I thought a lot about an old friend this weekend. I’m not quite sure why he was on my mind but he was very much in the forefront. I like to think that’s because something wonderful was happening in his life at that particular moment and somehow, in that unexplainable cosmic way, I just knew.
It’s been at least four years since I’ve seen him however I keep his photo in the glove compartment of my car and every so often a song comes on the radio or the sun sets in a particular way that makes me want to pull it out and see his face. After a tearful smile, I always say a prayer that wherever he is in that moment, he’s happy and experiencing the most magnificent love imaginable.
I always knew I wanted a family and in many ways I was a born mother. Call it the Cancer in me but nurturing, nesting, and loving unconditionally are traits that are second nature and have been ever since I was a child. Still, it wasn’t until I met David that I was SURE that I could do all it takes and give of myself so freely – two qualities every good mother possesses. And now, every time I get self-conscious or fearful that my selfishness will override my love for my future child, I remember my friendship with David and breathe a sigh of relief.
We met on a gloomy day at the orphanage in 2004 and from that first moment on we were inseparable. At 25, this little four-year-old was the closest thing I’d known to true love outside of my best friends and family. My trips became more frequent and suddenly I found myself spending nearly every weekend maneuvering dusty Tijuana roads just to see him and his brothers while other girls my age were looking for love in all the wrong places – i.e. bars and nightclubs (clearly, i did my share of that as well).
There were plenty of friends who thought I was a little insane and honestly, I’ve never forgiven or forgotten their judgement. In my heart, I knew their opinion didn’t matter but I felt and still believe that anyone who really knows me wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that I developed such a true and honest relationship with one of the kids – after all, it was only a matter of time. In fact, while Mike was not in my life then and has never had the pleasure of meeting David, he knows how much our friendship shaped me and my beliefs on a whole slew of topics from adoption to parenthood to the blessing of life and laughter and silliness.
In 2006, David and his brothers went home to their undeserving parents and eventually landed at another orphanage nearby, this time with their baby sister in tow and their youngest brother missing in action. A few of us – I wasn’t the only one completely enchanted by this family – visited them a few times. The heartbreaking part of the story is that their youngest brother, Sammy, died in the few short months between leaving us and landing at Grace Children’s Home (a wonderful orphanage run by an amazing and faith-filled American couple).
Our immediate response was that we needed to get the kids back to our home ASAP but the more time we spent at Grace learning about George and Stacey’s beliefs and model for raising orphaned children, the less urgency we felt and the more reassured we were that they were exactly where they were supposed to be. Over the years, I have checked in on them from time to time, made donations to the home, and even spent the night in the hospital when Juan Marcos (David’s older brother) had surgery on his leg to repair polio damage. I swear, sleeping on that cot next to his bed was one of the best night’s rest I’ve ever had.
Even with the faith that they are doing well and experiencing a daily dose of love and spirituality, I struggled with “my” loss for a very long time. I missed my friend and the comfort of knowing he loved me just the way I was and allowed me, a silly American girl going through a quarter life crisis, to love him for all of the wonder and amazement he represented. I hated to think about Sammy and how these children were not only robbed of good, deserving parents but of a baby brother who they absolutely adored and doted on. And, for a very long time, I wished I was older and more financially secure, because there is no doubt in my mind that I would’ve adopted the entire family – Juan Marcos, David, Nati, and Cessia – and raised them with all of the love and opportunity they deserved.
Again, there were those friends who just “got it” and there were those who thought I’d gotten a little too attached to this orphanage in Mexico and little too out of touch with reality. It was an interesting time in my life and one where a lot of my relationships were tested and of those that endured, only a handful really solidified themselves as my “besties” for life.
And now, four years later my life has changed dramatically. First and foremost, Mike appeared and shook up everything I thought I knew about myself and my future. I fell in-love for the first time (with a grown up) and started to build an entire world based on that love. The orphanage now holds a larger place in my heart than in my day to day routine although I still sit on the board and visit as often as I can (which is not nearly enough it seems). I’ve never had another connection to a child down there like the one I had to David and I’m alright with that. In fact, I don’t think I ever will. I know what we had was special and not something that comes along every day.
David opened my eyes to the option of adoption and when I hear people say they could never fully, unconditionally love a child who does not have “their” blood coursing through his veins I just smile and say, “Adoption isn’t for everyone.” And it isn’t. It doesn’t have to be but for some time now, I’ve known it’s for me. In fact, on one of our very first dates, I asked Mike about his views on the subject and imagine the relief I felt when he said it was all good for him – that he didn’t need his child to look like him to know he loved them. That’s my man.
Which brings us to why I’ve started this blog to our future son or daughter even though I’m not pregnant. Adoption is a part of our plan for our family. It’s so reassuring to remember that statement – adoption is part of our plan – when I’m overcome with the fear of hearing the cursed word; “infertility.” God has a plan for us and whether our first child is born the old fashioned way or whether he or she comes to us from another country, culture, or town, there will be pitter-pattering baby feet in our house someday. And it will be love.
David taught me that.
And so, his legacy will remain in my heart while his photo, all tattered and torn, is tucked safely in my car. And when that song comes on the radio or the sun sets in that particular way, I can pull it out and see his sparkling face again.
Thank you, David, for trusting me when everyone you’d ever trusted let you down. For laughing even when there wasn’t always something funny happening. For keeping the faith even though you were dealt a really crappy hand. For your silly dances, honest tears, love for your family, and many, many, lessons. Too many to count.
A copy of the photo I carry in my car although the original is nearly destroyed.
David, Nati, and Sammy on their last day at Sion. I opted to say goodbye a few days earlier because I really didn’t want to be there when their parents arrived. Another volunteer took this picture for me – thanks, Victor!
David with a broken arm and me with my Rolling Stones tee – an El Faro staple.