I’m thankful this year because twenty-three years ago, we received a gift, a daughter who was nothing like what we had expected and yet brought us an enduring peace. Without ever speaking a word, she changed our perspective on what was important. She helped us decide where to live and helped us learn how to live. In a time when special effects and virtual reality make the day-to-day seem humdrum, she showed us the true meaning of wonder.

I feel lucky this year to see Gabriella bring unity, during a time of divisiveness and conflict. When she smiles, it’s impossible not to feel joy, no matter how your day is going. When she clicks, it’s impossible not to feel blessed, no matter your faith or beliefs. If everyone knew someone like her, the world would know less strife.

I’m grateful this year that we’ve seen Alexander make great strides in his life, and no less that Gabriella has gone from an unmatched school environment to a day program that keeps improving. Each is fulfilling their destiny; each is making the world around them a little better. Comparing our children brings hazards, but taking pride in each yields only benefits.

I feel blessed this year because she is healthy and has been throughout the last twelve months. Writing her story has brought back hurdles she has overcome, from dehydration to cataracts to club foot surgery. It’s caused me to reflect on our first hours together, to dwell on the dark days after the neurosurgeons removed the tumor from her brain, to relish once more the outcome of our son’s Level II ultrasound. It’s memorialized the lessons I’ve derived from our experiences. And it’s made me appreciate the relative lack of “excitement” this past year.

I’m appreciative this year that Lisa and I have a loving family and friends, many met either directly or indirectly because of our daughter. So, too, the devoted people who help us care for and transport and instruct and entertain our child, who can do so few of those things for herself and still shows each of them her own type of appreciation.

I feel fortunate this year that so many of you take precious time to share our story. As I’ve transitioned from an executive role at a mission-based organization to a life of writing and blogging, I’ve had the privilege to read dozens of wonderful blogs written by parents of unique kids. Experiencing their struggles and joys has left me a better person. I can only hope some who come to this site find a similar encouragement in our journey with Gabriella.

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!