I couldn't hide my tears as I snuck out the back door at the end of the Hillsboro High School graduation this year.
In part, they were happy tears, proud of the graduates and all their accomplishments. It's always fun to see the kids we cover year after year reaching their dreams and taking that next step into a bright future.
But in another way, they were sad tears. It's the first time in the last four years that I have covered the Hiltopper graduation that I haven't known whether or not my own little girl would ever walk across that stage some day.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I immediately had all these hopes and dreams for what my son or daughter would accomplish in his or her life. From athletics to academics, I wondered what sort of things he or she would be interested in trying.
This month's graduation also made me stop and think about all the things I accomplished in that very gym. My first flute solo, playing the editor's wife in the operetta "Little Shop of Horrors," being pickleball champions in PE with my friend Nicole, and of course, graduating as salutatorian of my class.
To say I had big goals and dreams for Grace would be a bit of an understatement. Even before she was born, Kyle used to call her "Super Baby," and we thought about all the ways she would change the world.
Even with some of Grace's early delays, we still felt like she would be able to catch up somewhere along the way. And although we pray for a miracle every day, we aren't sure Grace will even have the chance to go to high school someday.
And that's hard for me. I think I cried at most events I covered this spring, because even though I was happy for the kids receiving their awards, part of me was sad because it might never be my Gracie.
My beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl may never compete in sports, earn an academic scholarship or even have the chance to go to high school, but she's still changing the world each and every day. It just might not be in the way I dreamed or I imagined it would be, even though she's probably changed my life the most.
I hope someday to write a book about all the things Grace has taught me, starting with patience, determination, courage and perseverance. But lately, the biggest lesson she's taught me is to remember to always smile. It seems like she always has a smile, wherever we go, whoever we meet, whatever we do.
I caught myself crying more than once this spring, sad that Grace may never have the chance to fulfill my dreams for her future. But then I look into her blue eyes and her smile, and I know, she will fulfill all the dreams planned for her. And I'm lucky to have the chance to be on this journey with her.
Because the truth is, not a single one of us is promised a tomorrow or a future on this Earth. The best lesson we can learn is to live each day to the fullest, making the most of every opportunity, and of course, always remembering to smile.