God's Child, Our Joy

An adoptive family's journey in faith and life

4th of July

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The 4th of July holiday was on Wednesday this year, the worst day of the week for a holiday. Many people I work with take an extra day to stretch the holiday into a four day weekend, but the mid-week 4th means either a long five day weekend, or a weird week where each day of work you’re recovering from the previous day off, or looking forward to being off the next day.

I had no vacation time available, so the decision to work the other days was made pretty easy. That made the 4th just another day. Any time I would take off would go toward either Eva’s finalization or visiting South Dakota. My aunt was of failing health due to cancer, so we’d make the trip out so long as it didn’t jeopardize the finalization.

We decided that if we were to make it back to South Dakota and back, we’d need to be on the road by the 3rd. The trip would be broken into two legs, so a minimum of 4 days of travel there and back. The 3rd passed with no news, so our fourth was free for whatever fun things new parents do.

So we went grocery shopping. Yes, that’s what new parents do. You get a free day, you accomplish something that’s been pushed off for a while. We did invite friends over for dinner, so our 4th plans weren’t completely dull. After reaching our two cart limit, we checked out and headed home. Then my phone rang.

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My aunt Linda had the biggest smile and laugh of anyone that I knew. She seemed to be alway joyous and vibrant. Growing up, they lived near my dad’s folks, so we got to see them often. They lived in Minnesota, in a town where they left their door open most of the time. She ran a daycare from her home, and loved all the kids she cared for. Her and her husband were hosts at our wedding, which was one day short of nine years ago the day she passed.

Eva never got to meet her.

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“Linda passed away this morning” my mother told me as we were driving back home. They wanted to know if we’d be able to make it back. If we could, Steph would sing at the funeral. They were meeting with the funeral director in an hour and a half.

We got home and put away our cold and frozen. The rest sat on the counter as we sat and decided what to do. We planned how we could make it work. It could work, but there was no wiggle room. Any delay and we’d miss the funeral, or run into issues with the finalization. On top of that, we had to bring Quinton back to CF and leave him with family there because our pet hotel was booked for the 4th. With Eva, we’d have to stop and feed her a couple of times (about a half hour each time). We’d have to do it in a place that was cool, but we couldn’t just leave Quinton in the car with temperatures near or topping 100 degrees. On the trip back we’d have to travel partly at night, so we’d be tired, and four days of travel in 5-6 days would be exhausting, not to mention the emotional toll that a funeral would take. All sorts of reasons to say no.

And yet…

How can you say no to the last chance you have to say goodbye to someone. To be there in support of her closest friends and family. An opportunity to bring a little joy by way of some of the family meeting Eva for the first time.

I reached for the phone and called home. “Mom, we’re not going to make it.”

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Linda was the first of our parent’s generation to pass in either of our families. She has two children and five grandkids mourning her loss. This is a harsh reminder to me that someday we will lose our parents, and someday Eva will have to deal with the pain of a death in the family. What might be more sad is that she was survived by both of her parents, and her husband’s parents (my grandparents). They moved to South Dakota years ago to be near his folks as they lived their golden years. Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer when I was in junior high, and has fought it off for nearly 20 years now. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, yet cancer so rarely follows the script we have written.

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The rest of the 4th was as expected, as my emotions retreated within me. I couldn’t have been much of a host to our friends that night as I sat and pondered life. We were one week from finalization, but the moment was not right for celebration despite the fireworks in the July sky.

I sat sullen in my chair holding Eva, when she reached out to me. A hug. In her sweet, sweet innocence, she offered joy and happiness in a warm embrace. I leaned in and she grabbed my face and tried to eat my hair. That was the sweetest moment of the day.

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