My dearest Tomas, these are my hopes and wishes for you as you continue your life’s path, marking this special transition from childhood to adulthood…well, young adulthood, anyway. I’m going to read a quote dedicated to you from Dr. Laurel Walter who helped me take care of you as you grew inside of me and assisted me in bringing you into this world. She wrote this down in a book that she gave me called the “12 Gifts of Birth.” It’s dated 1/17/01 (one day after you were born).
She writes: “It was an honor and joy to watch you grow and witness your beautiful birth. Your mother was so strong and courageous as she delivered you just 13 minutes after arriving at the hospital, with your father nearby to assist her. You are truly blessed to be born into such a loving and wise family. May you always know these gifts of birth and the love surrounding you.”
I thought it very meaningful to use her words, noting that you were born 13 minutes after we arrived at the hospital, and here we are celebrating your becoming a Bar Mitvah at age 13…from 13 minute delivery baby to 13 year old young man. From the very beginning you set your own agenda. You were going to make your appearance into this world with a flourish, barely letting me get onto a delivery bed, and with Dr. Walter only able to catch you with a one-gloved hand. You knew when you were ready even if no one else did. You weren’t about to wait for anyone. You were ready to get going with your life’s journey.
And this brings me back to “The 12 Gifts of Birth.” In this book the author describes the gifts bestowed upon us at birth that we can cultivate throughout our lives. I have chosen a few that especially resonated with me as I thought about my hopes and wishes for the path that you walk.
The first one is STRENGTH. I hope that you will live your life seeing strength as the ability to discover the light when there is darkness. To admit when you are wrong, and listen to those who can teach you what is right. To stand for your conviction of being socially just in the face of those who would ask you to stand against the weakest among us. In the words of Anne Frank, “A quiet conscience makes one strong!”
The second one is COURAGE. My wish for you is that you draw upon your strength to be courageous in following your own path. Don’t shun the things that you fear. For your fears will teach you about your courage.
The third one is COMPASSION. I knew from early on that you possessed compassion for all living things. Those who know you, can attest to the fact that at an early age, you would come up with the most witty, insightful and truly funny observations. I kept a list of your musings. In fact there’s a document on my laptop titled “Funny things that Tomas says.” I’ll just quote you on the subject of eggs and compassion when you were around four years old: “I do not like stealing eggs from animals, birds or nothing. If we laid the eggs we could eat them, but it’s not our eggs. If we didn’t steal the eggs, the birds and the animals would be much happier because they would have a new child to love…a youngling.” My wish for you is that while being compassionate towards others you do not forget to be compassionate towards yourself. This is one of the greatest gifts of all, for we can only be empathetic, forgiving, gentle, and kind with others if we practice doing these things for ourselves. In the words of the 10th century Jewish Scholar Hasdai Ibn Shaprut: “If one is cruel to himself, how an we expect him to be compassionate with others?”
The fourth one is TALENT. I hope that you keep pursuing your artistic talents, whether it be through your drawings, photos, writing—all of the above—and/or ones that you discover in the future. You have the eye and soul of an artist, which helps you to see and to experience the world in ways that many of us cannot. Treasure and honor your talent by continuing to share your unique vision and sense of the world. It is a gift that you bestow upon us.
The fifth one is JOY. The key to a good life, you ask? The Dalai Lama said it best: it’s happiness. My wish for you is that you always find the joy around you. An optimist always manages to find gratitude in the seemingly most insignificant experiences of daily life and even in the significant upheavals that we are all guaranteed to experience, while the pessimist manages to find the negative in even the most joyous of events. Keep choosing joy, as you have always brought joy to your family with your incredible humorous wit. I will never forget your response to your kindergarten teacher Mrs. Kruse when she asked you, “You like school, don’t you Tomas?” and you replied, “Yeah, but it takes a big chunk out of my day.” We both laughed the ugly laugh. We reveled in the joy that you so innocently gave us. May you forever give and receive such joy in the every day.
Finally, The sixth one is LOVE. As Dr. Walter stated in her book dedication to you when you were born, “May you always know these gifts of birth and the love surrounding you.”
[Hugs and tears ensue]