Today is our “Gotcha Day.” In our family, we call it “Family Day.” Today is the day we took home our son.
Today is the day we became parents – after years of prayer, years of infertility, months of fertility drugs, and just over a year of adoption paperwork.
In a black cab speeding through Seoul, we became a family of 3. God blessed every step of our adoption journey.
He gave us our son, the funniest, wildest, sweetest, most beautiful, most affectionate little lefty crazy-haired toddler in the world.
He was perfect. He was our every dream come true.
He was our heart on two legs.
And then, 2 years and 9 days later, he died for no reason.
And “Gotcha Day” now feels like a cruel joke.
The absence of our 3-year-old son cuts a permanent hole in our family.
There will always be an empty chair, a vacant space in family pictures.
We could have 10 more children, and it would always be a little bit too quiet because of the one missing voice.
Out of this stump, we are trying to rebuild. We are claiming joy. We choose gratitude.
We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
With the help of counselors, we’ve worked hard to build a new life with intention, grace, and even hope.
I love our daily life.
But big things still send me into anxiety-ridden spirals.
Big days, especially anniversaries, still gut me.
That’s to be expected.
It’s only been 4 years since our lives imploded.
After 4 years, I keep expecting the grinding work of grief to get easier. But when you bury a child, it never gets easier. You just get stronger.
The pain is so raw and ragged some days it feels like I’ll never be “normal” again. I want a “normal” life with “normal” living, breathing, irritating, adorable kids.
I want a fresh start in the morning after a bad day with my kids, but I’ll never get that chance with my son.
I am stuck on the pavement screaming as the ambulance takes him away. I may have moved forward in time, but a small part of me may always be stuck at his graveside.
I keep waiting to feel “whole” again.
Did I really bury a chunk of my heart there that I won’t feel again until the resurrection?
Yet life keeps plodding forward. Babies are born. People die.
Life has moved on, so it feels like we, too, should be able to “move on” and “get over it.”
Heaven knows those who love us want us to be whole again. While we have been healed by the grace of God, we will always bear scars.
While we choose to live, this means we have to love, which is a huge scary risk.
So today we planted a tree. This is something we’ve wanted to do since reading the 100 Practical Ideas Grief Book.
We dug roots. We sweat as we shoveled a hole, reminiscent to the hole we wanted to throw ourselves in to give our son’s casket a soft landing.
The heat pounded on our heads as it always does when we visit the cemetery this time of year.
In fall, it will turn as red as the balloons we released after the funeral.
We planted a symbol in our new backyard. We are putting down roots here. We acknowledge where we’ve been.
As the Israelites built stacks of stones to remember, we recall God’s promises as we shovel dirt.
We give thanks for the gift of our son. We give thanks for his three years of life.
We acknowledge that he, too, is a part of our life in our new city.
As Samuel raised his Ebenezer stone and said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).
So, too, we raise this Ebenezer tree, this tree of remembrance, and sing, “Hither by Thy help I’ve come.”
We’ve made it this far, and He will see us home.
We await the day in our resurrected bodies when we hold our son again in the shade of the Tree of Life, and he can say, “Mama and Daddy, gotcha back!”