Every day, I am reminded of how blessed my life is. Every day, I am touched by another reason to live joyously.
Bella celebrated her 6th birthday last weekend. Although I have only met Bella a handful of times, I have heard wonderful stories about Bella from my friend, Camille.
But nothing could prepare me for actually meeting her for the first time. Bella was breath-taking - a delicate, tiny little girl who is so pretty that it brings tears to your eyes.
Her little sister, Maya, looks very much like Bella and has that same perfect, satiny skin, and dark little ponytails, and a sweet little voice.
Bella has a progressive, degenerative disease that cannot be cured. She has lost many abilities of a typical 6 year old child.
But, she is far from a typical 6-year old child anyway. As soon as you see Bella, you feel her power - her spirit is so alive, and so great that you are overwhelmed by it, humbled by it. Its as if a great sense of peace and deep, deep happiness washes over your body, and you just want to bottle up that feeling and keep it forever.
The moment I first saw her, it was like my soul had known her forever. I wanted to laugh out loud with pure joy, and lift her in the air, and tell her over and over again, "I know! I know!" She spoke to me as clearly as if she had uttered profound words to me.
Melissa, Bella's mom, is an amazing young woman, who has shown great strength that many of us will never have to muster up in our lifetimes. She "gets it." Although Bella's prognosis is not good, she has chosen to celebrate her child's life, to enjoy her, and cherish her and love her.
Bella went sliding for her birthday. And she goes swimming and to the movies. Her family threw a party for her to celebrate her big day, and they had family and friends who celebrated Bella with them.
You see, while many people who are facing what Melissa is facing would be very angry and very upset, and feeling very sorry for themselves because it is not fair that Bella is so ill, Melissa understands that she has two choices.
She can live joyfully with Bella, capturing her memories and beauty and looking at her amazing eyes and glorious smile. She can celebrate every new day, and fill it with all the wonder of a young family.
Or, she can worry and mourn about what is to come. And all that will do is to take away the glory of these days - it will do nothing to stop those sad days from coming.
Melissa, like all mothers, has a right to celebrate her daughter - to talk about her pregnancy with her, to remember her first smile, and her first words, and her first steps. She has a right to reminisce and to celebrate Bella's days.
Bella has bestowed a great mission upon Melissa - to remember her sweetness, and to share the story of Bella for many years to come. It is Melissa's single greatest job right now - to keep that spirit in the hearts of her family forever.
And...Melissa has a right to be sad and overwhelmed, and frustrated. She has a right to have bad days.
Our lives are not always black and white; life is not always good or bad. Sometimes we learn our greatest lessons from the saddest things, and sometimes those sad things teach us another very vital part of being human - the immense joy that is on the other end of that sadness scale.
Bella has changed Melissa forever, and you can see that when you look at her. She has a rich, deep soul that does not need to be explained with words. She loves her child unconditionally, and the power of that is absolutely amazing to witness.
I am so thankful for Bella. I will never be the same.
Last night, Melissa told me a story of Bella when she was two years old. She came up to Melissa, and reached into her pocket and cupped her hands...reaching out to Melissa, she said, "Look, Mommy...an apple for you." Melissa took the pretend apple, and said, "Oh,thank you Bella, but where is your apple?" And reaching into her pocket, Bella pulled out another apple, and said, "here it is, Mommy."
And together, they shared the sweetest apples anyone had ever tasted.
Today, many times I thought of those magic apples, and how happy they made Bella and her Mom.
I think I shall carry one of Bella's apples with me every day...and whenever I need it, I'll reach in my pocket and find the most glorious, shiny red apple anyone has ever seen.