Monday, November 12, 2012

Life is short...

Life is short!  How many times have we heard that refrain... and how many times have we nodded our heads in agreement and then just gone on with our lives.   This phrase hit home hard with me this week as I lost a dear friend and sorority sister.  She was only 49 years old, too early to pass on, we all said.  I then learned yesterday of the deaths of two high school classmates each of whom also died at the age of 49.  Forty-nine.. my age.  All three women left children, friends, and families behind.

The loss of someone you care about makes you acutely more aware of  the death and loss that surrounds you.  Every single day, we hear of the loss of life somewhere in the world.  Accidents, disease, war, natural disaster- people are dying, or as I like to think about it- transitioning to the other side on a daily basis.  We are all headed there which is a thought that is both scary and conforting at the same time.    It still hurts when someone passes on and we grieve in spite of the fact that they are not truly gone...just somewhere else.   Even when you believe in life after death, in heaven or reincarnation and a heavenly love-filled otherside as I do, the people we love are no longer here, no longer with us on earth.

So if death is unavoidable, what is there to learn from the passing of those in our lives?   It sounds so cliche, but for me it really does go back to the idea of "life is short."  So often we take life for granted and these deaths are certainly a wake up call to me. Enjoy every precious second, squeeze every drop of joy out of life, treasure those you love, don't let fear stop you from trying to live your dreams and petty disagreements should not ruin relationships.   The phrase "don't sweat the small stuff" has never had more meaning to me then it does today.  

Have you ever met someone who lives life with the motto of living with joy?   They are fabulous to have around and are generally surrounded by people who just want to be near them.  Why?  Because they are not complaining, arguing, judging others, trying to gather more "stuff" or wondering what others think of them.     They are living in the moment and finding joy and peace even in the tough times.   I want to be one of them.  I am not there yet, but I strive to be.

All I can do, all any of us can do is to start today.  Start over and work toward a life where every moment is precious.  I heard a saying once- "While you complain about your life, someone else is wishing they had just one more day left in theirs."   I will make an even more concerted effort now to seek joy and beauty, to savor a good book, to learn, to take risks to pursue my dreams, to write, to enjoy the company of others and myself and above all be grateful for my blessings.  I will work to block negativity, anger, and toxic words and thoughts from myself and others.  Life really is a more peaceful and joy-filled experience when you filter and control what you allow to rent space in your head.

Life is short.  I am guessing that my friend and classmates would tell me to start living it to the fullest because there are no promises as to how long it will last.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What I Wish She Knew

Thirteen years ago this week, my life changed in a most extraordinary way. After 24 hours plus of plane rides and bus rides, I was in Nanchang, China. I stood in a hotel hallway, a little weary from lack of sleep and then the babies and their caretakers began arriving from the Suichuan orphanage- which was in the country, 3 hours away by car. My name was called and placed into my arms was a beautiful 8 1/2- month- old baby girl who had been named Long Feng- my incredible Lily Grace. In that moment I became a mom!   Her Chinese name, bestowed upon her by the nannies in the orphanage can be translated to Phonenix and Dragon or Emperor and Empress.   She was aptly named.

I began the journey to adopt Lily on my 35th birthday.  I was not married and wanted to become a mom.  I had researched every possible option and decided that adoption, specifically from China, was the right answer for me.  I wanted a daughter and I knew that thousands if not millions of baby girls were abandoned in China- the pressure was intense for a woman to produce a son and when you added in the government's one couple/one child policy and a big dose of poverty, especially in the countryside, it was a recipe for a huge problem.  At the time, single women could adopt after age 35 so, on that birthday, I visited the adoption agency and began the paperwork.  Lots of paperwork followed- applications; social worker visits and homestudies; proof of employment, income, medical status; letters of reference and more.  But I got it all done and mailed it off to China.  About ten months later, I received news- I was matched with a baby!   I got a photo and medical information and needed to make my decision- was this my baby? Yes it was!   Travel was set for the next month.

Lily has always been strong-willed, smart, confident and a force to be reckoned with.  She never whined or even cried much as a baby and toddler- she screamed instead.  Once she found her words, Lily would try to reason, cajole, debate and convince you to get her way.  This is the child who told me at about age 4-when she had a fever that wasn't breaking and I said we might have to go to the hospital- that "I  (meaning me) had lost my mind if I thought we should go to the hospital this late at night."   When asked at age 5, "who you going to be for Halloween"- she looked puzzled and said "Um, me, I am going to be me just wearing a costume."   My brilliant Lily - who made a powerpoint presentation last year to give us a Christmas wish list for herself and her sister. 

I am so lucky to have this brilliant, strong, beautiful girl in my life and we will celebrate all week! My hope and prayer is that somewhere, somehow her birthmother knows that is growing up to be an amazing young lady and that she is cherished beyond measure.  I have no idea who her birthmother is and have no information about the circumstances of her life.  I don't know if she thinks about the daughter who is no longer in her life but I have to imagine that she does.  I wish I could tell her so much:

* Lily was found where you left her and cared for with love in the orphanage until I could be reunited with her- yes we were together before.

*  She is thriving in America- smart as heck, great student, runner, wonderful cello player and great friend, sister and daughter.

*  She is loved by many including two sisters who love and treasure her.

*  Her future is incredibly bright, she is already planning to attend college, considering a career and thinking about how she will live her life.

* She is curious about you, but holds no ill will against you for the circumstances of her birth and the pain of losing you.  She knows enough about the circumstances in China and the pressure that you must have faced.

* I think of you often and keep you in my thoughts and prayers,  I feel a spiritual connection to you and feel that I have an understanding of why and how we are connected in this way.

*  I thank you for choosing to give her life- she has made my life so much more complete.

 The path to adopting both my daughters was filled with twists and turns, delays, coincidences (not that I believe in those) and a deep sense of knowing that I MUST do this, my children were waiting for me and that everything would line up in time if I just went for it and had a little faith.  I love my amazing daughters!