My sister, Andrea, is 18 months older than me. As you might expect, we fought like wildcats when we were young. And we were also best friends. Although Chris’ military career took me far from my childhood home, Andrea and I have always stayed close, talking on the phone daily and making efforts to get our families together as often as possible. She’s truly my best friend, biggest supporter and most loyal confidante.
In April 1999, everything changed. Our family traveled from Delaware down to Atlanta to have Victoria and Zach baptized in my childhood church. Andrea and her husband, Bob, were godparents and everyone in the family was excited to share in such a special day. But that day would be the last day we all knew such carefree happiness. Andrea’s infant son, Cam, was 6 months old and had had escalating health issues: recurrent ear infections, reflux, strabismus, increasing discomfort and frightening choking spells. Despite all of the doctor’s dismissals and placations, Andrea knew something was wrong. Immediately following our children’s baptisms, she took Cam to Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. He was admitted immediately and he never left.
Cam was born in September 14, 1998 and passed away on April 25, 1999. He died due to a rare genetic disease called Gaucher’s Type II. It is a degenerative, neurological condition that is always fatal. Cam was 7 1/2 months old when he died in his mother’s arms.
After Cam died, no one knew what to do, most of all Andrea. There was nothing to do, he was gone and no one could change that. We all had our lives to keep us busy, to try to take our minds off of the devastation. But she and Bob were left with a hole that nothing or no one could fill. That’s when I decided that no matter what, I was going to call her, every day. Sometimes we’d just sit on the phone, sometimes she’d cry. Sometimes we’d cry together. It was an agonizing time in our lives, made so much harder by the fact that there was no cure, no relief. And watching someone you love so much while the center of their life falls away is truly heartbreaking. Losing a peer is difficult, losing a parent is painful, but losing a child is unfathomable.
In July 2005 Chris and I decided to adopt from China. I remember telling Andrea about our adoption plans and I could hear the excitement in her voice. It was as if a dream of hers, long suppressed, had been rediscovered. After much discussion with her husband, who was adopted himself, they decided to pursue the foster program, they hoped to be able to adopt a young boy through the foster/adopt program. They completed their homestudy, a series of classes and fulfilled all the requirements of the state. Then they waited. In the meantime we came home with Isabelle and had even started paperchasing for Sophie. In the winter of 2005 I read an email from the Heritage yahoo group… a new SN list was out. Of course, I checked it out and saw the most precious face staring back at me. His name was XiaoYu, he was 2 years old and his SN was VSD. I forwarded just his picture to my sister, knowing she was committed to domestic adoption, but also knowing she would appreciate such a handsome face. That email set into motion a chain of events that lead Andrea and Bob to China to bring home their son, Dane XiaoYu, in August 2006.
At last, there was a sparkle in my sister’s eyes again, a purpose in her step. She wasn’t just enduring her life, she was enjoying her life again. She and Dane immediately fell into a mother- son relationship that brought tears to my eyes. Clearly, God had intended this child to by her son, and she his mother.
Over the next year she would mention to me how much she would love to adopt another boy… we both knew too well how many boys wait and wait for a family. We’d discuss often all the sweet faces we’d see on waiting child lists… faces of precious boys who needed and deserved the love of a family. The only thing standing between Andrea and Bob and another son was money. They’d been very blessed by family and friends reaching out and helping support Dane’s adoption in big ways. And even through the loss of a job and squeezing every cent out of their savings, God managed to bring Dane home.
Andrea would share with me the child of her heart, IF she were to ever be able to adopt again: he’d be a heart baby, since Dane had a heart defect and it was a SN she was most comfortable with. He’d definitely be a he… as much as Andrea loved my girls, she knew in her heart she wanted another boy. And he’d be born in early 2006. A family friend had given her a very special Christmas ornament for each of her children’s birth years and she cherished each and every one. When she received an ornament dated 2003, she wondered what this would represent and sure enough, Dane was born in 2003, making this ornament especially sweet. Last year she received an ornament dated 2006. She wondered if God was up to something. She also knew she’d love to adopt a child from a well run orphanage… Dane had been at an orphanage that supplied waiting parents with additional information, there were some Americans who volunteered there full time… I told her she’d never be so fortunate again. Famous last words.
Since then Andrea and Bob have worked tirelessly. She’s held 2 garage sales, put toys and clothing into 3 consignment sales, applied for grants and held a tennis tournament fundraiser. Bob is working 3 jobs and rarely, if ever, has a day off. And God has blessed their efforts. But now as travel approaches, they are far from having all the funds they need. Right now $6000 stands between them and their son and they have only two months to raise it. But I am confident that one way or another, God is going to provide! For a family that has lost a beloved son, it is just like the God we serve to replace her sadness with joy. There is no way to replace the precious son she lost, but He can bring joy out of sadness: not one but TWO cherished sons!
As I shared in an earlier post, we have $344 left in our adoption account. And just a few days ago, I received a check from our last consignment sale for $561. I am going to combine those funds to put together a giveaway… all the proceeds will go straight to Andrea’s agency! Yeah… it’s giveaway time again 🙂 And this time it’s going to be bigger (hint: TWO prizes) and better (hint: really nice stuff)!
I’ll be posting all the specifics tomorrow, so check back soon 🙂