… but to me it's a day to rejoice.
On this day, 10 years ago, fear gnawed at my heart. My wife was being prepped for emergency surgery, while I knelt at an altar in a chapel three floors below, begging for the life of my child. My Valentine's Day baby was being taken before Thanksgiving, for the doctors felt her best chance of survival was not in my wife's womb, but in an incubator.
An hour later, KatyBeth was delivered.
Bare seconds after being pulled from the womb, my prayers were answered. She cried. And when they dried her off and stimulated her, she really cried.
She wasn't even supposed to be able to breathe, much less cry. But nobody told KatyBeth that.
And that has been her life ever since – defying expectations.
We were told she'd suffer from blindness. Profound developmental delays. Seizures. Learning disabilities. She'd never walk.
Well, she walks. She doesn't run well, but she walks.
She's an honor student. And this year, she's doing it without the help of a dedicated aide.
She's reached every milestone. Maybe not when the child development books said she should, but she met them nonetheless.
She wears glasses, but she's not blind. She has problems seeing through a rifle scope, so she shoots her AR15 with a red dot sight.
She's just like every little girl her age, Barbies and kittens and Justin Bieber and chattering non-stop and being embarassed to kiss her father in public.
Oh, but she's so much more.
She's not vain or petty. She has an open and giving heart.
She's no coward. She has her fears, but she faces them.
And she conquers them.
She is delicate, but she is not frail. She falls, quite often. But she gets up by herself, and if she cries it's only briefly.
Quit isn't in her vocabulary. She doesn't spit in the face of adversity. She just faces it with an unconquerable smile, and eventually Adversity realizes it's wasting its time and just gives up.
I'm 44 years old, and my 10-year-old daughter has taught me more about courage than anyone. One day, I hope to be half the man my daughter is.
And today, she's ten years old, and I couldn't be prouder.
Happy birthday, little girl.