When I was a little girl, I used to play card and board games with my dad every night before bed. It wasn't anything big our extravagant, but it was just something we did. Something that kept us connected as daddy daughter. I'll never forget those innocent years of my life. The laughs and memories I had with my dad back then are something that I will always keep close to my heart.
As I grew and entered into my teen years things changed, and I grew apart from my dad. I grew up and all of a sudden I wasn't that little girl anymore. With time, I learned that there was so much more to my father's character than simply fun and games.
My Mom's health problems took a turn for the worse my Junior year of high school. She was in excruciating amounts of pain the majority of the time. She lost her ability to walk, and at times could barely communicate with us. Her screams of agony still burn deep into my memory. Her seizures, moaning, and endless supply of sleepless nights weighed on her increasingly every day. I watched my mother almost die on multiple occasions, and I can guarantee you that almost losing my mother was one of the scariest things I have ever witnessed in my entire life.
Despite the impossible amount of endurance it took to watch, support, and never give up, my father NEVER quit on my mother. He never complained. He never thought of himself. He never even thought for a second that leaving was an option. He stayed by her side, he held her hand, he administered peace, reassurance, and eternal love. A love so incredibly and beautifully deep that a young person such as myself can't even grasp it. He never quit. He never left. He never stopped fighting for her every single horrible day that took place at that point in our lives. He gave her a reason to keep living. Lyme disease tried to steal my parents love for each other, but my parents would never let that happen.
When I got diagnosed with Lyme disease not too many years later, it was like finding out you were stuck in an eternal nightmare that wouldn't end no matter how hard you begged it to. There were nights I couldn't walk by myself and my dad worked as that extra support that I needed to place one foot in front of the other. When I fell, he would run to me and help my back to bed. When I was in too much pain to do anything else but scream, he would let me squeeze his hand and scream. He's never stopped praying for me and my mom. All the while, he has the same disease that we have. My dad suffers in silence, but his actions speak volumes.
My dad has taught me over the years how precious it is to be a daughter of God. He taught me how a man should treat his wife and his family. He taught me to love God over everything else, even when things are hard. My dad has helped me and taught me in every way that a father could hope to teach his children. And most importantly, my dad has loved me no matter how stubborn and unreasonable I can be.
My dad is a hero. He takes the definition of "father" to a whole new level. Through it all, my dad has been my father, my friend, my caretaker, my healer, my shoulder to cry on, my words of wisdom, my reminder that God hasn't forgotten us, and my hope that one day I will marry someone like him.
So to my dad:
I love you more than words can say. You are one man in my life who has never EVER let me down, and you continue to be that every day. I'm sorry for all of the times we've butted heads. But through it all, I hope you know that I couldn't ask for a better father than you.
Dad, thanks for all the pictures you've hung, meals you've made, furniture you've moved, and spiders you've killed. Thanks for helping me laugh when I needed it, and cry on your shoulder because I need that too. Thanks for reminding me that I'm beautiful even though I have a disease. Thanks for teaching me everything I've needed to know for life ahead, and thanks for continuously being that teacher. Thanks for helping me heal. Thanks for being my caretaker. Thanks for EVERYTHING you do.
I love you Dad!
Your Loving Daughter
My whole life I've been different. I suppose we're all different in our own unique way, but for me, my unique outlook on life was so obvious that my peers and acquaintances never hesitated to declare to me the obscure differences between me and the rest of the world. I've always thought I was “weird.” In reality, who isn’t weird? As I've grown into the woman that I am, I've come to realize that at times we are too worried about being "weird" when we should be embracing our unique quality of character.
In high school, I was different because I was "too skinny" because I walked like a "runway model" or because I was "too pretty and that was the only thing I had going for me." I was ridiculed because I was "really awkward." For some reason I always managed to be awfully clumsy. I tripped over everything. I laughed "too much" and I talked "too loud." I got "overly excited" about my passions. I adored the color pink. I sang my way through life's troubles. I wrote everything down that inspired me. I gained a love for God and all of His principles and the way He lovingly guided me through my life. I was my own version of me, and I was harshly ridiculed for that. But I loved me, and I wouldn't want to change for anyone.
Eventually I went onto college. The harsh words of my peers faded with my past, but the words of peers past cut deep into my heart as symptoms and anxieties increased throughout my college experience. Then I got diagnosed. I got sick, and I wasn’t getting better anytime soon. I never thought that one day I would wake up as somebody else. But I did, and it was terrifying. That's when all those words started to cut hard. I had lost the person I once was. I lost the person that people disapproved of because it was “too weird.” I became a different person, but I wasn’t happy with it, and I didn’t want to let go of who I once was.
I increasingly lost weight when I was already too small for my size. My “runway model” walk turned into an exhausted limp. My face became pale and ghostly, my skin broke out in horrible rashes, and my hair thinned out increasingly more every day. My "pretty face" that “was the only thing I had going for me” slowly disappeared as I observed myself in the mirror every day.
My clumsiness and awkward character only increased as my cognitive dysfunction and loss of coordination grew. I spent more time crying, and less time laughing. My loud mouth become quiet and unheard. I stopped the excitement that pierced through my veins whenever I wore the color pink, or mentioned something about the beauty of writing. I stopped singing. I stopped my fervent prayers. I stopped loving and the pain overcame me. The reality of my younger years, was that I was ridiculed for being unique, so when those speculations finally hit me in the form of a disease, I stopped my unique frame of mind and sunk into the average sense of character and the "daily grind" form of life.
Today I’m not the same person I was in high school, or who I was when I first became diagnosed. In some ways, I feel similar to a butterfly newly emerged from its cocoon. Some days, it’s too hard to fly because my wings are too new and fresh, but other days I feel as though I could soar for miles on my new wings that make up my character.
Am I still unique and have I carried some of my old self with me into my new self? I would wholeheartedly say yes. Over time, I’ve developed fears, hopes, dreams, and a love for people and for God that I never before would have imagined. I’ve developed understanding of things that I thought I already understood, but I didn’t. I changed, and I still continue to every day. I still adore the color pink. I’ve gained a new excitement for life and my passions. I started to laugh my way through life again, and my loud personality blossomed into something that I appreciate. I’ve developed talents and abilities I didn’t know I had. I’ve gained wisdom and knowledge that I can only hope to further as I continue through this trial of chronic illness. I flew like a butterfly, even though at first I was flapping like a crow.
Most importantly, I gained a love for my Savior and my God that I never before thought possible. I gained a love for the little things in life, and I gained a faith that is only possible through the power of God and His love for us. I gained understanding of why I had to go through this, and why I must continue to learn. I gained so much from the power of God that my words fail to describe the paradigm shift that I have experienced in the past year of my life. I’ve gained a greater knowledge of self-worth, and the worth given to me by my Heavenly Father who sees my worth as something far greater than the worth of rubies.
I’ve changed so much, one post would not be able to sufficiently describe it. My message to whoever is reading this would be that God puts things in our lives to either bless us, or teach us. God wants you to be unique. My illness makes me incredibly different, and I've learned to appreciate that. Embrace your unique self, and learn to love and see yourself the way that God does. No matter what you are going through, and how close you are to giving up. Don’t. Don’t listen to the desecrating words of the world around you. Listen to the loving words of your Heavenly Father. He will always show you your pathway. And He will always give you comfort. I wish the best for all of you and whatever it is that you may be suffering through. Don’t give up yet. You are not “weird.” You are unique and incredible in the eyes of God. Never forget that, as God never forgets you.