It was your birthday this week, brother-mine. It was a blast. We went all out, with a cake shaped like a jet (which you loved, though you loved the cake-pan more, since you could play with that), wrapping-paper covered in vehicles, and more presents than you even wanted to open.
Now, you’re only three, so you didn’t quite understand everything, but you still grinned, ate cake, and played with your toys. And you’re only three, so you didn’t quite understand the sadness connected with your birthday. Because this was your third birthday — yet only your first one with us. Because you’ve been on earth three years, but only six months with us. With your family.
So my heart aches for you. Because in the whole of your life, only about eight months of it has been with your family, birth or adopted. All the rest was in an orphanage. To think that someone so little has missed so much —
My heart aches for you. Because those nannies and those foster families cared for you; you’ve experienced birthdays, as your sputtering persistence trying to blow out those candles showed. They were all the love you knew for most of you life, until others came to fly you away. To think that someone so little has lost so much —
My heart aches for you. Because I look around, seeing how happy and silly you are with all these comforts around you, wishing you didn’t have to experience all that pain. Wanting you to have had this so much earlier. Wishing that we were able to celebrate your second, your first birthday with you. To think that for someone so little, we’ve already missed so much —
So yesterday was a little bit of a sad day, Xan-man. But more than that, it was a happy, beautiful day. You’re only three, so you don’t understand why mommy was crying, so you offered her your chips to cheer her up. But those were happy tears. And sad tears. Mingled together. Life’s complicated, baby boy, you’ll figure that out when you’re older.
But He makes beautiful stories out of the most broken beginnings.
So my heart rejoices for you. Because for your whole life, you’ll be with your family. That’s what we are, a real family, because the ties of love are as strong as any blood. For someone so little, you’re so much one of us.
My heart rejoices for you. Because you’ll always be surrounded by those who care for you. We’ll laugh when you walk around the house with a blanket over your head, and sigh resignedly when you scream for a minute straight just because you think it’s great fun, but we’ll love you — always and forever. For someone so little, you’re surrounded by so much love.
My heart rejoices for you. Because I look around, seeing how happy and silly you are with all these comforts around you, and know this is you future. You can afford to squirt bubbles until they’re gone, because we’ll get you more. You can afford to fake-cry whenever you want your way, because we’ll assure you that you are cared for. You can roll about on the bed with abandon, you can zoom at top speed all throughout the house, you can sit atop Dad or brother’s shoulders tightly clenching their head, because you are safe. For someone so little, you’ve found a family.
Yes, we didn’t get to celebrate your first or second birthday. And we will still grieve for the time that was deprived, for all of the pain, for all of the loss. And we will forever be grateful for those who held those years that we missed, who held you, who held your past.
But we, you and your family, we have now. We have the future. Because we got to celebrate your third birthday. We get to celebrate your fourth birthday. And we get to celebrate your fifth, and your sixth, and your graduation and your marriage and —
If God wills, we get to celebrate the whole rest of life with you.
It was your birthday this week, little brother. And it was a blast. And sad. And funny and heart-breaking and easy and hard and throwing your face into cake to eat it without a fork and being confused with how to open wrapping paper and everything’s a jet and bubbles and play dough and new and loss and giggles and tears and — beautiful.
Because that’s what love is. That’s what family is. You may only be three. But you, you baby boy, are a part of it.
Happy Birthday Xander. You’re home.