You know when you’re a kid and the emotions conjured by a birthday bash at Chuck E. Cheese are equally as epic as your first trip to Disneyland? As an adult, one might think, “Seriously? Chuck E. Cheese smells like pee and it’s just down the street, whereas Disneyland is like fantasy and wonder all rolled into one giant week of over-stimulation!”
But when you’re a kid, awesome just means awesome, no matter what package it comes in. And sad just means sad. Wether it’s the pain of a broken arm or the tears caused by the death knell of friendship, where Sassy Susie says, “You’re not my best friend anymore!”
When I was a kid, the happy and the sad didn’t know how to work together, so I felt them in their extremes, and I thought that was just how it was to feel things. Happy is happy. Sad is sad. No murky gray in-between muddling up and confusing everything. I shed a few tears, run to mom for some quick cuddles, boom, there goes the sad. I run around in circles real fast and laugh maniacally, boom, there’s the happy.
When I was 15 and had my first brush with Old Man Death, I was shocked by his ballsiness and considered him to be the meanest bully ever. He confused me, scared me, and made absolutely no sense. I didn’t know how to deal with him alongside the weird emptiness of losing someone I loved dearly so abruptly. So I shut the door in his face and tried to pretend I didn’t hear him knocking on the other side.
But he kept coming back and knocking louder.
My high school years were a gray blur of multiple and tragic deaths in my family. So much so that I often felt like an old lady trapped in my teenage body. My soul felt tired and completely unable to understand, much less process, the levels of grief I was experiencing. I had no time to give to death and no idea that giving death time might be important. So, I moved on with Life….
….,or so I thought.
You may be wondering by now, what my point is in all this “Mr. Death” talk. What in the world does this have to do with our adoption process?
Let’s see if I can unpack this suitcase a little more, because I promise you, this post has way more to do with life and choosing to live, than it does with death.
When our Edyth died, all the deaths I had experienced before seemed to culminate alongside hers and burst like a swollen water balloon in my heart. There was no holding back the flood that drenched every pore of my being in sorrow. I have never known such pain, alongside such pride and joy, as I did when I held my lifeless baby girl’s body in my arms. As I watched her Daddy touch her face and weep like I’ve never seen a human weep before. The joy and the pain of what we had created and lost was like watching the most beautiful sunset of your life, only to have to run for your life, moments later, from a surprise tornado attack.
Death is wild and utterly untamable.
Though my heart told me that my life ended that day, my body was still breathing, moving, thriving. Living. Oh boy did I resent that fact. Inside of me, I felt done, it felt like a complete betrayal to have a body that needed care, to have relationships that still needed me present, when all I wanted to do was hide in a cave and just fade away. Thankfully, that cave had some reservoirs of good things. Like, a God who loves to heal and has no fear of death, family and friends who would choose not to run away from my Scary Grieving Lady moments, and best of all, times of solitude that would allow me to rest and stare Death in it’s beady eye, and finally have a conversation about his role in my life.
Though I’m not a fan of death, for me, at this point in time, he is the beam of light that brings clarity to Life’s wonders. I still don’t like him, but I appreciate that when I stop running from him, turn around and face him, he’s got something to show me about living that I would have never known before.
Some of us have experienced death by suicide or murder, to old age or disease. The face of death isn’t always warm, inviting or friendly. It comes in packages that haunt us, scar us, change us forever. We are never the same and there is a grief to be experienced when you’ve crossed the bridge that death has built and you see your old self on the other side and know that you will never be that person again. Whether death is violent, subtle, or even kind, it’s still Death and it still leaves a trail behind of the living who have to grapple with the grief that Death has issued. For me, I have found that each loss I have experienced comes with a unique fingerprint of grief all it’s own. I can’t approach the grief of losing my grandparents in the same way that I am grieving the loss of my friend Grace. Neither is more/less important or valid. They’re just different.
When sorrow and joy hold hands I see this history of grief, death and sorrow, and the choice I had to make to live, converging into this new and unexpected path.
Adoption means more than just family to me. Adoption means life. It means choosing life.
Dustin and I are saying yes to raising another family’s baby, and for us this is Joy, but for them, it may be a loss akin to death. We would be remiss in thinking that our future child’s birth family won’t be experiencing the pain of loss in their choice of adoption. Just as the mysteries of pregnancy and birth are a sacred act of life, so is this process of adoption. There is an expectant mom who will entrust me with a part of herself, forever. Our lives will always be connected because of this.
Adoption is a sacred pact.
The child/children that we raise by adoption will forever hold two worlds in their hearts, and I can’t guarantee for them that this will always be a joyful thing. Sometimes it may bring them pain, or unanswerable questions. As much as I may try to come up with a plan to counteract the negatives that may come with adoption for my adopted children, I am not God, I can’t foresee every need, I can’t forestall every hurt.
Adoption is Joy and Sorrow holding hands.
This beautiful, messy triad, The expectant birth family, the hopeful adoptive family, the adopted child. Each of our stories matters, each of our experiences matter. There’s gonna be some bitter with that sweet in each of our stories, my hope and my prayer is that learning to taste both would make the living out of our adoption stories that much more precious. That much more the stuff that makes life an absolutely grand adventure.