Born April 3, 1990, Elizabeth Grace Evans weighed just 4 pounds. She was born a few weeks early but as far as I was concerned, she came right on time.

The day she was born I was playing out in right field. My dad interrupted the softball game to ask the coach if I could leave. Seeing as though I hadn’t caught a fly ball in two seasons and my batting average was in the single digits, the coach quickly obliged.

On the way to the hospital, I had a million questions for my dad as to why she was born  early and if she was okay. He answered them to the best of his ability and warned me that she was in a special incubator and it would be a few days before we could take her home.

Ten days later, on Easter Sunday, Elizabeth came home. She was dressed from head to toe in pink and I was so proud to be the first to change her diaper.

For years she was my little shadow. Until she was about five, her favorite outfit was a pair of pink bike shorts with cowboy boots. She had little round glasses and long hair, which she rarely let me put in a pony tail. She loved dogs and although one bit her, she was still never afraid of them. She would do her homework in the back of my car so she could have enough time to play when she got home from school. When she was toddler she didn’t like the sand, but by the time she was 10-years-old she was enrolled in surf camp and loved the beach.

For her 12th birthday I threw her a huge birthday party in the backyard and I knew then, that my time with her was soon coming to an end. She was big now and her friends were more important then her big sister.

Soon thereafter, on a hot summer day, I went to pick her up for an ice cream date and she opted not to go. “I think I just want to stay here and hang out with my friends,” she said rather bluntly.

I  was crushed, but I knew I had to put on a brave face. “Ok sweetie, have fun with your friends, I‘ll call you later,” I replied with a fake smile.

As soon as I pulled out of the driveway, the tears came streaming down my face. I knew it was the end of an era. Soon her little round glasses would turn into contact lenses and her pink outfits would turn into skinny jeans. Her friends would take the place of our dates together. No longer would  I be the coolest person in her life.

Because of Elizabeth I know what it means to value the time you have with the younger people in your life.

Watching her become a teenager wasn’t easy. The first time she told me she hated me, I knew the meaning of the phrase “we hurt the ones we love the most.” Thankfully, I once was a teenage girl and I knew her words held little meaning. However, at that moment when she was screaming at me, I would have paid any amount of money to rewind the clock and have back the little girl with glasses and cowboy boots.

Today, that little girl, turned teenager, is now a beautiful, smart, sweet almost 22-year-old young woman. Our family will celebrate her birthday this week because next week she is on her way to Hawaii. This past weekend, she and I and Jacqueline were together chatting away senselessly. In that moment I felt like the luckiest person alive to have been able to be a big sister twice to two of the most incredible people I know.

Thank you Elizabeth Grace for all that you are to me, to our family and to this world. Happy Birthday and enjoy your adventure.