My dearest Elizabeth,
Today is your first day on Earth. Today you breathed air for the first time, and moments later I got to hear your first scream. I held you in my arms when you first opened your eyes, and for the first time you fell asleep in my arms.
I wish I could keep you like this always, safe in my arms and sheltered from all the ugliness in the world, but I can’t. You will grow up, much sooner than I want you to, and come face to face with the hurts of this world.
Your mother and I did you a disservice in a way, bringing you into this world, as it is a crazy and terrible place. It’s a world where people believe it’s okay to hate others just because they look, think or believe differently than you. It’s a world where people put themselves first, without a thought of how their actions might hurt those around them. It’s a world where greed and dishonesty is rewarded and integrity only brings you trouble.
It’s a world in which you will be hurt, and as much as I want to protect you from it, I know I’ll never be able to. I’m just not strong enough.
I might even cause more than a little share of the hurt you will experience in your life.
And for that I apologise.
But I want you to know two things of which you can be certain:
First, I love you. I love you more than I have words to describe. I only met you a few hours ago but I already know that I can never stop loving you, even if I tried. I can’t protect you from this world, but I will do everything in my power to try and do it anyway, because I’m your father and that’s what dads do (the good ones, anyway, and I really hope I’m one of those).
And second, this world is an incredible place. I know, I know. A moment ago I called it…I think my exact words were “crazy and terrible”. But at the same time it’s also filled with beauty and wonder.
You were born on a Tuesday. We drove to hospital in the early morning hours with a full moon overhead, and the sun shone brightly in a clear blue sky all day long. A couple weeks ago I spent an hour watching two eagles circle over our home. It has mountains and forests and deserts, and I can’t wait to introduce you to the sea.
On the day you were born someone stood for what they believe in, sacrificed for the sake of others, spoke out against injustice, followed their dreams.
A wise man once named the three greatest virtues: Faith, Hope and Love. If you cultivate these in your life and let them shape the way you view the world, it will never beat you down. Not for good, anyway – you’ll always be able, and more importantly, find a reason to get back up.
I only hope you can see these virtues in my life in the brief moment in time we have together.
I feel like I should end with some profound advice, but I’m pretty sure in the coming year you are going to prove that everything I thought I knew is complete poppycock, so let’s leave advice until next year. (Assuming you’re not the one giving me advice by then.)