After some silence, I finally feel like there's a new conversation with God bubbling up inside. Justin and I just took a quick roadtrip to Atlanta and had some decent talking time. I mentioned to him that this March will mark 15 years since my sister died. In typical Justin fashion, he presented me with a question that is going to make me think A LOT over the next few months. He asked if I felt like I could celebrate that day at all. March 9. For almost 15 years, it has been a day that we commemorate for sure, but celebrate? Seriously? I felt my chest tighten as soon as he said it. My first response was something about how I find it easier to celebrate her birthday rather than her death day, to which he nodded. But then he said, "it's the day she got to meet Jesus." Now I know from my years as a hospice chaplain what you're never supposed to say to a grieving person. And things like "she's not in pain anymore" or "at least she's with God now" are at the top of the list. But today, maybe for the first time, I let those words sink in. Can I celebrate March 9 as the day my sister got to meet her Savior face to face? Obviously she couldn't have that experience without leaving us. Without leaving me. But is there now room in my heart to acknowledge and affirm that she is, in fact, with God, and that is worth celebrating?
Then Justin had more. I love this guy. He knows how my mind works and he knows what to say to help me "get it." He said, "it's kind of like our adoption day with Amber Joy. Adoption always starts with brokenness, but on that day, God redeemed the situation and made us a family." Wow. THAT is why Justin is my perfect match. I began to think about what he was saying and he was definitely on to something. I haven't been a fan lately of the adoptive families who say things like, "God planned for this child to be part of our family." I personally disagree. I think that God intends for children to be raised by the family who gave birth to them, but the world is broken and sometimes, that isn't possible. So God, in His wisdom and lovingkindness, gives some of these children to families who desperately need each other. Broken pieces come together to create beautiful things. When my sister died, she was very sick. She was not going to get well in this life. Beyond that, she was human. She was bound by human desires, selfishness, pain, and sin. But on that day in March 1999, she received the ultimate freedom. She was not only healed of her disease, but she was given liberty from the flesh. O what a happy day!
December 31, 2011, we received Amber Joy into our family and she received us as her parents. It's our family day. The three of us came to that day with our own stories of pain and brokenness. It is not necessarily what might have been in a perfect world. BUT THEN GOD. I love those words. God has a way of taking a hopeless situation and turning it into a celebration. It doesn't mean the pain immediately vanishes, or that the road ahead isn't long. After Amber died, we had to find our way through some very dark days and figure out what it means to love her from here. And I'm still doing that. When we adopted Amber Joy, it didn't erase the story that brought her to us or the years of infertility that brought us to her. We are going to be working on our family picture for many years to come and what all of that means as we move forward. But we celebrate December 31 as our family day. It's the day that God intervened, acted, and redeemed.
I am grateful for the days we celebrate...holidays, birthdays, family days, and yes, perhaps even the day that my sister was united with the One who loves and knows her best. That is the greatest celebration of all.