The best are like water
bringing help to all
without competing
choosing what others avoid
they thus approach the Tao
- Tao Te Ching 8

I've just spent about forty minutes on the phone to Tessie, who is in Port Townsend with Bob, her bio-dad. She misses home, misses her friends, misses ballet, misses normality. We're going to court on Monday for a three-day trial that will decide whether I gain legal guardianship, or whether she will have to go back to Washington to live with Bob, and start a new life.

She's fourteen, is still grieving for her mother. She's anxious and scared. I reminded her of who she really is - a smart, honest and open communicator who always looks for the best in others and seeks peace and harmony in her relationships. She loves her father, loves me, but she does not want to live with him away from Davis.

I reminded her of a couple of things that transpired at the beginning of our relationship, the first few weeks when I came to California to meet her and Christine. I reminded her that on the Saturday after my flight over, when I hit the jet-lag grey wall of doom, she took my hand and walked back to the house and settled me on the couch so I could take a nap. Some hours later, when Christine returned home, she found the two of us at opposite ends of the sofa, legs intertwined and sleeping like babies. She was six.

Christine told me later that this was a measure of her trust of me, that she agreed to walk me home after knowing me for less than a day. She was also stunned at her discovery of us, as Tess was never a child that took naps. In short, we had a good start to our relationship. When I got home, I missed them both equally. This gave me the confidence to pop the question to Christine later in December.

I told Tessie many times that she was as instrumental in the wedding as Christine and I were; at the handfasting, the officiants asked Tess if she would be willing to accept me into the family. She said "Yes". Similarly at the official wedding, same question, same response. By this time, of course, she knew that Christine was as important to me as to her. After all, I'd flown 5,500 miles to be with Christine after her diagnosis with cancer. Yes, I chose what others might avoid. Tess and Christine knew they could trust me to love them both, and that was enough.

Of course, over time I came to appreciate Tess more and more. This bright, smart, loving and open child grew up and is becoming a wonderful young woman. Sadly, she lost her mother at a critical age, the age of development into maturity and independence. But I have told her many times that, whilst Christine's light had gone out, it is not lost to the world. It shines from a fourteen-year-old, who radiates her mother's illumination at every opportunity.

Tessie, I love you exactly as I loved your Mum, and for the same reasons. You are a multifaceted jewel bringing light into the dark corners of the world. She raised you well. Shine on, wherever you be.