A Letter to Our Adopted Christmas Family

I don’t know you, nor do you know me, but you have been heavy in my heart since I heard. This December, during a time that should be joyful and merry, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, you have lost a loved one. A mother, a daughter, a sister. It was sudden, and tragic, and my heart breaks for you.

She left you precious gifts, her two young sons, Jay, and Em. Since Jay is two years old, he may grow up with vague memories of his mama, but Em, at five months, will not. They will grow up knowing their mom, through your eyes, their loving family. They may never again feel their mom’s arms wrapped around them,  at least not on Earth, but they will have you, providing endless love and support.

I have had you on my mind constantly this last week. I have seen a picture of mom, Jay, and Em, and my heart breaks for those beautiful baby boys. For their grandma who has lost her daughter, and the rest of the family as well. Christmas will never be the same for you. I hope you can find peace knowing that she is safe in Heaven, and will be watching over the family from above.

You are beginning a journey that you never expected. It will take a level of strength that you may not even realize you possess. Those boys will not forget the sacrifice that you made in raising them, and you will say it was not  a sacrifice. It is what loving families do, and you could never imagine NOT doing it. Make no mistake, it is a sacrifice, but one you will love and cherish forever. Their mama would be proud of you, and can be at peace knowing her babies are in your hands..

When I heard from my friend, when I heard what had happened, I jumped at the chance to help. We, and several of our neighbors, buy gifts for families experiencing difficulties during the holidays. We have gotten together for breakfast on Christmas morning for years, and instead of exchanging gifts, we give to others.  It is one of my favorite December activities. I love the shopping trip, picking out things for children to open on Christmas morning, hoping to bring them smiles and joy. This year is different, though, it feels more personal, it hits closer to home, I suppose because my friend actually knew your loved one, and that it comes in the wake of a devastating accident. One that could happen to any one of us, at any moment.

It is a small act, I know it’s not much, but I hope it helps a little in this difficult time. I wish I could do more. I wish I could take away the pain you are feeling. I pray you find a few moments of happiness this Christmas, whether it’s watching the children open gifts, reminiscing about the good times with the boys’ mom, or merely being in the comforting company of family.

You are in the thoughts and prayers of many this holiday season. May God bless your family with peace and love this Christmas, and always.

 

 

 

 

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Can They See Us From Heaven?

Over the last week, my heart has broken over and over again, as I think of my dear friend, who just lost her son. As a mother, I cannot imagine having to deal with such a tragedy.  I feel like she is on my mind almost every minute.  I check her Facebook page several times a day, to see how she’s doing, and what others are doing in support for her. I can’t help it. That’s how I’ve always been. I  want to help people. But where is the line between concerned friend, and creepy Facebook stalker, and have I breached it? Are others who are close to her, also consumed with her grief?

In the past, my daughter has been in circumstances similar to what Adam endured. It is because of this, that she feels connected to him. The day of the funeral she expressed sadness that she did not know him, and therefore, could not help him in his darkest days. She asked me if he could see and hear us, and I told her it’s possible. Maybe he even knows of their connection. I would like to think that is part of the reason for the rainbow I saw on the day of the funeral. She desperately wishes she could have told him that things would get better. There was light in his future, even if  he didn’t see it yet. Seek help. Don’t be afraid. Have hope.

Shortly after our conversation, I went upstairs to take a shower. As I have said, Adam and his family have been constantly on my mind. I started wondering if he, or any friend or loved one in Heaven, COULD see and hear us. This was followed by the realization that I hoped NOT in the shower, or other awkward moments for that matter. Heebie Jeebies commence. This thought reminded me of when my oldest son was three years old. He walked into the bathroom while I was taking a bath, looked me straight in the eye and said….”Grandpa Dave is watching you.”  For many years, and countless times, we have told that story, assuming he was referring to my “very much alive” father-in-law, in some unexplainable yet very creepy, toddler moment. It had never occurred to me, until now, sixteen years later, that my grandfather’s name, on my mom’s side, was “David.” He passed away before I was a twinkle in my parents’ eyes, before they were married, and even before my dad entered into my mother’s life. Because of this, I don’t often think of him, or his name. Once again, but in that wide-eyed, “I see dead people” kind of way….heebie jeebies.

