I was once afraid of what my reality has become. I hear it voiced in so many others taking the risk of adopting a child with possible cognitive delays.
What if this child can never live independently?
What if they need to live with me for the rest of my life?
What if their need outlasts my own life?
Everyone has to answer that in their own heart and work through those choices. I was not prepared for that choice to be made for me. But on the day we became a family with our daughter I knew in the deepest parts of my soul that she would always need to live with us. She would never be completely independent.
Shock hit me first and I just went into survival mode. One day, one step at a time.
Grief hit next. Grief for all that I had dreamed for her. Grief for all that I had dreamed for my future.
Sadness and Anger came to dwell in my heart for a period of time.
And when God breathed in hope, he restored joy little by little with glimpses of truth.
Here is my reality:
Truth. My husband and I will never have retirement years to ourselves. We will never wake up in the mornings to have coffee and read the news, just the two of us. There will always be someone there with us.
Truth. We will likely spend a lot of our retirement funds on classes, community events, and medical bills for our daughter.
I don’t think anyone goes into any kind of parenting with the thought that they hope those things will be the outcome. But sometimes life throws us a set of truths we are not prepared for and not expecting. And they change our future.
One day as I wiped faces, changed diapers, gave hugs, and all the other every day little things that mommas do God whispered into my heart a new truth. I would not have to say goodbye to this one. No sad college send off, no fear over that first apartment move in day was coming this time. No phone calls to check in after weeks or months of not seeing her face would be in my future. I wouldn’t grieve the physical day in and day out presence of her. She would always be mine.
And I realized that this was a precious gift from my Father. I couldn’t have imagined it. I wouldn’t have chosen it, but in His greatness, in His grace, that gives me more than I deserve, He gifted me with this daughter.
He gave me a Lifer.
For the rest of my life I will wake up and have my face taken in two hands and pulled into a face that just breathes me in, lip to lip, forehead to forehead. I will have my hair tugged until I bend my head down and feel the breath of her kiss on the top of my head. My husband and I will wake up and have coffee and read together, and hear the tap, tap, tap of a cane along the wood floor as we are greeted by childlike innocence, and the guileless love of our daughter.
We have given up a lot. That is the truth. Our future is different. We will always choose to live near a hospital. We will always live in a community that supports individuals with special needs. We will always have dents in our floor from canes. We will not have years to ourselves. I will never whip in and out of a store. I will slow down and hold onto an arm that needs my guidance. I will never just take a call from a friend and be able to meet them in five minutes for a coffee date without first finding care for my daughter.
In reality what we gave up was a large chunk of our freedom. And I longed for that freedom. Six kids can do that to you. Love them, cherish them, hold the memories, and every so often count the days until college. Right? But that day for me is gone.
But where I gave up freedom, I gained love. And love always wins. There is no fear in this any longer. Grief had its day and it is done. Still, there are days when I don’t want this grace. It doesn’t feel like grace every single day. Some days are hard ones and the grief strikes again and I long for the dreams I once held. But then she draws my head to hers, she takes my hands inside of hers and claps; she smiles. And every time she smiles I know that giving me this “Lifer” was a precious gift that I will forever treasure.
It comes down to these truths:
Change is different but not inherently bad.
Perfect love casts out fear.
Fear loses to faith every single time. Because He is stronger.
Love is the very essence of freedom.
And love is the treasure, the grace, the mercy that keeps this world on track.