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Deal Hudson: To My Daughter on her 25th Birthday

By Deal W. Hudson
October 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What I celebrate on your 25th birthday is the fact you are, you are simply you, beautiful, charming, smart, and brimming with love of life, and of your family.  We no longer cross wires over my offers of help or advice, or you telling me to back off or you've got things under control.  We grown up together, you see, these last 25 years. While I was raising you, you were raising me, making me into a better man.  Thank you, Hannah Clare, thank you for you love, forgiveness, and accepted when I have let you down. Life, hopefully, is long enough that I will let you down again, but I know your hand will always be there to take mine as we walk back towards home. 

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Hannah Clare Hudson was put into my arms the moment she was born -- I was not prepared to fall in love instantly. Your mother, Theresa, had had a difficult birth: Your cord was wrapped around your neck, but the doctor and staff at St. Joseph's Hospital acted quickly, and both mother and daughter came through the birth safely.

As I held you I looked back at Theresa and saw the kind of smile you see only once or twice in a lifetime -- a brand new person was born into the world, a girl who a year ago did not exist, except in our shared hope. Now there you were, the baby who like all babies represented the miracle and mystery of life.

You changed my life, you changed your mother's life, and eleven years later you would propose to me that we adopt a little brother for you, a wish that brought us Chip from far away Romania.  I think you were a bit confused by the deep love that we immediately lavished on that 4-year boy from the orphanage.  When in fact it was nothing more or less than what flowed over you that day in Atlanta when your father and mother first held you.  And for over a decade you had our attention all to yourself, and we took full advantage of it, as did you!

But one day I will never forget, a day that brought forth from me all the emotions and passions of a father fighting for his child's life.  We were visiting friends in Richmond, and surrounding their home was a forest with various pathways leading in different directions. It was autumn, the brightly colored leaves were falling, wet with the morning rain. Our friends had a very friendly dog who you played with for hours.

The last I saw you, you were playing in the yard with the dog. I went inside briefly, I forget why, but when I came out both you and the dog were gone.  To this day I have never felt such an electric shock of panic: I yelled your name, "Hannah, Hannah," at the top of my voice until my throat hurt.  No sound, no barking, no human voice came from the woods. So I started running down a path into the woods, the one I thought you would most likely take.  I shouted as I ran, jumping over tree trunks and slipping on wet leaves and mud.

I stopped after about 100 yards in the middle of the woods. All I could hear was the wind in the trees and the raindrops pelting the leaves. My heart convulsed as I thought to myself, "Why did I take my eyes off Hannah for even an instant?"  I prayed and I yelled so loud I couldn't imagine you not hearing me. But no voice, human or canine, returned to me, just wind and rain.

Again I started running, continuing to shout your name, and I was determined to keep running until I found you. If someone had snatched you I was prepared to tackle him, put my hands around his neck, and bring him down, fast.

After another hundred yards I came to a clearing where I thought I heard something, so I stopped. When my eyes came to rest on you I ran towards you, lifted you up, and held you to me so you couldn't see my fear or my tears.

"What happened?" I asked. "How did you get so deep in the woods?" You told me how you had followed the dog into the woods, but couldn't keep up with him, so you kept going further and further to find him.

"OK," I said.  "Let's walk back to the house, and next time a dog runs into the woods, please don't go after him, promise!" "OK, Daddy, I promise," and I took her little hand and we walked back through the woods.  I thought to myself, "I've never seen the wet leaves of autumn look so beautiful." But then I realized my vision was being refracted through the pure gratitude of finding you, seeing your smile, feeling your hand in mind, and knowing you were there, less than half my size, walking next to me.

There have been other moments in your life when I reached out to you, thinking you were in trouble, in need of your Dad. A few of those times were mistakes on my part, I know, and a few of them, when you said "No, Dad" were mistakes of yours, I think you would agree.

What I celebrate on your 25th birthday is the fact that you "are," you are simply you, beautiful, charming, smart, and brimming with love of life, and of your family.  We no longer cross wires over my offers of help or advice, or you telling me to back off or you've got things under control.  We've grown up together, you see, these last 25 years. While I was raising you, you were raising me, making me into a better man.

Thank you, Hannah Clare, thank you for your love, forgiveness, and acceptance when I have let you down. Life, hopefully, is long enough that I will let you down again, but I know your hand will always be there to take mine as we walk back towards home.

I love you, always remember that, never forget it, it's one constant that even death will not remove.  -----
Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D, is president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine. He is the Senior Correspondent for Church and Culture and a contributing writer for Catholic Online.  

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