It’s been a beautiful journey watching Bindi Irwin grow up before our very eyes.
The teen stole our hearts on Dancing With the Stars as she paid tribute to her father Steve Irwin, who passed away in 2006 after being pierced in the chest by a deadly stingray.
“You know, it’s been nine years, and I never really dwelled on that point, when he did pass away,” said an emotional Bindi in her DWTS interview last year. “I think that I’m kind of ready to tell that story.”
And she’s continued to tell it well, both through her breathtaking performances and heartfelt tributes to her father.
On her 18th birthday yesterday, she posted this picture to Instagram along with the message below:
Hello lovelies. Well today marks 18 years of life for me, here in Australia and I really don’t know where to begin in thanking so many people for an unforgettable journey so far. So I think that I’ll start here, with this photograph. This photo was taken within the first year of my life. To be perfectly honest life has changed in a million ways since this photograph was taken. Along the way we gained another incredible part of our family, my brother Robert. Our conservation work with Wildlife Warriors took off around the world. Our home, Australia Zoo continued to expand and has become the greatest zoological facility on planet earth. Our Dad, Mum’s soulmate and a superhero for us all, passed away. However, since this photo was taken, 18 years ago, one life ingredient has remained, unchanged, unbreakable. That is the unconditional love that is shared between my beautiful little family and the loyalty we have to eachother and everyone else who has taken this journey with us. I don’t think that when this photo was taken even my beautiful parents could have known what life would evolve. I know that I am endlessly grateful for the love and light I have been given since Day 1 of my life.
“For the rest of my life, I’ll kind of feel like he’s gonna come home,” said Bindi in an earlier DWTS interview.
Though Steve will forever hold a special place in Bindi’s heart, the ambitious teen refuses to let her grief rule her life.
As a follow-up to the Instagram message above, Bindi shared these powerful words commenting on the “happiness in [her] heart” and her excitement for the “journey to come”:
Happy birthday to this gorgeous young lady! May you and your family continue to grow in unconditional love as the years go on. That is, after all, the greatest gift.