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Commentary : A Mother’s Child Is Greatest Gift

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The following letter was written by Susan Dominik of Garden Grove to her daughter, Lyndsey, who just celebrated her eighth birthday. It contains thoughts and sentiments many mothers might feel today.

I marvel at how much you’ve grown this year. For the first time, I have noticed that the growth in your maturity seems to have outpaced the growth in your physical stature.

This was a year of growth and change. You took your first cross-country flight alone. You grieved over your parents’ divorce, and the loss of your home, neighborhood and friends.

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But this was also the year you transcended your personal grief enough to comfort a friend who was also “divorcing her daddy.” This was the year you no longer believed in Santa Claus but patronized me so that you wouldn’t spoil Mommy’s Christmas fun. This was the year that you comforted me on my 35th birthday by exclaiming, “But Mommy, now you are old enough to run for president of the United States.”

I remember the year you were born. In my life, there are few survivors of that year. You and your twin brother were born prematurely with pulmonary and respiratory birth defects. Your brother did not survive his infancy. You lay critically ill for three months, while I waited and prayed to hear your first cry. We brought you home, only to have you live in an oxygen tent for almost your first year.

When the doctors conceded your survival, a negative outcome was predicted for the quality of your life. At almost two, you were unable to walk; at three, you did not possess language awareness skills. So, over the next few years, we learned how to perform physical therapy, speech therapy and respiratory therapy. We learned about the rights of handicapped children, and fought insurance companies, doctors, lawyers and school districts. But what we most wanted was to parent you.

In my life, there were few survivors that year. My best friend, whose support I longed for, died of cancer at age 33. Your godfather died at 36. Even our materialistic possessions had no sense of permanency. Our home was burglarized the night before your heart surgery. We came home from the hospital to find your brother’s mementos--a photograph and lock of hair--desecrated.

But you are a survivor. I look around your room as you sleep. I see ribbons on your artwork, bookshelves revealing your passion for reading, certificates of achievement and report cards with stars. I see your dollars and dimes that you count, your dolls that you love, your tape recorder where you proudly record your verbal skills. Most of all, even though years have passed, I still count your respirations as you sleep, and smile at their normal rhythm.

What gift can I give you for your birthday? How could any gift convey the impact you have had on my life. How, in your short lifetime, you have helped me to discover so much love, courage, and even to find joy in the most routine aspects of living.

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I know that Albert Einstein was labeled mentally retarded as a child. President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt was called a cripple. Yet, many more have overcome adversity to make quieter contributions than they. I don’t know for what special purpose you have survived. But to watch you grow and to celebrate your birthday, is a special gift for me.

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