream of having a second baby was coming to fruition, but worried for the reality that she would face as an essentially single mother of another child.
The fact that Lisa was even able to conceive this baby was miraculous. She and Ciro had been trying to have another baby for a few years before his surgery. During one period of increased health after his surgery, this baby was conceived to the surprise and thankfulness of Lisa. She never wanted Sophia to be alone, and she wanted Ciro to have another amazing person in his life to live for.
As Lisa's due date got closer and her maternity leave began, it was her who I'd visit with in the school yard as the girls played. She is a stunning woman. Young. Long, platinum blond hair. Sparkling eyes and an easy laugh. So much like her daughter.
We'd talk about babies and daughters. I asked about Ciro and she gifted me with their story from her own mouth. I felt as though I was receiving something of so much worth and value. I deposited those words in my spirit and let them sit. I stood amazed at this woman - so dedicated to the love of her life whose body is but a shadow of what it used to be. So committed to a partner who can no longer share parenting, a bed, and a house, but who she visits every day in his hospital room.
Soon it was mid January and her baby was to be born any day. Lisa explained the plan - when she went into labour, her mom would come with her to the hospital. Her dad would stay with Sophia, and Ciro's parents would transport him from his hospital to the one she'd be delivering at so that he could be present for the birth. He would hold his beloved second-born and then return to his hospital bed. She explained this with precision and care. They had taken care of all of the details.
Lisa and Sophia weren't at school last Friday. The posse of moms outside the kindergarten door guessed and hoped that a baby was being born. On Tuesday, Lisa bounded through the parking lot carrying a car-seat containing the most beautiful baby girl with a head full of thick, platinum blond hair. Ava had arrived on Friday and her daddy had been there to welcome her.
Today was Sophia's sixth birthday party and Sasha was so excited to celebrate her friend. It was a skating party at a huge sports complex in Burnaby. Sophia was in fine form - wearing a faux fir bolero jacket and a boys hockey helmet, tearing around the ice sharing smiles and hugs with everyone she loves.
Off to the side near the boards was a man in a wheelchair.
He looked intently onto the ice to catch a glimpse of his dear one. He must have marvelled at her today. Family was around him to support him as he'd occasionally stop to wipe his mouth. But his gaze was always fixed back onto his six year old working her magic around the ice.
Later, when the party was over, I walked upstairs to pick up Sasha. That's when I saw the image that has consumed me ever since.
There was a man in a wheelchair holding a platinum blond baby in the crook of his arm. She was sleeping. Her tiny fingers were gripping his index finger as he gently lifted it up and down, up and down. His face looked down at his miracle.
The party was over.
Horns were blowing and an entourage of six year olds were running around shrieking and laughing.
Such beauty I've rarely seen.
Daddy and daughter.
A reason to live in the crook of his arm.