I hope you all enjoyed last week’s piece regarding my thoughts on the holiday season. There was much more to it but I rambled and ranted far too long not keeping track of my word count and had to be substantially edited in the interest of space. I had a plan for this week’s article, but my six-year-old daughter unintentionally and unwittingly altered that by providing me with the story you are about to read. The event I’m about to tell you about happened only days ago and is completely true. I’m not too big a man to admit that it reduced me to tears. This is a story about one child’s simple act of thoughtfulness, caring, and unequivocal love that touched my heart so deeply that I’d feel remiss not to share it with you. Given that this is the time of year of giving, caring, sharing, and selflessness, it seems especially poignant.

Allow me if you will, to first tell you about my daughter. Anyone who’s ever met her since she was the age of two has practically unanimously referred to here as “an old soul”. Though a mere child in so many ways, her thought process and her level of caring and selflessness is at such a sophisticated level that it renders one unable to help but think: wow, she’s been here before. I don’t quite know why I was so surprised by what I witnessed this week because it is not at all unlike her. But this one floored me and I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it.

She’s been on a huge princess kick ever since a trip to Disney World almost two years ago. She insists on wearing a dress, tights, and nice shoes at all times. The problem is, that once she dons this attire she insists on going outside climbing trees, and playing in the mud. Her enigmatic, oxymoronic tendencies make her the daintiest, most feminine tomboy ever.

Her favorite place to play is in what she calls her “garden.” This is a mound of dirt in our front yard next to the driveway—more often than not, it’s a mound of mud. It’s her safe haven. She calls it the garden because she plants things in it. When she walks around our yard, if she finds sticks, branches, and small dead trees she feels sorry for them. She brings them to her “garden”, and replants them into the ground. Her feeling is that if they are standing upright, they will come back to life and this makes her happy. She even landscapes her dirt mound by neatly arranging rocks in geometric patterns and building mud castles. She also adorns this area with leaves and flowers that she obtains from places unknown. I don’t ask questions, but I should imagine I have some unhappy neighbors.

Standing in my driveway the other day with two good friends who had stopped by to help me move an old TV that died of old age and weighed over three hundred pounds, I noticed them looking perplexed in the direction of the “garden.” As I explained to them what it was, I noticed something I had never seen there before—a stone that seemed completely out of place. To use a “Shawshank” reference, this rock had no earthly place being there. Upon further inspection, I realized that this stone had been liberated from my neighbor’s landscaping. The closer I looked I realized why my daughter had pilfered this particular rock, my heart sank and I fought hard to hold back the tears which were welling up in me even with my friends present.

This rock was approximately a foot in diameter. It was perfectly flat on the top and bottom. Most importantly, it was perfectly heart shaped, almost as if it had been chiseled to look that way. Scribed in blue magic marker across the top of the heart in a font that could only be properly executed by a six- year-old was my mother’s full name—first and last. The next line read the words; “I Love You.” Underneath of which was a picture of a heart with a crack drawn through its length.

My mother, whom I truly believe was the greatest woman ever to walk the Earth, sadly passed away more than two years before my daughter was even born. My daughter only knew that this woman was “Daddy’s Mommy,” that she was loved very much, and that she lives in Heaven now. My daughter would never have the pleasure of meeting this amazing woman, and yet she was memorializing her with a homemade headstone right in my own front yard.

As I stood staring at this stone, I was immediately reminded of an event which had taken place the day before. My daughter had come inside from playing with both hands covered in blue ink and I chastised her for it. I lightly reprimanded her for this because she knew we had somewhere to be. She offered me no explanation at all as to why her hands were covered in the ink. She simply looked me in the eye and said,

“I’m sorry Daddy,” and went in to wash her hands.

Now I stood there in my driveway, staring at the stone decorated in blue magic marker, and I couldn’t possibly feel any worse.

My mother fought and beat cancer multiple times over the course of 14 years. Never once saying “why me?” Never once displaying signs of defeat or self-pity. She neither wanted nor expected sympathy. EVER!  She spent most of the last years of her life counseling and inspiring women who had been diagnosed with this horrible disease. Almost all of these women had previously been complete strangers, and yet she was trying to comfort them in their darkest hour. This was just her way. She was taken from us at the far too young age of 63 with a 5 and 1 record against the Beast. Impressive stats considering the foe, but that offered little solace to me, my family, and the throngs of people who knew and loved her. She fought with all she had to the very end. When told she was dying, she smiled and responded,

“Nah, I’m living.”

When my sweet daughter entered the house with ink-covered hands I offered her the perfect opportunity not only to explain why she was like that, but to draw attention to her kind deed. She instead opted to keep it her secret and accept her reprimand. Looking back on this, I’m not sure why I’m surprised. Random acts of kindness are nothing new from this little girl and she never wants recognition. In fact, it embarrasses her when people draw attention to it. She feels that this belittles and degrades the act itself and defeats its purpose—pretty deep thinking for a six-year-old. I’ve not mentioned to her that I discovered what she did, and more than likely I won’t.

The act my little girl completed wasn’t for attention, wasn’t for praise, wasn’t for acceptance. She did this not to solicit affection, or love or even a big fat hug. She wasn’t showing off, or acting out. She did this for no other reason than that it felt good, and right in her heart. This was something that was between her and her Grandma, and no one else. She was paying homage to, and expressing her pure, unadulterated love for a woman whom she would never meet but whom she knew in her heart was an important part of her life directly, or indirectly. The fact that these two will never actually know each other is disheartening, because the similarities between them are staggering.

I could not possibly be more proud of this angelic little girl whom I’m blessed enough to call my daughter. As I do the best I can to raise her, I will not try to have her grow up to be just like me. If anything, I will spend my days hoping that it’s not too late for ME to grow up to be just like her.

Ironically enough, on the day that this article posts, December 20, 2011, my sweet daughter turns 7 years old. Happy Birthday Sweetie! Daddy LOVES you. And so does Grandma.


Until next week,

Syd Nichols

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