I hope my grandfather is watching over us, and if Adam is keeping an eye on my baby girl, I’m all in,  but unless there’s an emergency, can you keep it on the other side of the bathroom door, please?!

 

The Death of a Son, The Death of a Star

In the early morning, before the sun rises, a mother should feel like her children are safe. They are home,  protected from the perils of the outside world. She would never expect to wake to find her chid, gone forever.

Early this week, I learned that a longtime friend lost her baby.  His father lost his only son. Their teenage child  took his own life, and now they will never see him grow up, go to college, get married, have his own children, change the world. A sister has lost her big brother. She will no longer have him to look up to, get advice from, be protected by.

It was a beautiful, warm, and sunny fall day, and it should not have started with the death of a child. How dare the world keep moving; people eating, sleeping, laughing, dancing.  This family has lost a child, and it feels like everything should stop, if just for a day. Of course, that’s not possible. People die everyday, but at times like this, when someone close to you is grieving, and you are grieving for them, it feels like it should. It’s so much worse when it is a child.

I never knew Adam, but I wish I had. I have learned that he was an extremely bright and talented boy. He was full of life. A friend to everyone. He could play just about any instrument he picked up, and was very involved in his community theatre program. He  knew more about any given topic, than many adults. Nothing went unquestioned. It was his endless quest to learn about the world, and dream of a better tomorrow.

As with many highly intelligent people, Adam was quirky, and thus tended to be bullied at school. He had been depressed for quite some time, and I’m sure the bullying was wearing on him. His family and friends were trying to help him through these tough times, but sometimes it’s hard to get through to someone who thinks they can handle it themselves. He was a compassionate soul, who wanted to spend his time uplifting, and helping, others. He loved to make people laugh.  He brought light to so many lives, while silently, his grew darker. He wanted to be strong, and self-sufficient, but he didn’t have the tools to deal with something so dark and cruel.

The despair overwhelmed him, and he couldn’t see the light. He couldn’t figure out how to climb out of the dark hole of pain he found himself in. On Monday of this week, a child took his own life. He would never have wanted to hurt his family, he was beyond the point of realizing what the aftermath would be like for his loved ones. His pain was a thick, black fog. Overtaking him little by little until he was lost.

As I stood in front of poster boards full of pictures of Adam, I saw so much light and life in him. It is hard to fathom having him there one day, and gone the next. How do you continue on after your child has died? Are all of those wonderful memories enough? I know for me, the belief in Heaven comforts me. Hoping that he has found his younger brother, and grandparents that passed before him. I am usually too uncomfortable to approach the deceased at a funeral home. I pray for them from afar, but not this time. I had a chat with Adam during the visitation. I told him that I hoped he had found peace, and that I wished he could have found another way. I asked him to watch over his sister and parents, to protect his family.

This morning, on my way to the funeral, a rainbow stretched across the expressway, on a beautiful, sunny day, with a spattering of raindrops on my windshield from one tiny cloud in the sky. I fumbled with my phone for a bit trying to get a picture. It seemed to remain in the sky for longer than it  should, until I finally got a few shots. I put down my phone, looked up, and it was gone. I thanked Adam, and God. I have no doubt that rainbow was from him.

As the funeral started, in the auditorium which I imagine his plays were performed, a place where he most likely found reprieve from his sadness, I looked back to a standing-room-only crowd. It was full of students, parents, teachers, friends, family, and maybe even some who knew neither him, or his family. Strangers come together in a small community like his, especially when a child dies so tragically, and unexpectedly. As the music began, chills ran down my spine. It was “Over the Rainbow”  by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. I later learned It was his favorite song. He loved to listen to the song, and then play it on his ukulele, interchanging over and over again. I get it. You’re watching. Well played, Adam, well played.

