One of my go-to idioms is "Bitter-Sweet," for it so aptly illustrates a juxtaposition of ideas that we so often encounter. There are countless events in our lives where there is something of great value or benefit, that is almost always paired with a significant pain or cost of sorts. Oversimplified, it is what we often refer to as the American Way, that in which to get something we want or desire, we must sacrifice or work hard to attain. We always hope the sweet outweighs the bitter, and it usually does, but often times, the opposite is true. There are no guarantees in this life. Further, this not something that needs the label of wrong or right, to manifest in everything we do, but it is up to us to recognize these moments and maximize them to the fullest. Journey, not destination.
Now that Amy and I are well into our 4th adoption, this is a concept and trend I am able to recognize much sooner each time. It is the true paradox of real life. New beginnings and redemption, paired with grief and loss of monumental magnitude that bare witness to something that is necessary. It is the crossroads of two divergent paths, which results in emotions that will not just tug at your heart, but take it on a roller coaster ride of monumental proportions. You will experience highs that affirm you of why you are alive, and lows that challenge each and every breath you take. As I said before, Bitter-Sweet.
When we finally got to meet Gladdie Mae in person, we got to experience how vibrant, confident, and happy this little person could be. This little girl displayed a confidence and swagger, (yes, I said swagger!) like few
So how do you think this little sprout was eventually placed in our care? Sure our acceptance and decision to bring this little person into our family was a cause worth celebrating, but what logistics do you think took place? Think about the loving foster family that provided for, supported, and loved this precious girl. Think about the authentic and loving bonds that were formed. No really, do it. Now imagine how you would go about facilitating the termination of this relationship. Think for a moment, if you will, what you would say and do. How would you prepare yourself to let this precious person go, after years of attachment and devotion. Imagine it with your biological child(ren). It hurts in a big way, doesn't it? Gladys knows how you feel.
Our guide in Hefei, Michael, explained the process to us while we were commuting back to the Civil Affairs office on day 2, where we had just met Gladdie Mae, just 24 hours prior, as "the sweet lie." In this particular case, the foster mother tells the child that she is going to do some shopping, and that she would return soon. Except no actual shopping occurred, and the only return would be the foster mother back home, most likely with tears and heart wrenching grief and sadness. On the other end, the child (Gladdie) would be thrust into the care of total strangers. I'll bet you never considered the foster parents' feelings in this scenario, did you? It is OK, I didn't either. At least not until I listened to each and every excruciating sob of "mama...." for an 8+ hour period accompanied by sleeping next to a hotel doorway, no pillow, a bathrobe for a blanket, fully clothed. The sleeping only occurred because of utter exhaustion of crying out for the one person who chose to care for you, but it was sleep nonetheless. The "sweet" in this case is that it softened the anguish of separation, albeit temporarily.
A cross country flight and several days of 5 star hotel living later, we got a day or two reprieve from the heart ripping mourning. Instead we saw laughter, spunk (lots of spunk), and bravery. I'd argue that pound for pound this little person could hang with anyone, any time, any place in the "courage" department. In these last few days we have experienced so much, despite being confined to a 2 bedroom apartment in the middle of urban China. But all the while, we have known of the tragedy, hurt, and grief that lies beneath the surface. None the less, we press on, finding new experiences and opportunities, to help sooth the sadness. Sweet... to counterbalance the bitter.
I had the thought repeatedly, over the course of the last few days, "If we could only speak Mandarin, and break the language barrier, we could explain everything and assure Gladys Mae Yuchun Miller that this was all going to be OK." But immediately after that thought, I realized that the healing of a broken heart was not limited by verbal language(s). It doesn't matter what language we speak, the hurt is still very real and persistent. The best thing we can do, is pray, and be there for Gladys, no matter what the circumstance. Time and love. Unconditional, forever love. We promise Gladdie. We can't communicate that verbally to you, but we will prove it to you, every single hour of every single day.
The last few days have been every bit the adventure we came to expect, and so much more. But your bravery and resilience have far surpassed our expectations, in so many ways. Someday, when you can read this, we want you to know how much we love you, and how much we will always love you. None of this is easy, in fact, it is really hard, and it doesn't seem fair. But even though these last few days have manifested so much loss and hurt, they will be redeemed by family, joy, and unconditional love for as long as we live.
So here we are at the crossroads of The Sweet Lie, and Redemption. It is a painfully beautiful intersection, but from now on, we will journey down the road of redemption and unconditional love together. The memories of this crossroads will always remain. They will serve as a reminder of the broken world we live in, but also the forever love we have for one another. They will be a reminder of the journey, the journey that we will be together for... forever.