You are ten.
I am not sure that has officially sunk in for me yet. Where has the time gone? Yet at the same time it feels like you've always been here. I can barely remember, nor could I imagine, life without you.
YOU are life.
You are joy.
You are the perfect example of bravery, love, determination and HOPE. Sweet boy, you have taught us the meaning of hope and faith.
(Your first surgery, 6 days old, 3lb 13oz)
It only seems appropriate in your tenth birthday letter to revisit your life.
Because it's been a big one.
My sweet boy, you now know what a miracle your life is. You are old enough to understand. You know how badly mommy and daddy wanted a baby and that you took an extra long time to come to us. You were born in God's perfect timing. Barely bigger than a beanie baby, you came into this world early, with a determination that can't be explained.
Your start in life was rough. But buddy, the cool thing is, you rocked it. You have always had a fighting spirit that has served you well. In those early days, there were definitely challenges. But I like to think as a family we faced those challenges head on and chose to have a positive outlook through it all.
We knew we couldn't give up on you, because YOU never gave up!
We clung tight to the promise that has become your life verse:
I prayed this and believed this with all my heart. I knew your purpose was bigger.
Andrew, I want you to know that we've never wished for your heart to have been healthy. We've never regretted anything about your life. About ten and a half years ago when we learned about your uncertain future, daddy and I made a decision to bring you into this world. We wanted to give you a chance. We knew it would be painful. We knew you would endure a lifetime of surgeries and procedures. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. But we chose life. For you. For us.
And you did it, buddy. You defied the odds and you fought. Oh did you fight...
And you came out the shining light that you are. A light for the world to see. To teach others to love Jesus, to TRUST in Him and his promises. You see, it was no mistake that your heart was sick.
It was all part of God's plan. And you wouldn't be who you are without it. You are the true meaning of a superhero. You are OUR hero.
You have taught us and so many others what life is all about. You changed me. You made me a better person, Andrew. You taught me to cherish every moment and you made Jesus so real for me. Every scary obstacle we faced, and you survived, made me believe in miracles.
Because ten years ago at this time, I could never have predicted that you would survive. I just couldn't look that far into your future because it was so unknown. It scared me not to be able to think about you as a ten year old boy, but I just couldn't go there.
Every milestone felt like such an accomplishment. You made it! We rejoiced.
I certainly couldn't have imagined this day. Kindergarten. Another miracle.
It's all become a blur, but sometime between then and now... I realized that you were going to live. I let myself go there. You taught me that your special heart was certainly not going to define you. That we didn't need to think about it every day or let it guide us.
You taught us that that scary beginning of your life was only a snapshot. It's a part of you that we are so proud of. We are proud of your bravery, your determination and spunk.
But bigger than that is the rest of the story.
The time that you've lived in between.
The "dash" between your surgeries, if you will.
And buddy, you have certainly made the most of your dash!
From your younger years to now, your personality has remained constant. You still are all of the things you were back then... the light in our lives, the meaning of JOY and LIFE.
You never give up anything you try!
You are the definition of determination.
You are silly and have a gift for making people laugh.
You are full of surprises and always keep us on our toes!
And you have some of the best facial expressions I've ever seen!
This little face is one I want to remember forever- with your favorite lovey, Raffi.
You are ALL boy!
We've always said that you have no fear! When you've had 3 open heart surgeries, fear takes on a whole new meaning!
You love to try new things with confidence!
Taekwondo has been a gift for you since age 4. It has helped teach you respect, and many other life skills.
You have been gifted with some serious ninja skills!
You have tried a lot of different activities and we are proud of your efforts!
You love to run and you are fast! I would say running is probably your favorite thing- you may be a track star someday!
You even joined your sister on "bring a parent to dance" night! It made her day. And you loved it too.
You are the best big brother. You adore your little sister and I love your bond. The two of you have conquered life together and I'm so happy you have each other.
How many big brothers do you know that have danced with a real princess?
You always make the best of situations involving your sister- in this girly boutique we lost you for a moment then discovered you hamming it up on the dress up stage! You always have a good attitude about doing things for Kerigan.
Before your last surgery, we made the best memories with you at Disneyworld, meeting all of your heroes. These moments took my breath away and brought me to tears, sweet boy. I will never forget.
You've swam in the ocean many times, and traveled to both sides of the U.S. and everywhere in between.
We love to "live it up!" Make the most of this precious time we've been given with you. Our lives are full... of memories, of joy, of LOVE.
A look back at all your birthdays...
This milestone will forever be engrained in my mind...
You turned 1.
Then we blinked and you were 2...
Throughout your life we've taught you never to be ashamed of your scar. To wear it proudly and let it be a mark from Jesus. A reminder of where you've been... and how far you've come.
And you have quite the story to tell, Andrew. Always tell it proudly. For ten years your smiles have blessed our lives. Every smile has taught us that through every challenge, there is always light.
You have climbed many mountains and come out shining.
And that smile speaks volumes.
You are living your dash- to the fullest.
And I couldn't be more proud to be your mommy.
Keep smiling, buddy.
You made it to double digits!
Past birthday updates: (One and Two are on our old Carepages site- someday I'll have to transfer everything over to the blog, but for now...)