Maybe the first thing you noticed about her was her tattoos.
It's possible, as she had a few. Or perhaps it was her long, shiny hair.
Or her Converse All-Stars. Or her lip ring? Or possibly, even from afar, you could hear the music blasting from her earphones, even when they were tucked into her own ears. There were many things about Dakotah Smith that drew others' attention, but it's fair to say that her wheelchair was not one of them.
Was she physically wheelchair-bound? Yes, she was. But was the word "bound" ever a part of her vocabulary? Arguably no. She had a spirit so free that she didn't allow anything to limit her. She seemed to make the impossible possible for someone that society would consider "bound" by her disability.
College. Working. Apartment living. Competitive sports. Traveling. Concerts. Vacations. Camps.
She just simply didn't let anyone tell her no. Barriers didn't exist because she always found the courage to believe she could surmount them.
But beyond these practical things, she inspired us with the depth of her heart. For every adjective we could use, she embodied it completely. She was love. She was passion. She was courage. She was spunk. She was punk! She was inspiration.
For all these things and easily 1,000 more, we are grateful, for it was you, Dakotah, who made us find all these things in ourselves. In every barrier you surmounted, you taught us how to be courageous. With every passion you had, you taught us how to dream, and also that our dreams are within our reach if we have the courage to follow them. You showed us that people have value beyond their limitations. You demonstrated that even in the darkest of times, there is hope for a brighter future. With a humor that few can match, you always reminded us that life can be full of joy and is definitely worth the living.
It will be impossible to fill your void, but you can be assured that the passion, the spunk, the love, the courage, and maybe even a little bit of the punk will travel with each of us as we continue on our journeys. And that's because you've left your imprint on our lives.
You are simply unforgettable Dakotah; thank you for inspiring us all!
- written by Kim Salewski Almeida