Maybe It’s Better to Have Known and Lost…
Updated: May 27, 2022
I wonder this.
Is it? I hope so.
I’ve agonized over how to write about this. Or whether I should at all. But how can I not speak to this, the latest and steepest turn in the relationships with Emme’s other family? Part of my need to write is to help me remember, and put into words the things that are hard to tell now, will be hard to tell later to a girl I love more than words can say. But the other side is the part of me that wonders, in the “why did this happen” sort of way, that ultimately, our stories as much as we can say without saying too much (or nothing at all which is what I’ve done so far!!!) need to be told.
Because this is open adoption.
This is open adoption, the way ours is anyway.
Two weeks ago tomorrow, we received news that Emme’s oldest sister died suddenly and tragically at the age of 17. It’s two weeks out and I don't know what to say. How in the world does anyone make sense of such a loss, that of a young woman, and a new mother herself, really just starting life? It was untimely. It was unnecessary. We thought life was moving forward for her with hopeful steps. I had hoped anyway. #hopelesshoper
As a mother, my first concern was for my child ~ her reaction, her grief, her questions. How much do I tell about the tragedy? How much do we expose her to the grief of others? Her loss is a future loss in so many ways. She's so young. And she has few big-girl, in-person memories. Barely through kindergarten, our girl has lost a significant relationship, and this breaks my heart.
Truth: It is a loss for us all. I had a dream, of one day there would be this moment… three sisters, with three moms. It was this very vague image, of a park and picnic, of conversation, of lightness…something tangible to hope for I guess, to help me keep my focus in the tougher, quieter times of our relationships. This simple image has helped me deal with the complexities of it all.
I had a dream that there would be this moment one day… three sisters, with three moms.
Now, all we have are the few, precious moments we have spent together in the last 5 years. We will keep telling her about the day they met when Emme was just a couple of hours old… how her big sister held her and cried because she loved her already. How her big sister wanted to tell her about her life so far, how she tried to make this wee little sister smile, and how we all unwrapped her together on the bed right there in the hospital, and how we all counted her fingers and toes, and checked out her ear lobes and realized they were not attached, just like her big sister. We will keep telling our Emme of how they said ‘hi’ that day and in so many ways, how they said ‘goodbye for now as well.
We will keep telling Emme that month later, we visited her First Mom and sisters in their home and we dyed eggs together while Hubs held Emme close by.
We will keep telling Emme of the time Big Sister introduced the near toddling Emme to GrammaB’s dogs. They were bigger than little Em, but so gentle and huggable. They treated her like they knew Emme was one of them too. We will tell Emme about the game of hide-and-seek the sisters played together under the tissue paper from gifts.
We will keep telling Emme of Big Sister sitting with her little sister on her lap, reading the Ladybug counting book as the rest of us visited over a Christmas dinner.
We will tell Emme of how Big Sister played chase through GrammaB’s house, as we laughed at their silly girl screams.
The last time we saw her, Middle Sister read to Emme and Big Sister as their Moms looked on. Big Sister was quiet and sad then, that last time we saw her. I knew life was not as it should be and wondered, but didn’t ask. I just hugged her long and hard and hoped she was okay. Maybe I should have asked, but who am I in her life? No one. Emme is someone. Not me. Little did I know the hard things that were happening just below the stoic, teenage exterior, and how the last of her two years would unfold.
A week ago to the hour of this writing, we sat in the gathering room at the funeral home with Emme’s immediate first family. I had imagined this moment, being there with birth family members we had never met ~ biological grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. And here it was after 2 years of quiet, my prayer answered that somehow we’d have contact again. Not this way though. Not this way.
Here it was after 2 years of quiet, my prayer answered that somehow we’d have contact again.
And then… we prayed together as Hubby and I, the adoptive parents of the littlest sister, led the funeral. We were honored to be pastors that day, of people we call family, to touch them in grief and loss, and hope and pray that somehow they will understand the grace that under sweeps it all. At that moment, as Emme's Other Mom stood between us, holding our hands, with Emme holding my other hand, it became a reality that this loss bonded us again. Would every moment in this family have heartache and loss attached to it? All I could pray is “God save us all. And send hope. Help them see our love is real, and God's love is real and there's hope here, even in this."
It was a sacred moment, that prayer. That day held so many sacred moments ~ beautiful conversations with people who are our people because of Emme, the girl for whom this life was chosen. We may come from different worlds, but with love in common, what is possible?
I sure don’t want to idealize anything about adoption and openness. The full story is NOT at all idyllic. We do see the reality that, in opening ourselves up to being known and to know them, we have lost. But that's love. In the short term, if we didn’t have an open adoption, we wouldn’t have known of this loss that has affected our lives so much these last two weeks and will change our future together. But the loss would be there, even if we didn’t know about it.
So once again I write, knowing the heartache and hard work of trying to build these relationships have reaped the benefit of walking together through this hard thing.
And for that, today, I know.
It IS better to have known and lost…