Tonight, as I was looking back through old photos on my phone, I came across the video of when we were finally united with our adopted son Jayden, back at the end of August, a short two months ago.
The video shows us getting out of the car at the foster mom, Carol’s home who had been caring for him. As Tucker, Caleb and I begin to walk up the driveway, Caleb breaks ahead of us into a full on-sprint. He is shouting, “Baby Jayyydennn!!!” as he runs toward this woman whom he has never met, and the brother he has been hearing about and anticipating meeting for months.
There is something so pure about the age of two. And something so sweet about an older brother meeting a baby brother who just happened to already be a month old, and just happened to have a different birth mom.
To Caleb, there was no differentiation, no change from what was ‘expected’ or already known. All he knew was that this was his long-awaited brother, who he had been seeing pictures of and saying prayers for, even before he made his entrance into the world.
For us, although we were able to hold him on the day he was born a full month prior, we felt every rush of emotion that you might imagine: relief, longing to finally know him, and gratitude toward the woman and family who had sacrificed to fill his first 34 days with so much love.
Add on the running greeting and embrace from big brother, and you would expect that my face would be filled with hot tears, as I crumpled to the floor in a big heap of emotion.
Turns out, it was quite the opposite for me. In fact, I was just so thankful to have gotten to this day that there was an air of disbelief, and a vague lack of true reality in my view at the time.
You see, my dad had passed away just two weeks before. We had spent over a month in a hospice facility or in the bedroom of my parents for hours and days on end, watching the man who we all loved with our entire hearts slowly pass from this earth into eternity. This was after two years of being in the trenches with him and my mom as he fought the greatest fight of his life- stage four stomach cancer.
As I finally held our baby boy, a wide smile remained across my face. Rather than feeling the tears flow, I felt a sense that everything was right. A peace and assurance that we were exactly where God had planned for us to be, regardless of the stormy, tumultuous path that had led us there.
There is much more to be said about how God placed every puzzle piece of our son’s story alongside of my father’s, the ending of life juxtaposed with the beginning of life. The way we felt His steady hand on us as we received news that it would be weeks before we would get to see our son again, when we heard that things may not go the way we expected.
Death of a loved one brings a heightened perspective to all of life.
Before my dad got admitted into hospice, one of my greatest fears in this entire adoption process was realized. We found out our son would be in foster care for days, and possibly weeks as legal hurdles were approached and managed. I wanted to cherish those early days just as I had with our biological son. I coveted those firsts, those late nights, the learning of his patterns and rhythms.
Tucker and I knew that even if he wasn’t meant to be our son in the end, that we would rather love him in his earliest days and take that risk. We wanted to love him as much as we could, after all, we now knew his birth mom. We had her face in our minds, we had been given the immense privilege of holding this baby boy on the day he was born. Our hearts were all-in, and we were willing to sacrifice whatever we needed to so that we could be in Mississippi until everything was sorted out.
So we asked every question, pressed in from every angle we could, respectfully, to the best of our ability.
All signs pointed to us eventually going back home to wait things out, and just a short few days later, my dad went in for a scan and was told that he had days to live.
What we thought would be a crushing defeat in the process of adopting our son was actually a great gift to us. We were able to spend my dad’s last month by his side, without the split time and effort between two states, caring for a newborn baby.
If we had been given a “yes” at the time that we so desperately asked for it, we would have been in Mississippi waiting for paperwork to cross state lines while my dad was admitted to a hospice facility with my entire family surrounding him.
Our good father can always see the bigger picture.
Rather than agonize over every day that I didn’t get to spend with our newborn son, I was trying to make the most of every second with my beloved dad.
My dad prayed for Jayden.
Even though he would never meet him, he saw his picture. He prayed, even in his last days. He prayed for the child who he had just found out my sister was carrying, and he prayed for Jayden. He knew the moment when Jayden was born, he received updates throughout his time in hospice care, and he said he knew he was going to be a strong man of God.
Just four days after my dad passed away, we were given the all clear to finally assume care of him.
The care and intention in the timing of it all was, thankfully, not lost on us.
When the time came to finally meet him and his foster mom, Carol, the anticipation was thick, and our hearts were tired. We were more than ready to assume care, and I knew that there was a special purpose lying in the timing and the beauty of it all.
We pulled up to the home that he had been in for his first month of life, and it took our breath away. Situated against a gorgeous lake front, the home had wide, expansive windows, a pristine interior, and a serene outdoor living area.
I immediately thought about my dad.
He loved the lake. He loved being outdoors. He would have LOVED this place.
I told Carol that if Jesus and my dad had sat down to design the perfect environment for him to spend his first month in, it would be here.
Even more incredible than the picturesque surroundings was the love that our boy had lavished on him in those early days. Carol and her family are some of the most genuine, selfless people we had ever met.
We had prayed so earnestly for those first days with our son. We didn’t want to miss them. But little did we know that we would have such a completely different story on our hands.
I sometimes think about my dad, lying in his bed, talking to us about Jayden or maybe saying a prayer for him, while Carol was rocking him out behind her home along the beautiful lake at sunset. He had worked all things out for Jayden’s good and wellbeing, and we needed only to trust Him. If I could have only seen the other side at the time, I would have had every reason to put my mind at ease. But I would have missed an opportunity to hold that much closer to Him and to exercise discipline in the waiting.
My dad never knew about Jayden’s incredible lake front home for his first month of life, never got to physically meet him or hold him, or teach him the “things of life from a grandfather’s perspective,” as he said he wanted to do in his journal. But I believe he is aware of more than we realize, and that there are things that happen in the spiritual realm that we have yet to learn about.
As I neared the end of the video of our reunion with our precious 34 day old Jayden, it struck me how much I know him now, and how much I love him, so much more even, than I did in those moments.
I know his every little movement, his habits, the way his head goes to one side when you hold him a certain way, and the way he relaxes his arms against you when you cradle him. I know every curve of his face, and the beginnings of his sweet, pensive little personality.
None of that has been lost, and we have had everything to gain. I may have lost the person who shaped me into who I am today, but now I have the gift of passing on his legacy to our two boys.
As we grieve, both from the loss of our dad, and on behalf of Jayden’s birth mother, we just try to make the most of each day.
Because that’s what my dad would want us to be doing. As I cuddle with Jayden, or play with Caleb, I think of his strong, kind presence and how much he would encourage me to be making the most of each little moment with them, as they grow. Life is just too precious not to.