My dear son:

On Monday, you reached a milestone.

You turned six months old.

In most families this is a quite celebration — something one mother mentions in passing to another. Or, if you will, a line item on a doctor’s report.

In our family things are somewhat different.

You see, Zach, you’ve earned each and every day.

It was just two months ago that you returned to OU Children’s for your second heart surgery. This after your first surgery last fall.

Since then you’ve been a delight to your parents, your brothers and sisters and the rest of this loud, raucous family Carter.

You’re too young to realize it Zach, but watching your strength and waking to see your bright smile has renewed my faith in God and my hope in making the world a better place.

Touching your tiny hands, I’ve rediscovered the thrill of just being alive. I laugh as I see your large, hazel eyes react to something new. I find joy in watching you discover and experience your world for the very first time.

You remind me how beautiful — and how fragile — life can be.

Zachary, you’ll never know — at least not until you have children of your own — the fear and anguish your mother and I felt as you were taken from us for surgery.

Twice doctors have opened your small chest and operated on your heart.

And twice, you’d recovered wonderfully.

Your small chest carries those scars. It shows the marks of what you — at such a young age — have already been through.

But — to quote an old Rod Stewart song — you wear those scars well.

Zachary, you inspire me.

Just when I think all hope is lost in the world you, my son, remind me how beautiful life can be. The peace that I find as you sleep in my arms is live-giving. Watching you giggle as your mother touches you, seeing you react to your sister and hearing your coo with your brothers can make my darkest day a delight.

You have made your mark on my soul.

We’ve read books, the newspaper and conjugated Latin verbs together, you and I.

And I’ve loved every minute.

Zach, I wish there were more people like you. I wish those tyrants in the Middle East and those who to claim to be our leaders could, just for a day, experience your courage.

We all would be far better off if they did.

Now, I watch as you change almost daily.

I see you hold your own bottle, or grasp things with those small, perfect hands and I stand in awe of how quickly your learn.

Your eyes always seem to search, and I know for a fact you’re always listening.

You’re not the same child you were six months ago.

Okay, granted, the teething thing probably isn’t that much fun, but don’t you worry about drooling. I’ve got tons of gray sweatshirts and I don’t mind one bit if you slobber on them.

Like I told you that first day your joined us, I’ve got your back.

I’m your dad and I promise you, with God as my witness, that I’ll do everything I can to keep you safe, healthy and happy.

All you have to do is keep smiling — and flirt with your mother occasionally, she really likes that.

We’ve got stacks of books, music and sights for you to experience. I can’t wait to see you taste chocolate or cherry soda pop.

And you have yet to see your first fireworks display.

But we will, my son, we will.

I look forward with delight to your first, wobbly steps.

But only when you’re ready.

Take your time and enjoy the fact that your mom and I are right next to you — always.

You came into the world with the bets against you; so you played the only hand you had — and the results were amazing.

Ego amor tua magna, mea bella parvus filius.

Know that I thank God, each day, for the chance to be your dad. But most of all, I thank God each day for you.

All my love,

Dad.

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