Last week Lily turned 2. I asked my sister, Sally Evans, an accomplished journalist and editor, to write a guest blog in celebration of this milestone.
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
– Roald Dahl.
Two years ago, sitting in Johannesburg, in the days after Lily was born, I discovered magic in the unlikeliest of places.
They say our hearts carry the battle scars of our lives and mine was already feeling quite battered when Lily was born: our dad died from cancer a couple of years before, but I still felt his loss acutely and Lily’s very early and difficult arrival battered my heart even further.
I had no idea that the roller coaster her birth would take us on on, would hasten my need to reconnect with my dad and ultimately my need to trust the journey it would take me on.
Robyn asked me to write a guest post for SuperLily, as we celebrated Lily’s second birthday last week, to talk about how it affected Lily’s family.
She said to me sometime after Lily was born, that maybe her, (Robyn’s) purpose was that of a guardian: to love and nurture Lily so that she can grow into the little girl and woman she is destined to become.
I am not a parent, but that statement left a lasting impression on me. And it was this impression, and my enduring respect and love for my sister and her unwavering commitment to Lily, that inspired this short post that is all about finding magic…
One evening not long after Lily was born, sitting outside at home in Johannesburg, I realised that Lily’s life might be over before it had even started. In that moment I got so angry with the world and then with my dad, for not doing anything to protect her. Immediately after thinking that, there was a massive clap of thunder. I got such a fright, so I silently apologised to my dad wherever he was, for being rude.
A couple of days later it occurred to me that my dad was not berating me so much as asking me to have a little faith, as if to say: “Be patient. Give it a chance.”
It was extraordinary, but I knew I had found my dad again. And that meant, to me, that I had found a way to reach Lily from across the world. I remember saying something to Robs along the lines of I know this sounds crazy but I feel like I know Lily even though I haven’t met her.
I had just begun my 200 hour yoga teacher training when Lily was born, and for many months after Lily’s birth, and still today, during savasana – practiced at the end of a yoga class – I focus my thoughts and energy to connect with my dad. At the time it was as if he could then help me direct our combined energy across the globe to Hong Kong to envelope and protect Lily.
Something I kept hearing over and over again during my various yoga training courses was that we should approach each pose, each experience with a sense of vulnerability, as if you are doing it for the first time.
The point of this only started to make sense to me as I watched Lily grappling with some of the things many others don’t think twice about doing – and always with a smile on her pretty little face at the end.
The truth is that Lily changed every person in our family: before her arrival we had all become quite disconnected, each of us separately trying to make sense of our lives without our dad, the glue we thought we might not survive without. Lily’s birth brought us back as we each fell instantly and forever totally in love with this remarkable little girl. Suddenly family and hope were the most important survivor tools we needed.
On the other side of the world this baby girl, a warrior, was fighting for her life, for her right to live. And I remember so vividly thinking that maybe I needed to start fighting a little harder for my life. And while I am in no way speaking for the rest of our family, I am confident that each of them experienced similar thoughts.
We can’t avoid heartbreak, but we can and should celebrate every small victory and even the tiniest times of joy and happiness. We should try to allow our hearts to dance in those moments.
As I write this, I find myself once again sitting a million miles away from Lily. But this time I don’t have feelings of fear or anger, just of gratitude.
Lily you are the magic I never realised I needed – or what our family needed. We are your village Lily, your people, your family and we love you.
In two years, you have helped me to see the world with glittering eyes again.
Happy birthday sweet, pretty, warrior girl.
About the Author: Sally Evans is the Digital Editor at Amabhungane, an independent not for profit investigative journalism newsroom in South Africa. She is also a qualified yoga instructor, now training to specialise in yoga for kids. These things distinguish Sally professionally, but she is particularly outstanding in her relatively new personal role as Aunty Sal to Lily and her two little cousins in South Africa and the UK.
COMING UP NEXT: In the next episode of the SuperLily Podcast Sally will have a conversation with my husband, Sean, talking about his experiences as the father of a preemie baby and child with cerebral palsy.