The past year has been really full.
Full of laughter, full of love, full of extraordinary gifts. Manny and JoJo came home, we are so close to bringing home Baby K and Baby L, we are about to be a family of EIGHT. That is full!!
But its also been full of loss, full of tears. And tears are a very hard thing to explain to a four year old girl. Especially a girl like Grace who is so full of loss herself.
The tears started way back last year when we went to Congo. Each night we would Skype with Grace and Haven and each night it was a struggle to keep my poker face on when the two of them sat crying, asking when we would be home.
Soon after we came home we had to put one of our dogs to sleep. She was very old and had simply run out of steam. We thought we had clearly explained that old Ruthie was going off to Heaven, but every so often Grace would ask when Ruthie was coming home from the dog hospital.
Strangely, the idea of loss, of death, finally sank in with Grace over a person she never even met. Little Theo. He was a Congolese boy that came home just before Manny and JoJo. Shortly after coming to the US he was diagnosed with Leukemia. Every night for months Grace and I would say our evening prayers and always include a special prayer that God would heal Little Theo. On the nights that I might forget to pray for Theo, Grace always remembered. He and his amazing family went through many ups and downs, but through it all I just assumed that God would bring a miracle. Little Theo would be healed. There would surely be a happy ending. Grace was praying fervently for it after all. But one night the facebook message came that Theo didn't make it and my family, along with many other families across the country cried. I couldn't help it and I couldn't cover it up.
And I had to make sense of it for Grace. But unlike the loss of Ruthie, this time Grace got it. She felt it. She lost Theo, too. She continued to pray for him every night, but this time she prayed for him and Ruthie in heaven.
Just a few days later another loss hit our family. We lost our baby Lisette. Grace lost a baby sister. Once again it was a child that Grace had never met that was bringing showers of tears to our home. I was a mess that week. Every time I cried, Grace cried. I tried to hold myself together, but it hit me harder than I ever could have imagined. Grace prayed us through it again, this time imagining that Theo and Lisette were playing together in Heaven with Ruthie and Jesus.
Since then it seems I have been on the verge of tears almost constantly. In addition to our adoption being an emotional roller coaster beyond all expectation, it has been a hard year at work. My classroom has just been one more place of that often brings me to tears. Today I spent most of my lunch hour praying that God would just give me the peace to get through to spring break. I know that some days the tears I shed are still etched on my face when I get home from work and Grace can sense them.
I try really hard to hide my tears from Grace. When she sees me cry she will take my face in her hands and wipe away the tears. She is so sensitive. She cries easily. She has so many fears, so many anxieties. Her life started with loss. All my babies started there. I want to protect them from any more. But I don't suppose I can. Loss is everywhere. It is everyday. It will always be part of their story.
I guess Grace has found the best possible way to cope with it. She prays and she imagines that Heaven is a place filled with children and dogs playing with Jesus.