Life zipped and zoomed with its usual pace right up until the morning of our departure, with only brief moments for processing what we were getting ourselves into. I wrote about our experience with fostering several months back and alluded to the possibility of a future meeting with the new adoptive family. Well, it happened, about four weeks ago. We met Makham, now Joel, and his adoptive parents in their hotel room on a misty Friday evening in Niagara Falls.
Nerves had been building for both families all day. For Daniel and I, the car ride up had been one of our first chances to give any extended heart time to the reality of what we were headed into. There had been extreme sensitivity and kindness from Joel’s parents throughout the planning process and all held the meeting with open hands, no expectations. Daniel and I had briefly wrestled with whether or not we should make the trip, but it seemed too intertwined with the reality of our lives, happy or sad, to deny the opportunity.
The first moments of seeing Joel in person were that disillusioned, surreal feeling I experienced when we first got final news that he was being taken away from us over four years ago. Almost an out-of-body experience where the senses are too overloaded to actually feel any one emotion. Then as quickly as that tidal wave of emotions came, it rushed back out to my sea of memories and the demands of the moment brought me back to a very neutral state emotionally. I’ve more or less stayed in that state of neutrality ever since.
We played. Went for walks. Ate together. Marveled at the rushing waters of the Falls. Walked some more, then say painless goodbyes. The trip itself was only about 24 hours.
The month that has passed since our visit has been one of active reflection for me. Why didn’t I feel more? Was it just too crazy with the kids and the context to really reconnect? Why didn’t it bring more closure? Why didn’t it rip open old wounds? For some reason, it just was. A day. A fact: We lost Makham four years ago. We met Joel four weeks ago
Our children connected with Joel instantaneously and talked about him the whole ride home and for weeks to come. Kyler included him in his nightly list of all the family names soon after the trip. He still asks for Joel regularly and we have every intention of meeting up again someday.
The inevitable twinges of, “What if he were still a part of our family?” asked for a voice, but my heart had no space to give them one. They seemed futile, unreasonable, unanswerable. What if, what if, what if? But I’m tired of all the questions without answers, all the asking in circles, all the waiting with no response.
I’m still not sure if our Niagara Falls trip had any direct impact on my heart. In some ways I felt like an abused girlfriend, used to the punches, taking another one in stride. Worn, weary, numb to the pain. In other ways, I felt the serenity of time wearing down the rough edges of our shattered hearts (a wearing that I’ve always resisted). And still in other ways, I felt hope. A word that hasn’t been a part of my vocabulary for years. A word that epitomizes so much of what we lost three years back.
And in the weeks since our visit, whether of any relation or not, I’ve felt a continued “dibble, dibble, dopp” of hope washing over my soul. No grand revelation. Nothing that I would yet even dare call God. But it’s something new and fresh and has me thirsty for life and eager to find my heart because of the hope of what could be.
And that thought, “What could be?” is what’s fueling my soul right now. It has me reading more books and articles and posts than I’ve read in the past two years combined. It has me holding onto truths like this one from Elie Weisel, “” It has me listening and engaging and listening again. It has me mustering courage and digging deeper. It has me hoping.
“And why do you pray, Moishe?” I asked him. “I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions.”
Elie Wiesel, NightPin It Now!