Monday, August 3, 2015

Learning to Believe in Good Again

The kids waited excitedly by the front window, watching every car zip past our house with disappointment that "It wasn't them..." Havyn, the three-year-old-going-on-thirteen, had chosen one of her best dresses to wear and had enthusiastically asked me to put her hair into two braids. "I need to look fancy!" she'd said as we were getting ready. Kyler, mostly focused on the thrill of having a big boy around to play with, threw on a pair of soccer shorts and a t-shirt. I busied myself with a running list of pre-visit chores: mop guest bedroom, scrub bathrooms, wash linens. Daniel helped check off the to-do list, while also entertaining the kids and keeping the peace. We were all beyond excited, the result of an anticipation built from counting down the days until this visit for weeks, and then days, and now minutes.

Joel Makham was coming to visit!

If you've read much on this blog, you are sure to have stumbled across our journey with adoption, and the first loss we experienced in that world. It is hard to believe that all that waiting, all that hoping, all that praying and finger-crossing and searching high and low for a route toward Yes, ended abruptly with a tragic phone call, now 5 1/2 years in our pasts. More than five years since cuddling up with him and his blanket for our last bedtime together; more than five years since waking to his coo's and calls for "Mama" before the sun was even shining; more than five years since the most gut-wrenching wave goodbye I have ever experienced.

The old adage, "Time heals." has never sat well with me. The professionals agree that this is a myth and undermines the true reality of grief, which is cyclical and ongoing, and requires our full engagement for healing to occur. Time alone is not the healer. Time gives us the opportunity - the place and the space - to heal, though much more is required in the stew of our grief for that healing to come about. Time offers us a chance to explore our story, to gather courage from the stories of those around us, to gain perspective and the needed realization that we can still experience joy, even deep joy, despite our loss. Time does not heal, but with willing patients, time can be the recovery room our souls need - a space to find our way again.

I needed a lot of time in my own healing process. It took three full years from the day we lost our first son, before my heart was in a truly open, receptive space again. And even that is not quite accurate, because along the road of those first three years, there were little droplets of hope, droplets of perspective, droplets of belief and joy and courage, all filling my grieving heart and urging me along in life. There was the birth of our first biological son, and then the birth of his baby sister, drip, drip, dripping so much joy and hope and perspective into my heart. There were late night conversations with friends and new successes in business, dripping courage and insight and purpose back into our days.

And still, I resisted at times or was too busy at others, and the droplets would need to gather for months - even years longer - before reaching a tipping point. In reality, they would need the gush of rain that came from a second tragedy, a second loss beyond words, before finally tiny, fragile starts of new life began to appear in my heart again. Starts watered by all those droplets along the years, nourished by the courage and truth of others, rooted in the power of soulful storytellingToday, I know losses like this remain a part of us, stitches in the stories of our lives, forever woven into who we are. My story will always include the joy and the pain of loving and losing our first son.

It will also include him. 

Because somehow - miraculously, unbelievably, serendipitously - he is in our lives again. So much of my healing has rested on the need to fully press into the reality of our pain, to name our loss for what it is: the loss of a child

And yet, our loss is different, too. Our son did not pass into that next, mysterious phase of forever, and he did not even disappear from the reach of our contact. He has remained a living, breathing being on this Earth, and that has made grieving easier at times, and much harder at others. 

We were first reunited with Joel two summers ago in Niagara Falls. Although the trip was enjoyable, my heart had just reached that three year mark where enough droplets had gathered to give me the courage to even go on the trip. I was not yet able to fully receive the gift of having Joel back in our lives, or process what that meant for our grief or our healing. And so we continued to correspond over the next two years, years in which my heart truly sprouted to life again. Birthday cards and holiday Skype-dates kept our families connected, until this past Spring, when Joel's wonderful Canadian mother asked about another summer visit, this time a three-day visit in our own home here in Ohio.

And so there we were, kids pacing by the front window and me frenzied with finishing touches, all awaiting our second reunion with Joel Makham. Against all odds, Joel was coming to visit!

And what can I say of this miracle - to you who have lost your loved one forever? To you who wait month after month to conceive? To you who said goodbye with no chance of a future Hello? What can I say, but that at the depths of my soul, I believe our little miracle on Earth is the tiniest reflection of some future hope. That our weekend as a family - Kyler and Havyn and Joel all playing as though they've known each other forever, now four devoted, united parents, doing our best to love and support - that this is a sign of something bigger than us, a taste of Heaven on Earth even. 

Not that even this is perfect, or that it replaces the loss and years of grieving, but that there is beauty and joy and redemption in it still. That there is hope. Yes, that is what I would say to you. Cloaked in fog, misty-mirrored, faint and far too far away, but still, a light at the end of the tunnel.

That there is hope.

And I have been in your shoes, and I know your weary heart wails, "Easy for you to say!" But it is not that easily said, because three years ago, I would have still stood with my bitterness and anger and judgment, and let the grief of our own loss cover the light completely. Before I started telling my own story, before I fully engaged with my own heart, before the space of time allowed all those ingredients to work deeply into my being, I would have experienced this past weekend as salt on a fresh wound. It would have stung and burned and left me aching even more. Three years ago, I could never have uttered words like hope and redemption in relation to our loss of Joel.

But today, I can. And for me, this points to the incredible wonder of every human spirit - our capacity to love again, to be a part of something bigger, to speak with rawness and courage and find joy in the midst of grief, to see that faint light at the end of the tunnel and believe it is something good

May you experience this hope in your own life, dear friend, and may you find the courage to believe in something good.

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  1. Oh, Noelle! This is so beautiful. You have dared greatly. I have chills and tears reading this, and I am so grateful that you shared. It is so brave to welcome your Makham back into your life, and you, your whole family, and all of us reading are blessed by it.

    1. Oh thank you, Shannon! Thank you for being a part of this journey by your tender response to our story!

  2. I just love reading what you share, even though it's heartbreaking - thank you for daring greatly and having the courage to be vulnerable and own your story and share it with us.

    1. Thank you for reading, Victoria! It really is an honor to share with you :)

  3. This takes my breath away... the courage you have, to say, "yes," to having Makham back in your life in this way, is nothing short of a miracle! You have allowed your pain and loss to increase your capacity to love instead of diminish it.
    Blessings, Wendy Munsell

    1. Thank you, Wendy! It has definitely been a journey...the place I am at now was built one trembling, unknown step at a time. :)


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