We tried to fill those last days with all the love we felt. We invited friends and family over for a farewell party. And then early in the morning, hours before the sun was due to shine, we loaded suitcases filled with his books and clothes and toys into the car and headed to the airport.
It seemed like a betrayal. As much as we knew it was what was supposed to happen and all of that, in the end we were leaving our baby with someone he barely knew. He trusted us, completely. And we left him. It scared us to think of how much that hurt him.
On the last night we didn't have a plan for how we'd say goodbye. We wanted to respect his family. The baby's grandmother said she'd give him a bath and put him to bed. And the baby just wanted to be with us. His screams still echo in my head and tear at my heart. It was just too much, too traumatic.
I suggested that maybe it would be better if I just put him to bed, the last time. And then, instead of a traumatic goodbye, he would just wake up and we'd not be there. I honestly don't know what was the best thing. I just wanted to take care of him that last time, hold him and sing to him and whisper love. It took a while for him to settle down in this strange new place but he finally drifted to sleep. I kissed his head one last time and whispered goodbye.
That night, in between dreams of him, we wept. And in the morning, early, we left the hotel to catch the plane back.
Sadness weighted us and we worried that if we weren't careful, we could start crying and never, ever stop. On the plane, I put on the headphones and listened to music. And a song I'd heard so many times had new meaning...
I was waiting for so long
For a miracle to come
Everyone told me to be strong
Hold on and don't shed a tear
Through the darkness and good times
I knew I'd make it through
And the world thought I'd had it all
But I was waiting for you
And with the next song came a memory. I'd heard it the first day as I held him and fed him a bottle. We were both so scared, the baby and me, and the song seemed to fit that day. And now, hearing it again, I knew the answer...
Don't know much about your life.
Don't know much about your world, but
Don't want to be alone tonight,
On this planet they call earth.
You don't know about my past, and
I don't have a future figured out.
And maybe this is going too fast.
And maybe it's not meant to last,
But what do you say to taking chances
And what I knew then that I didn't know that first day was that taking that chance, loving this baby, was what was meant for me. It was the easiest and most natural thing in the world. And on that day when I needed comfort, it was found there, in that thought discovered through those two sentimental pop songs.
I didn't know how I'd make it through all the weeks and months to follow but I could find what it took to make it through that given moment. And then the next.
At first every breath carried the thought "I miss him" with it. And then, over time, some breaths carried instead "I love him". And then "It's going to be okay".
On Tuesday, just two days from now, at 1 in the afternoon, we'll knock on his door. We'll listen for his running feet and wait, hearts full of love. And when we see him, we'll hug him and kiss him and tell him that we love him.
And for that week, we'll spend as much time with him as we can. We'll celebrate his birthday and blow out the two candles with him. We'll look for ways that he's grown and ask him if he remembers 'Munk and 'Mander and 'Hopper, and the countless other things from our beautiful life. We'll laugh and play and sing and read. Then we'll give him a hug and a kiss and tell him we love him and catch the plane back to our lives back here.
Ten years ago, five years ago, if you asked me to pen my life, I'd written it a little differently. It would have read more like a typical mother's story. It's what I've wanted all my life. I yearned for it. And yet, I like this story better. God gifted us with the hearts of a mother and a father, he showed us what we wanted to feel all our lives. You might argue "But look, He took him away from you!" But that's the thing about love, isn't it? Love doesn't go away and it's not a factor of time. That little baby is in our hearts forever and we will always love him. Always.
Our hearts are all connected, every one of us. With this new year dawning before us, we ask the Lord to continue to light the way, to show us His will, and help us to surrender our life to it.