I have an amazing friend who I met in person in China while I was adopting Cate. Lisa and her husband, Jimmy, became fast friends to Cam, Cate and I. But, while we were in China, I purposely didn’t explain to Cam the background of exactly how I had come to know Lisa. You see, we connected because she had a son with a heart like Tess’s who now lives in heaven. Daniel, Lisa and Jimmy’s son, died before Tess ever came home. In 2012, Lisa wrote a book about how that loss shaped their world and tested their faith. Lisa is extremely real with me, and her readers, about the pain of losing a child. Cam is very afraid of experiencing that sort of pain, so much so, in fact, that he was unsure about adopting Cate at all. So, while we were all in China together, I held off explaining to Cam the loss that the Murphy family had experienced.
When we set out to adopt Cate, we thought she might have cancer. In fact, her file listed her diagnosis as ‘probable Retinoblastoma.” Cam wanted no part of having another sibling who might die. By the time we went to bring Cate home, we knew her eye tumor was benign. But, the uncertainty of Tess’s impending heart surgery was still hanging over us. Cam, and I, were a ball of nerves.
In China, Cam and I got to watch as Lisa and Jimmy experience joy once again when they brought home their third son, Joey. Joey joined his brother and sister in his family on earth, while the Murphys always honor their son, Daniel, who awaits them all in heaven. We never discussed Daniel in front of Cam during our trip to China. Somehow, he knew though. The night that we said goodbye to Jimmy and Lisa in China, I sent Lisa this Facebook message, because something had tipped Cam off.
“Tonight, Cam said ‘Mom, do Mr. and Mrs. Murphy have a son that died?’ I was honest and said yes. He said ‘A son like Tess?’ I was honest again and said yes. Tears welled up in his eyes and all he said was ‘I bet their little boy is looking down from heaven and is REALLY happy they were brave enough to say yes again.’ And, so I cried in the executive lounge of the hotel tonight, big, ugly tears, because, I bet Daniel is looking down from heaven VERY happily right now. Have a safe trip HOME!!!”
Lisa and I did what we always do when we talk about Daniel, we both cried. Not exactly tears of sadness, there’s some of that, of course, but also tears of…amazement, that’s how I would describe it, for a connection that Daniel has forged for us. We all came home in September of 2014, Lisa and Jimmy with Joey, and me with Cate. In April of 2015, Tess had her second open heart surgery, and Lisa was like a lifeline for me. She messaged me several times to tell me to “hang on!”
When Tess coded the night after her second open heart surgery, when we nearly lost her, Lisa was one of the first people I messaged. I had nearly lost my baby. She had lost hers. There is this club that you join when you go through that, when you actually outlive your child. No one wants to be in it. I certainly didn’t want to join it. But, it was there for me in an amazing way, just in case. These women, women like Lisa, who have lost the unimaginable are always ready to reach out to anyone who experiences it as well. When the time is right, they’re there for you. Morbidly, I messaged Lisa for help, because I wanted to know how I should go about continuing to live if Tess didn’t. I wanted to know that there was hope for me, so that I could go on for my other kids. If we had lost Tess, I knew I had to keep on living for them. But…how?
So much of the book Lisa had penned flashed through my head. I had read it shortly after we brought Cate home. It wasn’t an easy read. It felt like a punch to the gut because I was staring down the barrel of what might become a similar journey. Cam saw the book sitting on my shelf and recognized “Mrs. Murphy” nearly immediately. He is an avid reader, and totally impressed that we know an author. So, of course, he inquired if he could read it. I handed it to him, knowing that we were facing an open heart surgery for Tess in the future, wondering if reading this would be okay. He handed it back to me 48 hours later, that’s how he rolls, having read it cover to cover. I asked him how he felt after having read that. He answered honestly. He was so scared. But, he said he could see how this came with hope now. And, he said he wouldn’t choose any differently if we were all sitting around the dining room table voting on whether or not we should move forward to adopt Tess. He would do it all again, like the Murphys did, no matter what happened to Tess. He was completely unafraid to open his heart to more kids, in our family, and in the work he would do for the rest of his life.
This made saying ‘yes’ to Gigi so easy for him. When we all sat around the table, yet again, a year later and held the vote, his hand was the first to shoot into the air. A solid, totally unequivocal, YES, to bringing home yet another sister with a complex Congenital Heart Defect, who also happens to be deaf and have a visual impairment.
Today is the anniversary of the day the Murphy Family met Daniel. The day they completely accepted him, come what may, with a totally open heart. It is also a day of loss within the China heart community. Just 72 short hours ago, a little girl who fought so valiantly to get to her family also died, leaving behind so many broken hearts. Her dad posted a message to Facebook the very day she passed away saying that they were numb, shocked and aching, but that they would do it all over again in a minute. I know they would do it with an open heart. Always.
So much about adopting a child with life threatening medical needs involves opening your own heart. If you are looking for a little encouragement, I’m offering you a chance to help kids who wait for their families to come to them, while picking up the second edition of the book that tells the story of the Murphy family’s journey.
If you buy HERE, a portion of the proceeds of every copy goes to benefit an organization called Jasmine’s Dream, founded by a little girl from China who found her way to her family, but dreams of a day when there are no more children waiting for their turn.
Or, you can purchase HERE, if you’re more comfortable with using straight up Amazon. Not as high of a percentage of the profits will be given to charity then, but you still get to read an amazing book.
–FullPlateMom, who will always, and forever, consider Daniel Murphy a guardian angel to one tiny warrior named Tess.