 

A Letter to my “Otherly-Raced, Religioned, or Abled” Friends

I am not racist. If you are a good person. Kind. Caring. Thoughtful. Honest. Polite. You will always be my friend. I don’t care what color you are, or what religion you believe. You are my friend.

I could never say that I didn’t notice your color, because I did. Just like my red-headed friend, or my really tall friend. I noticed, but I will not treat you differently than any other friend. If someone asks something, where I have to point you out as an area of reference, like “it’s over there next to the tall, red-headed girl.” I will. I may refer to your color: “See that Asian girl? It’s to the right of her.” But that means nothing about how I feel about you. We all have differences. I am short, and a little over-weight. Feel free to point that out. I don’t care. It’s who I am.

I don’t care if you go to church, synagogue, or mosque. Believe what makes you the best person you can be. What gives you hope. What makes you get up every day. Don’t try to change who I am, and I won’t try to change you, but help me grow as a person. I enjoy learning from my friends, or anyone for that matter. I love other cultures, and experiencing them.

I don’t mind a good debate. Don’t get mad at me if I don’t agree though. I will do the same for you. Mutual respect for differences is important. I have lived in an area that is populated by many, many people who have political views that are not the same as mine, for most of my life. That is not a problem for me. Again, if you are a good person, believe what helps you to be your best you. What makes you happy. What makes you thrive. I will never hold your beliefs against you.

If you have a disability, please don’t be offended if I say that word. It doesn’t mean I look down upon you, or think you are any less than me. It’s just a word. My friends are full of gifts to give the world. You contribute to society in many ways. You contribute to MY life in many ways. I don’t care if you can’t walk, talk, see, hear, or anything else for that matter. It doesn’t mean anything to me, so don’t be offended. It implies nothing, except  maybe a closer parking spot.

If you are not a good person, I don’t care what color you are. Bad people come in all colors, religions, races, and abilities. If I have a friend who is not who I thought they were. If I find out that they are not the kind, thoughtful, honest, and polite person I thought they were. They won’t be among those I call friends.  I surround myself with people who I feel have a positive effect on the world, and humanity. I don’t care what color you are, or what god you believe in.

Good people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. I will take all the friends I can get. They are blessing from Heaven. Be a person to be proud of, and I will call you friend.

 

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Reposting for no other reason than this is one of my favorite pictures, and I can use it with the new format.

If you haven’t realized it yet, I have named each of the recent posts about the children after hymns. They are all songs that bring me joy, just as my children do. They are God’s gift to me. Blessing from Heaven.

Our youngest child, Mei Mei, is known to most as Carleigh. When she was younger I called her our little spark plug. A firecracker. She was energetic, passionate, curious, stubborn, and fearless. She was as I have said before, taught by her older brother, so there is no other way she could be.

When we lived in China, she would get on the giant school bus, which was actually a touring bus, like she was in charge. Talking the minute her four-year old body climbed the steep steps, and not stopping until they arrived at their destination. She was a social butterfly. When she was home, she was stuck to me like glue. My tiny Asian sidekick, endlessly filling me in on what was going through her mind. She was never one to play with toys much, never cared for dolls, and only used her play kitchen and pots to store the chalkboard paint she peeled off her wall, or wet pull-ups she wore at night. If she hid those pull-ups and put on a dry one, she would be closer to the reward she would receive after a pre-determined number of dry days. Bringing up another of her traits. Sneaky and mischievous.

The sneaky part reminds me very much of myself as a child. If she wanted it, she would find a way to get it. I can’t tell you how many fruit snack wrappers I would find hidden in her room. We would buy them, and she would binge. This was troublesome mostly because a box of fruit snacks cost about $10 in Shanghai. Needless to say, we stopped buying them. On the mischievous side, one day, before we moved to China, she was supposed to be napping in her room. She was very quiet, so I assumed she was. Unfortunately, when I opened her door, she had taken a black magic marker and “outlined” every single thing she could in her room. Dresser drawer handles, parts of the door, toys, a carousel rocking horse and all of its details. One of many, many shocking but lovingly humorous memories of her younger years.

