When I think of April, I think of birthdays and celebrations. I have always thought that it was fitting that around the time we celebrate the rebirth of the seasons and the rebirth of our souls, my family gets to celebrate so many personal births. My mother, my brother, and my father all have birthdays that are exactly a week apart in the month of April. My very best of best friends celebrate their anniversary, the birth of their coming together as a family, on the same day as my dad’s birthday.
But this year, there was a new birthday, one that brought me wisps of sadness all day…all the last few weeks, really: Soccer Boy turned nine years old the day before my father’s birthday. While we spent this last Saturday with presents, ice cream sandwich cake, backyard soccer, and family board games, halfway across the world there was a little boy spending another birthday alone without a loving family to celebrate with him.
And I couldn’t help but think of all the lost birthdays. All this week, a friend from college has been celebrating her own son’s ninth birthday. As she should. She changed her profile picture to one from the day he was born; she uploaded an album of her son through the years; she wrote a blog post in tribute to what the years have meant to her. And while I rejoiced in her gladness, I couldn’t help but think that Soccer Boy will never have this. Even if he is adopted, those years have gone; there are no snapshots to remember a moment together, because it didn’t happen. He was alone, or in a bad place. Adoption is hard. It is wonderful and rich, but it is also grueling and exhausting. And it exists because somewhere along the way in a person’s life, something was broken. Loss happened. And the effects are not healed or forgotten magically. There is always a loss to mourn. Any time people break or are broken by others, they are never the same. Wondrous and magical things may come after, but they never fix or “make up for” a loss. Sometimes the loss helps us treasure something more deeply, and sometimes it makes a moment bittersweet, and sometimes it brings fresh sadness. Loss is hard, and adoption is hard.
But we are a home that knows loss. We know brokenness. I have been marked by brokenness since birth, and so has my son. They are different types of losses than what Soccer Boy has experienced, but they are deep and changing. But our home is a home of second chances. It is decorated with deep affection and hard-won joy, raw honesty and inexplicable hope. Those who have known loss belong here.
My own son turns nine this July. When I think of his excitement and his anticipation, I can’t imagine him not having people around him to celebrate, to tell him that he has made their lives better, to hug him and tell him that he changed their world.
Whether his stay in our home is temporary or permanent, Soccer Boy has changed our world. We cannot be the same as we were. And whether I say it across the table or across oceans, this will be the last birthday that goes by without him knowing it.