Infinity. That is the number of times my Lily has made me smile--infinity times infinity times infinity.
She is the one person who taught me about true joy and hope. The one beautiful soul who made me smile from the inside out. Not just that fake picture smile or that quick laughter smile--the smile that originates from somewhere down deep and just won't be squashed.
The type of smile that never fades.
The first time Lily made me smile was the first time I felt her kick. It was during "The Chicken Dance" at a work party in San Diego. I was traveling. I was not dancing the Chicken Dance. I was sad and lonely and stressed out and irritated by my least favorite song.
Then, my best girl, danced and kicked and well, it was perfection. I never felt alone again.
The time Lily was born, I was so sick. I was struggling precariously to stay alive--while she was struggling to learn to be alive. The moment she was born, she cried--a loud, fierce battle cry.
And when things seemed so dark, she make me smile again and again. Late the night she was born, I was confined to my hospital bed. To see Lily, Mike had to bring me videotapes of her--of her breathing.
The rise and fall of her tiny chest on her tiny 2 pound 14 ounce body, kept me smiling until I could see her in person one day later.
Lily made me smile when she first smiled and laughed. She made me smile when I was scared out of my mind, waiting for the results of an emergency CT scan that I knew would be horrific. When Lily had to have a brain tumor resected, I feared she would never smile again.
Of course, she smiled at me a few hours after waking up from surgery. She smiled at me when the room was spinning because of her severe vertigo. She smiled at me when the other preschoolers her age were running round the playground and she had to hold my hand to get around.
Lily held my hand at every doctor's appointment and every blood pressure check when I was pregnant with her sister. She made me smile when it was clear her sister would also be premature. And she made me smile when I would spend hours pumping milk for Chloe--shouting "Milk come out!"
When I was ready to give up, Lily made it easy. She made me smile through the stress and the pain and the fear.
Lily's smile has saved my life over and over and over again. Every morning, when she smiles at me, it is like new life filling my soul. She smiles before her routine MRIs and she smiles at me when I stand in front of a crowd of hundreds of people telling her story. Lily makes me smile with her laugh and her love and joy.
She fills my heart with joy when she stumbles over the right keys on the piano; but does not stop until she gets it right. She makes me smile when she spend hours working on the splits and nights sneaking upstairs to read Charlotte's Web and write short stories. She makes me smile just by saying my name-- "Momma, Mom, Mommy."
Lily's smiles are infinite. My joy for that child is infinite.
To my brave, strong, beautiful girl on her 9th birthday, I wish you a lifetime of infinite joy, a legacy of smiles and more love than you have room for in your heart.