I always wanted a daughter. When I was pregnant, I was unapologetic about this. Sure, I suppose I would have loved a boy, but I WANTED a girl. When I found out it was Madeline in my belly, I couldn’t hide my glee. Some people are afraid of girls and all the drama that can eventually surround them. I wasn’t.

My pregnancy and her birth and first few months were hard, as you all know. I prayed every day that the three strongest women I knew would watch over Maddie and give her the strength to pull through. These women, my Great Grandmother Mary, my Nana Nancy, and my grandmother Mary Alice, were the most AMAZING women you could know, and I was blessed to be related to them. I can only think that when Maddie passed they were waiting for Madeline in heaven, and are now teaching her all the things I never could.

Madeline wasn’t a normal child. She had a life that was filled with more struggle and pain than ANYONE should have to endure. But yet, you would never know it just by looking at her. She WASN’T sickly or weak. She was so incredibly strong. She was SO happy. I used to joke that someone needed to tell her about all the war and famine in the world because it wasn’t normal to be so happy. It was impossible to be upset around her. I was laid off in October, and while it stung, it was an easy thing to get over with Maddie around. I am so grateful I got to spend so much more time with her.

We did everything together. Grocery store, shopping, errands, the park. I called her my pocket side kick, because she was so little and portable. She was my partner in crime and my best buddy. She was almost embarrassingly beautiful. Everywhere we went, people would compliment her beauty – her eyes, her smile, her golden halo of curly hair. Every time someone told her she was beautiful, I would whisper in her ear, “you are more than just your looks. You are smart, you are kind, you are happy. Remember that.” I didn’t want her to get a big head. Her brains truly matched her beauty, and I’m not just saying that. It’s been independently verified by numerous developmental specialists.

All that being said, she DID like to look good. I could hold up two shirts in front of her, and she’d pick the prettiest, cheeriest outfit every time. One of my secret cheesy joys was dressing like her – and be certain, I was dressing like HER, not the other way around. She had more shoes than many adult women – seriously – and if she came across an errant shoe on the floor, she’d try to put it on her foot. She loved having her hair brushed, and had figured out how to comb her own mop of curls. I’d already braced myself for the shopping and pampering bills that were to come.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about Maddie was her sense of humor. She was becoming quite the accomplished mimic, but her sense of comic timing was already impeccable. She could make me laugh with just a glance or a movement of her shoulder. Her laugh was infectious and melodic, and the expressions she had were priceless. If it was quiet for too long, I could count on her to break the silence with a “hiiiii!” or a “woooooow” or by her favorite move, putting her fingers between her lips while making noise.

She loved everyone. She would go to anyone that wanted to hold her – and EVERYONE wanted to hold her – she even broke in some of the guys out here. Just last week, she learned how to say UP! She just loved to be held, kissed, hugged, loved. She love to GIVE kisses, hugs, and cuddles. She was so loving. A month or so ago we were on an errand to Target. With Maddie in my cart, we cruised that store in record time. As we walked by the toy section, I was overwhelmed with the desire to buy her a toy. I walked down an aisle and found a small Abby Cadabby doll (from Sesame Street). I held the doll up to Maddie and said, “Do you want this, baby?” She looked at the doll, looked at me, looked at the doll…and then the biggest smile broke out across her face. She looked at me again as if to say, “REALLY?” I said, “Take her, babe!” And she grabbed the Abby doll with both hands and started kissing it. She kissed that Abby doll every day.

She loved her dog Rigby especially. While Rigby would sometimes eye Maddie with mild suspicion (unless Maddie was eating – then Rigby was ALL ABOUT her), I was constantly amazed by her tolerance of Maddie’s “love.” Maddie had a hard time realizing that fur tugs, eye pokes, and tail pulls weren’t welcome signs of affection. But yet, Rigby never snapped at her. The last night Maddie was home, Rigby snuggled up right next to her in bed and Maddie ate it up. I am so happy Maddie had that moment with the puppy she adored.

I have a lot of things I’m sad I’ll never teach her, milestones I’ll never see her hit. The first day of kindergarten, high school, college at USC, of course. She was GOING to be a Delta Gamma like me and her Auntie Monica, and all of her other aunties in spirit. I’d say I’m sad she never went on her first date but she had so many boyfriends already.  She’ll never hold a baby brother or sister, lose a tooth, be cheerleading captain and the star of the softball team. But I am lucky. I don’t have many regrets from when she was with me. I wish we’d taken her to Disneyland instead of crummy California Adventure. I wish I hadn’t kept her away from Elmo for so long, that crazy red puppet. I wish I’d taken her to the MAC makeup counter and said, “I want THAT lip color in a longwear lip glass.” But that? Is all I regret. I am so lucky.

I’ve always felt like I was a better talker than writer. When someone tells me I am a good writer I always think, “Mike is the writer, I am the talker.” But I’m having a hard time talking. I’m having a hard time writing. I’m having a hard time being. My blog started as a way to keep my family and friends informed about my pregnancy and Maddie’s NICU stay. After that, I wrote so Maddie would have a record of her life. So that someday, when she went through the awkward and unjust parts of growing up, I could say to her, “Honey, you are so tough, this is nothing compared to what you’ve already faced.” And now… Well… WE have a record of her life. If she ever has a sibling, we will be able to say “THIS is your sister.”

Through Madeline, I saw the world, and the world saw HER. She made me who I am and has given me experiences I never even dreamed of. I’ve always known my daughter is special, I knew she’d be famous and make an impact on the world. You don’t survive a hellish introduction into life for nothing, you know. And I never, EVER imagined that her passing would be how she made her mark. But I realize…her passing ISN’T how she made her mark. It was her LIFE. Her life is what touched all of you, and made you love the little girl with the big blue eyes and the gigantic grin. It is her LIFE that I hope you will all remember when you leave here today, and it is her LIFE that we should celebrate and never, ever forget.

My sun eyed girl. Little Maddie Moo. You were all we ever needed. It is an honor to be your mommy. You brought out the best in me, and made me a Mom. I am so, so lucky to have had you in my arms and in my life. I love you with all of my being.

You will always be the daughter I always wanted.

The Tribute to Our Madeline from Mike and Heather on Vimeo.

You can read Mike’s tribute to Madeline here.