Five years ago today two incredible events converged that changed my life forever.

It had been a very sad week as two close friends of mine had passed away; one quite unexpectedly.

This day, February 9, was one filled with joy. Our daughter Jolie went into labor early in the morning. I went shopping for magazines and newspapers that I will give to this child someday as a record of what was happening in the world when he/she was born. While shopping, I received a call from my wife Lindi that I needed to head for the hospital. The birth process was progressing. Jolie had invited Lindi and me to be present for the birth; the first I would witness since my two daughters were born in the late 1970’s.

What follows are excerpts from my journal that day:

After I arrived at the hospital, I noticed on my phone that my literary agent had called from New York. I called her back and learned that Beacon Press is very interested in making an offer for my manuscript. However, Gayatri Patnaik, the editor who is considering our proposal, wants to talk with me first. I explained to my agent that I’m at the hospital waiting for our grandchild to be born, which definitely caught her by surprise. I told her I’d call Gayatri if I got the chance.

She soon left me another message that I should not worry about calling Gayatri. I did anyway. The nurse said we still have plenty of time. Jolie’s going through contraction after contraction, but no pushing yet. It’s a little after noon. This seems like such a magic day that I’m not going to miss out on any of it. So I punched in the number for Beacon Press.

Gayatri apologized for interrupting such a special moment. I told her she isn’t interrupting at all; she’s part of it. “Welcome to the magic,” I said.

She explained that she’s leaving the country for two weeks but loves my book proposal. We talked about the the story, about Beacon Press, about what she has in mind for the process we would undertake together to transform my manuscript into a book. I immediately felt a powerful connection with Gayatri. The conversation was warm and easy. It felt like we’re on the same wavelength. Though the manuscript has been shopped to several other publishers, it would take a lot to convince me to consider any other publisher. The stars are aligned on this one.

Later in the day…

4:12pm: WE HAVE A BABY. Alison Ryan Heinly is born.

When the medical team finishes checking Ali out, they put a little cap on her head and wrap her in a blanket. They hand her to her daddy. I put my arm around Allen’s shoulder and just stare at this magic little angel. Allen and I both have joyous sniffles and tears in our eyes. I love this moment. I remember when I first met Shiloh [my oldest daughter] thirty years ago. There’s nothing like it in the world.

The sun shines bright through the blinds in the window, anointing Alison with its brilliant warmth. The following two days will be filled with clouds and rain. This moment is pure sunshine. Warm, bright, life-giving, life-affirming. Amazing; just like her. Allen hands Alison to Jolie.

After the amazing experience of childbirth and after leaving our kids at the hospital and returning home, I pondered all that had happened on February 9, 2007. I’m grateful and humbled by having witnessed Ali’s birth; the process of which is evidence of the ongoing human miracle of love and commitment. Our second grandchild has been born into a growing family of people who will love and care for her as long as we live. I’m also grateful and astounded that my lifelong dream of being a published author will finally come true.

Before I knew Ali would be born today, I pulled on a t-shirt from an old comic book series called Sandman. It features the character “Death” who says “You get what anyone gets. You get a lifetime.” I wore it in honor of my friends who had recently died. I’ll attend the funeral for one of them tomorrow.

But as it turns out, I guess the Universe knew what it was doing. This is a perfect message for a birth. We get a lifetime. There are no guarantees on the length or quality and we choose what we do with it. Alison Ryan Heinly will have her own choices to make.

I think of these things, and re-read my journal entries each year on Ali’s birthday because I’m still in awe of all that happened that day. As I now prepare for the publication of another book in October, I extend my gratitude once again to Gayatri Patnaik and everyone at Beacon Press for their commitment to making our world a better place for all of our grandchildren, and for believing in me.

We’re babysitting Ali and her sister Jammie this evening. We’ll take them to Ali’s favorite place for a healthy dessert: Cuppa Yo!. I can’t wait to sweep her up into my arms and give thanks once again. Here’s my final entry from five years ago:

Everyone else may call my granddaughter Alison or Ali. I’m torn between “lucky” and “miracle.”


…and a few hours later at Cuppa Yo, Ali and Papa… bliss!