Carleigh loves everything fluffy and soft. Fluffy pillows and blankets, soft sweatshirts and fleeces. Blankets are the biggest obsession though. It’s hard for her to pass one up. The fluffier and softer, the better. Each one getting pushed down the line a little when a new one arrives, but all getting used and loved. Pillow pets and stuffed animals were her favorite toys, along with the blankets, when she was little.

She is still all, or most, of those things and more. She is passionate in both anger and joy, but sometimes she holds things in and let’s them simmer until they boil over. This tends to come out on Bill and I, Brennan, or on herself. I rarely get a snuggle, but she likes to lay with me while watching TV sometimes. Today, was one of those days. Cherished time with my baby girl. She loves watching anime with her biggest brother, Ethan. She is solidly a tweener, so she also enjoys hanging out by herself in her room reading or listening to music. She is trying to figure out who she is as a person, and doesn’t feel especially comfortable in her own skin right now. She is getting there though. Discovering who she is. Who she wants to be.

I hope she always knows that no matter what she does or who she chooses to be, she will always be my baby girl. Forever in my heart, all things bright and beautiful.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

If you haven’t realized it yet, I have named each of the recent posts about the children after hymns. They are all songs that bring me joy, just as my children do. They are God’s gift to me. Blessing from Heaven.

Our youngest child, Mei Mei, is known to most as Carleigh. When she was younger I called her our little spark plug. A firecracker. She was energetic, passionate, curious, stubborn, and fearless. She was as I have said before, taught by her older brother, so there is no other way she could be.

When we lived in China, she would get on the giant school bus, which was actually a touring bus, like she was in charge. Talking the minute her four-year old body climbed the steep steps, and not stopping until they arrived at their destination. She was a social butterfly. When she was home, she was stuck to me like glue. My tiny Asian sidekick, endlessly filling me in on what was going through her mind. She was never one to play with toys much, never cared for dolls, and only used her play kitchen and pots to store the chalkboard paint she peeled off her wall, or wet pull-ups she wore at night. If she hid those pull-ups and put on a dry one, she would be closer to the reward she would receive after a pre-determined number of dry days. Bringing up another of her traits. Sneaky and mischievous.

The sneaky part reminds me very much of myself as a child. If she wanted it, she would find a way to get it. I can’t tell you how many fruit snack wrappers I would find hidden in her room. We would buy them, and she would binge. This was troublesome mostly because a box of fruit snacks cost about $10 in Shanghai. Needless to say, we stopped buying them. On the mischievous side, one day, before we moved to China, she was supposed to be napping in her room. She was very quiet, so I assumed she was. Unfortunately, when I opened her door, she had taken a black magic marker and “outlined” every single thing she could in her room. Dresser drawer handles, parts of the door, toys, a carousel rocking horse and all of its details. One of many, many shocking but lovingly humorous memories of her younger years.

Carleigh loves everything fluffy and soft. Fluffy pillows and blankets, soft sweatshirts and fleeces. Blankets are the biggest obsession though. It’s hard for her to pass one up. The fluffier and softer, the better. Each one getting pushed down the line a little when a new one arrives, but all getting used and loved. Pillow pets and stuffed animals were her favorite toys, along with the blankets, when she was little.

She is still all, or most, of those things and more. She is passionate in both anger and joy, but sometimes she holds things in and let’s them simmer until they boil over. This tends to come out on Bill and I, Brennan, or on herself. I rarely get a snuggle, but she likes to lay with me while watching TV sometimes. Today, was one of those days. Cherished time with my baby girl. She loves watching anime with her biggest brother, Ethan. She is solidly a tweener, so she also enjoys hanging out by herself in her room reading or listening to music. She is trying to figure out who she is as a person, and doesn’t feel especially comfortable in her own skin right now. She is getting there though. Discovering who she is. Who she wants to be.

I hope she always knows that no matter what she does or who she chooses to be, she will always be my baby girl. Forever in my heart, all things bright and beautiful.