Imagine my displeasure when this was all I could achieve before we had to leave for church. Easter baskets had exploded in the front room. Sarah was signing the word candy as chocolate drool spewed out of her mouth and her feet were bare. And so my photo didn't happen and I snapped this in the car!
Before I left Sarah in the most blessed hands of our Miss Patty, I left these instructions with her. "If you paint(which Patty is always up for some artsy activity for her kids), place a garbage bag around her. I'm getting a family photo after church or nobody eats lunch!" And Miss Patty and all her helpers made certain not a stain or offending mark was on my Sarah when I picked her up. My Easter was complete and I have my beautiful family pictures.
An Easter and birthday celebration was on the agenda, complete with more Easter baskets from the grandparents.
Sarah and I share a special time together after her bath. We sing and play games. She sits on a stool across from me, intently watching my mouth and motions as I sign to see how to move her mouth. I taught her Jesus Loves Me in sign language, and she has sung it for her grandparents. The bunny was special, and her eyes lit up as she recognized the song it played. For the next half hour, she played that over and over, dancing, signing, and showing everyone of her new found treasure.
Easter isn't complete without an Easter Egg hunt. Aunt Stephanie and Grandma Linda stuffed eggs for the celebration. The kids enjoyed hunting for treasure, counting the eggs and the adults watched with cameras snapping to capture the memory.
Dates are not easy for me to remember. I think about the times, the seasons, the happenings, but not always dates. I was caught off guard when my father-in-law said it was a year today that you left for Sarah. I knew it was around Easter, but the dates for Easter change.
Another Grandma at the party, with her own amazing journey this year, asked if we would celebrate Gotcha Day. At that moment, the sights, sounds, emotions all began coming back in a flood, not trickling. Gotcha Day...
My eyes began to well up with tears, and it hit me hard.
I don't have the memories of Gotcha Day, the once in a lifetime photos and video of walking her out of the orphanage door, the gates closing one last time. A few days before Mother's Day, we learned that our dates were to be postponed, yet again. Our children at home were struggling, and we made the gut-wrenching decision for me to leave after court. Andy would finish the process and take her out of the orphanage.
That entire week, every visit with Sarah, I was an emotional wreck. I'd begin tearing up, coloring with her. I broke down reading Five Little Monkeys to her, and complete sobs erupted when I tried to make it through Brown Bear. Holding her, caressing her cheek as I lay kiss after kiss on her, an emotional free fall. Sunglasses were my favorite accessory to hide my tear-stained cheeks. The last moments with her before I left, praying she wouldn't forget who I was and I made Andy promise he would do her hair and take all the pictures and video he could.
I had envisioned the day in my mind. The outfit, her hair bows, shoes. We'd walk a little, I'd carry her out, and every moment would be captured. Our plans do not always add up to reality.
Skyping with my father that week, sobbing miles away, his words will be forever etched in my mind and heart.
"Shelly, perhaps this isn't to be your moment. God wants this to be Andy's moment to have and you are not to be part of that plan." As difficult as it is to understand why, I will never understand, nor is it my place to question a master plan. Even now as I type, the tears are streaming because I will never have her Gotcha Day. I do have a wonderful video Andy made and posted the day I returned to bring her home...The Sound of the Gate.
When I was sharing this story with the women around the table at Easter, and their eyes were filling, I said, "We will celebrate her coming home. Memorial Day weekend is the day our family was united, together. We will celebrate her homecoming then. That will be our Gotcha Day, her moment. I have had many beautiful, heart-warming celebrations with her and will continue to have every minute."
Embracing our journey, daily.