“Now class, pay attention!” Sister Mary Margaret began authoritatively with Monday’s dissertation on spiritual life. “You must be present to witness God’s wonder and awe.”

In 1964, nuns at St. Charles Grammar School, in San Carlos, had a way of beating a subject (religious or otherwise) into the concrete floors of our upper-level classroom. With a four-foot-long pointer in hand, our teacher walloped her elongated weapon for decorum across her palm as she praised God’s mystical glory.

“How can you be present for something you can’t see?” I wondered.

But assuming the position, elbows firmly planted on the edge of my desk and my fourteen-year-old face cupped in my hands, I pretended to be engaged as my mind flittered to the fantasy world of young love and the pre-pubescent hunk-of-burning love sitting dangerously close just to my left. Now that I could be in attendance for!

During my sixteen years of parochial education, I found that phrase repeated over-and-over in every religion class I attended, but I never took the time to understand its true meaning. After all, life was busy as I matured to womanhood. Working a part-time job while going to school and investigating intricate ways to maneuver around the opposite sex left little time for introspection, let alone reflection.

Then my children’s father entered my life and with him, an entirely new world began to unfold for me. As we created our future together, everything looked ever so promising. I was confident I’d finally grasped the significance of those words, wonder and awe. What could be more grand than being in love and the excitement that goes with it?

But in 1981, I experienced an epiphany, and the true meaning of a miracle was revealed with the birth of my first child, Michelle.

Peering down on this perfect little creature with sapphire-blue eyes and tufts of finely spun white cotton candy hair, my heart stopped beating. The beauty of birth took my breath away. From the moment she was placed on my chest, I knew I was forever changed.

Wanting to relive that experience, I gave birth three more times. But when my father passed away in October 2012, part of the legacy he left behind was the realization that I could have such experiences every day, not just on special occasions.

My dad was a man of few words. In fact, he rarely had much to say because he preferred to be an observer and not a talker.

Watching him smile joyfully at the sound of a baby’s giggle, or the time he took to smell a freshly budding rose from my garden, silently told me, “Live your life awake.”

For dad, it was the little things that gave him pause to reflect, revere, and honor. Big things were easy to detect. They exploded like a brilliant display of multicolored fireworks on the 4th of July. But true magical wonders required a moment of silence to unearth.

Since the privilege of witnessing the surrender of his soul back to his creator, I’ve made it my mission to carry on where he left off. I’m now a voyeur. Oh, not the kind that peeks in windows. That would be creepy. No, I peer into the minutia of my day as it casually drifts by.

When a time-out is allowed, I soak in my surroundings. I permit the enchanting sensation of wind dancing with my hair or the smell of fresh cut grass to saturate my five senses. I don’t over analyze the experience with words. I just allow myself to be present.

I think we all get so caught up in our daily routine that we forget to notice that miracles are not just in birth or the gentle passing of a life, but all that goes on in between; the sound of birds welcoming the morning sunlight or the vivid color of white billowy clouds against a slate of unmarked blue sky. One of my favorites is inhaling fresh air in my lungs each morning while I lie in bed knowing I have another day to live.

So, when I’m walking down the street and I look like I’m not breathing, it won’t be cause for alarm and no need for CPR. I’m just a spectator in another one of the universe’s mind-blowing mystical, marvelous moments.

I’m sure there are times you’ve seen something so stupendous it took your breath away. When was it and how did it make you feel?