It has been nearly 365 days since we celebrated your sixth birthday. 

Yet it seems like the days have passed in the blink of an eye. This time of year always takes me back to your beginning; to our journey’s beginning. 

As a frightened, yet excited mother-to-be, I had waited years for you, little girl. 

You were the anxiously awaited baby sister to complete our family. You were the daughter we had wished for, and in the final weeks before your arrival, you were the daughter we had desperately prayed for. Thinking back on your first precious cry; a sound that brought great relief and lifted an enormous weight from my chest, I knew that everything about you was amazing.

You fought just to be here, and that fighting spirit has grown stronger in you over the years.

Reminiscing on our first few years together, every birthday has been a joyous celebration of your life, and I continue to grow more grateful for you as the years come and go. 

Family is always with us to celebrate your special day, and your teachers have even come to your birthday parties! You are deeply loved by everyone that knows you. As wonderful and happy as those birthday moments have been, in the early years, birthdays also brought with them a twinge of sadness. 

When you were three years old, you were given puzzles and push-along toys. We watched you play with your trusty little piano (most favorite toy for six years running now!), not giving a second glance to the others. 

At five years old, you still preferred infant toys; ones that crinkle and that are great for chewing. You weren’t admiring a new baby doll, or riding a new bicycle. There was a harsh sting of reality that accompanied those birthday gifts, and a bit of guilt in wishing you could run and play with the other children your age.

Seeing your sweet face light up with the treat of crumpling tissue paper from your gifts melted away my sadness. 

In awe, I have watched you happily experience the little things in life that are so often taken for granted. You savor life and delight in simple joys in ways that most people can’t comprehend. There is great beauty and wonder in that.

Reflecting on the days since your last birthday, there is no sadness.  Over time, those little pangs of grief have been replaced by tremendous pride. 

My heart leaps at all the obstacles you’ve overcome and all the new skills you’ve gained. You’ve learned to walk independently in a gait trainer, bring a spoon to your mouth, sign for “please” and so much more. You no longer eat only the icing on your cake, but you eat the CAKE! That is a huge milestone all in itself. 

You achieve so much, despite the hurdles in your way. You have a tenacity and a spark about you and it has been a breathtaking adventure watching you soar.

On this day, your seventh birthday, I celebrate the beautiful, bright, spunky and joyful light that you are. You are truly a gift from above. 

To quote the words of a classic song, “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.” 

I am thankful every moment for you. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RYLEIGH J

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