there is a 2 inch plastic parakeet on my nightstand.  it is a parakeet with a story … 2 stories, actually. one is an everyday story of being knocked off the nightstand by cats and lovingly returned to her perch at bedtime. the other is a story of rainbows and phone calls and hope and an epic journey, and also a factory in china, but i’m not writing about that part.

for our purposes, her story starts on may 23 at the end of a toy aisle in the gresham fred meyer at burnside and powell.

i had spoken on the phone earlier that day with gayle from christian family adoptions. gayle told me that she received our initial application to adopt, and she was concerned about us adopting so soon after losing our child. i told gayle that we were still so sad about losing sky, and wished he could be with us. i told her that we have been married for almost 8 years, and we have wanted children for so long. i told her that we have too much love in our family for just the two of us, and want to give it to a child. i told her i know that sounds cheesy, but we really mean it.

gayle said that she would call me back.

i was at the gresham fred meyer at burnside and powell when the phone rang. my eyes widened and my stomach dropped, and i ducked down the closest empty aisle – a toy aisle that apparently housed the unpopular toys: cheap animals and and various dull-colored morsels of plastic.

as gayle preambled, i nervously removed burros from the giraffe row and righted sidelying meerkats. i faced the tortoises forward and separated the deer from the gazelles and she said YES, you can adopt and you can have a family and we want to help you have a child, as i put the tigers in a line.

it wasn’t supposed to be a parakeet.

i thought the tortoises were nice. they were heavy and fit right in my hand and symbolized patience and determination, and when i gave it to my child and said, look, i bought this for you at the beginning of your adoption story – let me tell you your story, i would move it slowly along the ground, like tortoises move. but the tortoises were seven dollars, and adoption is expensive.

so i bought the parakeet. ($2.49, if you’re curious.) it’s not even a flying parakeet. it just sits there, looking parakeet-ish. i’ll tell you what we call it, if you promise not to laugh. it’s the hopeakeet. (as in, can you get the hopeakeet out of the cat’s mouth?)

the hopeakeet has sat on the desk while we slog through piles of pre-homestudy paperwork and domestic infant adoption training. the hopeakeet will travel in a pocket or purse with us to this weekend’s seminar on pre-adoption education and transracial adoption issues. it will sit on the nightstand when our adoption worker comes to do our homestudy next month. it has been gripped in both of our hands as we cry together, wondering if we will ever have a family and children who live with us, this side of heaven.

and someday, we will give the hopeakeet to our rainbow baby and we will say, “look. we chose you. we waited for you. we hoped for you. here is your story.”

toy parakeet in hand

i will continue to write about our grief journey as it parallels our adoption journey. we are on both roads right now, a road of hope, and a road of loss (which, in a way, is also a road of hope). we ask for your thoughts and prayers as we enter this new phase of our family journey.



life has a persistent habit of going on, whether one wants it to or not. (especially for people who tend to say yes to things.) we just finished music directing snow white with christian youth theater. last time we music directed with cyt was exactly a year ago; i spent the whole show hiding my new pregnancy and hoping that no one would notice that i was constantly green with nausea and falling asleep during choreography lessons.

i’m teaching piano again, we’re directing choir, i was just admitted to portland state university to start classes in the fall. we’re undertaking a new adventure to build our family – more on that tomorrow – while trying to figure out what it means to live at peace with the family we have. the two of us, falling more in love with each other each day, and each day bringing us closer to an eternity with the child we love.

he’s six months old today. i hope they’re having a party for him in heaven. heaven comes sharply into focus when the lines of this world are softened through tears. as i gaze out the window, it’s not hard to imagine him, just beyond the impenetrable blue veil, laughing and living with a crowd of the imperfect washed perfect, fully human and fully alive.

you know, i think the biggest problem with my life before sky was that there wasn’t enough death in it. it’s so common to live a deathless life in the first world; we compartmentalize and cure and avoid and delegate and repress. but we fear most that which we don’t know, and the longer we avoid death the more we have to fear. the longer we live without loss, the more we have to lose.

and we are deeply, desperately afraid.
(or maybe that was just me.)

but everybody dies. we carry this death in our bodies  every moment that brings us closer to it; time itself is little more than living death. maybe the only way to live without fear of death is to normalize it – to be preoccupied with it.

now, lest you think i’m some sort of black-lipsticked grave worshiper (i’m not. i don’t even own lipstick.), consider: what is life, but the absence of death? and what is death but the absence of life? we would not have these words without the contrast; without the constant tug of one against the other for the duration of time. it is not until we have a profound appreciation and constant understanding of death that we can choose fight for life, to fight for justice, to fight for peace.

when we make peace with this lifelong struggle, then and only then can we live without fear.

and so here is my benediction for everyone, that i would not wish on anyone:

may your life be touched so profoundly by the curse of death that you are released from its power. may you be given, through the gift of death, the opportunity to live a life without fear.

today marks six months since sky was born. for six months we have celebrated his life and mourned his death.

today i am profoundly sad. but i am not afraid.