Time passes, and life moves inexorably forward. Seven years come and go. I had turned 50 in January, spent a week skiing with my brother and his family in February, traveled to Portland to spend March Spring Break with my sophomore at Reed College, and then in May, I welcomed her home for the summer. Three days later, a car crash, and she died on May 22.
Seven years ago.
Much has changed in those seven years. I added one, then two more children to my family. I left the nurturing community I had lived in for 12 years and returned to my beloved Tucson. There, I found, fell in love, and married a wonderful, supportive man. And now, I am adding yet another child to my family.
I don’t believe in coincidence – I never have. Things happen for reasons. Often they are reasons we cannot fathom. Sometimes time reveals the mystery, sometimes it does not, but there is pattern and reason behind everything. We simply need enough perspective to see it. In that vein, let me describe two intriguing “coincidences.”
Abby was born September 4, 1989. It was a bright fall morning as we drove to the hospital for the planned Cesarean. I was sad and tired, having been through induced labor for three days to no avail. Not wanting a C-section, I felt defeated and frustrated, and my husband at the time was no help whatsoever. Then, as we drove and I watched the beautiful sunrise, I realized the method of her arrival mattered little. I would hold her in my arms in just a few hours’ time! The day took on a completely magical aspect, and I rejoiced.
September 4 was a highly celebrated day for 18 years. The parties – from the obligatory cake all over the face on the first birthday, to a lovingly and painstakingly hand-made “Lamb Chop” cake at age 4, to the second grade bash complete with magician and clown, to the lobster dinner at age 16 – the day was magical. When I lost my beloved child, that special day changed color altogether. September 4, 2008, was a horrible black place in the intense, impenetrable fog of grief that began in May. Her birthday was simply another turning of the knife.
Time passed, and my pursuit of adopting a child progressed. Eventually, I was licensed to foster and certified to adopt. And then began the long wait for a child. One would think, because there are so many children (tens of thousands) needing homes in this country, that there would be no wait at all; that as soon as a parent was found worthy, there would be a variety of children available from which to choose. Not so. The so-called “system” is an oxymoron. There is no system. The method by which homeless children are matched with adoptive parents is slow, dysfunctional, and often completely corrupt. And so, I waited. Late in August of 2009, I got a call. They had found a child that matched my profile. They described her briefly and asked if I was interested.
The year and a half that had passed since my Abby died had been perhaps the hardest one of my life. I had lost both parents in the handful of years prior to her death. I had also lost my husband – a deep, passionate love – to drugs during that time. Except for my wonderful brother (who was 1000 miles away), I was totally alone. The desire and need to bring a child into my home was intrinsically tied to my very survival. The more time passed with no one, the less I had to hang on to, the closer to the edge I felt myself slipping… Was I interested? Absolutely!
So the day was set for the meeting wherein I would learn about my “next” daughter and decide if I wanted to make the commitment to adopt her. And what day do you suppose they chose?
September 4 – that magical day.
(My next two daughters were given to me by circumstance alone – I wasn’t then seeking to add to my family, but their mother and I had made a pact. If something happened to either of us, we’d take the other’s children. And so, when she died, I gained my lovely Crawford girls and praised their mother’s insight. They are now both successful college students who continue to brighten my life.)
And so we fast-forward seven years. My husband and I decided to add to our family and committed ourselves to the adoption of abused children in Arizona. We began the licensing and certifying process nearly two years ago, thinking it would go quickly since I had been through it all before. No so. The re-certification took us more than a year. So, in September 2014 (another September!), we were pronounced “ready.”
And the wait began again.
We got close a few times, but something always came up. The judge decided to give the parent(s) one more chance; the child decided he/she didn’t want to be adopted; the foster parents decided to “keep” the kids; the bureaucracy was so slow that another adoptive parent was chosen before us; etc. And so we waited. Then, in April, a 12-year-old girl was identified as needing a home “as soon as possible.” We jumped right in.
After spending some time with her, we knew she was “our kid.” She seemed to know it too, and immediately a bond began to grow. We couldn’t wait to bring her into our home. Can we do it now, we asked? The reply from the state was no. Then they gave us a date when she could move in:
Of the 365 days a year, one child becomes family on Abby’s birth day, the other on Abby’s death day.
This is no coincidence. This is Abby’s spirit ensuring that the two days of the year that have been the most painful for me have now become a reason to celebrate. She said repeatedly that she “just wanted me to be happy.” Clearly, she is doing what she can to make sure that I am.
We celebrate the addition of Hannah Reeves to our household this week. And yes, I am indeed happy.