H e said your name wrong. Many people do and so many times I have corrected them. I want them all to say it right because it is so beautiful and so exclusively you. But today someone said it and I didn’t correct him.
I opened my mouth, started to speak, and then shut it quietly.
It’s been years since you were in our home. Four long years since you danced through the front yard and played kickball with me next to the garden. Years since you snuggled in the upstairs bedroom and spoke dreams into the evening twilight.
So many things change over time.
You’re fourteen now.
I wonder how long your hair has grown. I remember you bouncing out of the bathroom, hairbrush in hand. We laughed at how long your hair was when wet, pulling out past your shoulders. It curled up so tight against your scalp as it dried, springy ringlets all over your head.
People still ask about you. Did you know that? Maybe we’ve disappeared into a distance memory for you, but in our little town, in our little story, you were noticed.
“What ever happened to that other girl of yours?” an older gentleman asked me at the shop yesterday.
They all loved you, the way your mind whirled as you learned about the engines and tractors.
You were starting to build a model solar system out of bearings and weights. Sometime after we found out you weren’t coming back, Daddy scooped them up and tossed them into the scrap pile. Oh, how he longed to build that with you.
And he wanted to remodel the old Case pedal tractor you loved so much. The pedal tractor is still sitting there, all the new parts and pieces we bought piled up and dusty. He said he can’t bring himself to finish it without you. We’ve talked about it, but the parts are still there, our other children looking at them curiously but not asking anymore. They know it was yours.
We have so many memories. So many hoped-for dreams that were piled up into those few weeks together. I still mourn the loss of them– but mostly just the loss of your smile.
We have another daughter now. She knows about you. It’s a special understanding we have. See, she’s lost family before too, so we get each other. When she started to tell us that we couldn’t possibly know how afraid she was to love us, we told her we did. Daddy knelt right down and looked her in the eye and cried. “I do know,” he said, “because I lost a daughter once and I’m scared to love you because I could lose you too.”
We showed her your picture. She looked at it, the way your smile stretched from ear to ear. It’s the one of you standing in the creek, with a maroon velvet dress on. Aunt Marsha bought it for you and we could barely get you to take it off to wash it. After staring at the picture for a minute, Lizzie said, “I think she would have been a good big sister.”
It’s true. You would have been a great sister. Lizzie took your picture and set it right up on the shelf beside the one we took of her. “There,” she said, “now you can pray for both of us when you see these.” We do. Daddy prays for you every night. I think I’ll pray for you until the day I die.
God taught us many good things through the loss of you, but we still love you like you’re ours. We still miss you. We still feel like you were placed in our home for a reason. I believe, with everything in me, that it was God who has allowed you to be here for those few lovely weeks–so you could carry His love with you wherever you go. I pray you believe the truth we told you. I pray that you speak it and live it and are redeemed by it.
My greatest fear is that you don’t know it wasn’t our choice. That you think we chose to stop the adoption. But we didn’t. We had no say in the matter. We still talk about you, remember you, and pray that God is near to you– loving you, when our arms can’t.
And even though you didn’t stay, sweet-girl, you’re still the daughter-of-our-hearts.
Daddy still tells stories about you and the way you delighted him. He remembers taking you out to the fields to pick me a wildflower bouquet and how you danced and laughed and hid behind the tall grass. He still misses your chatter at the shop, and the way you were so enthralled with everything he did.
I still write about all the ways you filled the empty-places of my mother-heart. How your smile, your snuggles, the way you laughed hilariously at Finding Nemo, the way you threw your head back when we drove with the top down on the convertible and let the wind whip past your face, the way you raced through the hay field and dove into the biggest pile of hay you could find… all of it just settles somewhere deep inside me. You are not forgotten.
And you are endlessly loved.
One of the most difficult parts of adopting older children has been the children-who-didn’t-stay. To be matched with a child, we had to look at their information and submit our names for possible placement. We only submitted our names for the children we were certain we were willing to commit to raising. This meant much prayer and hope went into every email, every phone call, every home visit.
And as we’ve shared before, there was one little girl who was matched with our family, came for the first two visits, and then was suddenly placed somewhere else. It was heart-wrenching for us (the story is in my book, Counting Grains of Sand) and the more we’ve learned about attachment, it breaks my heart for her. I pray, almost daily, that we will someday see the redemption of this sorrow and that the truth we poured into our sweet girl will not return void in her life.
For those of you who have ever tasted the sorrow of a failed adoption, you are not alone.