Tish’s fish, Sadie, died last week. We’ve been through the passing of a fish before, but this time was special. My little man, Chase, experienced what I can only describe as an existential crisis. He cried and shook and begged me for answers . . . for two hours. He said things like, It’s not about Sadie, mom. It’s that everything we love is going die. How do we survive that? And – I know what you’re going to say about heaven, mom, but how do you know it’s real? You don’t. And I don’t know if I can believe it.
I didn’t offer many brilliant answers to my baby’s brilliant questions. But I was grateful to be able to tell him truthfully that Yes, I believe that there is some sort of heaven, though I doubt it’s like anything we’ve heard described. When he asked how I believed l told him that I believe because I have to – because if I didn’t believe, the terror that was gripping his heart, the terror of losing the people I love forever would overtake me and I’d have no joy or hope and I’d die inside. I told him that I believe because I have no other choice, because I was made to believe, because if I didn’t believe in life after death I wouldn’t be able to live life before death. I’d panic and then freeze.
When he asked me what I believed heaven was like, I told him that I believe heaven is a place where everyone loves each other perfectly.
When he asked me, Why, mom? Why does God send us here, where things hurt so much? Why does He make us love things that He knows we’re just going to lose? I told him that we don’t love people and animals because we will have them forever, we love them because loving them changes us, makes us better, healthier, kinder, real-er . . . stronger in the right ways and weaker in the right ways. Even if animals and people leave, even if they die- they leave us better. So we keep loving, even though we might lose, because loving teaches us, changes us. And that’s what we’re here to do. God sends us here to learn how to be better lovers, and to learn how to be loved, so we’ll be prepared for heaven.
When I finished this part, Chase looked right into my eyes and his tears cleared for a moment and he said, “Yes. I can believe that part. That sounds right. I believe that.”
And I agreed. I thought – Wow. Yes, that’s actually what I believe. I can buy all of that stuff I just said. That sounds True to me, thank God.
Anonymous, I am trying to become more loving down here. I am trying to learn. And you, willing or not, have been a teacher for me. I want to apologize for my response to you. It was a great essay. It really was. But this place has never been about great essays. This place is about Love. And I have learned that sometimes I have to leave a great essay unwritten in order to love better. Because it is better to be kind than to be “right.”
If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
As I read and re-read my response to your comment, Anonymous, I realized that I must have sounded pretty clangy to you. Because what I did was announce that I was going to turn the other cheek, and then didn’t. At all. What I did, actually, was defend myself and then sweetly judge and attack you. My least favorite part was when I wrote “people like you.” I don’t even believe in people like you and people like me. I just believe in people. I’m sorry for using those divisive and unfair words.
To be clear, I don’t regret writing that essay, just like I wouldn’t change what you said. I don’t spend a lot of time beating myself up and I hope you haven’t either. I’m grateful for this whole process. We needed to go through all of it to get to here.
But now I know I didn’t really listen for the love in what you said. I listened for the judgment, so that’s what I found. Seems to be how it works…seek and you shall find.
If I’d really turned the other cheek, I would have simply tried to explain to you why I want to adopt, which is so hard for me to put into words, but would have made for an even better, kinder, truer essay. Less sassy, but better.
Anonymous, I am so in love with this brutiful world that I feel torn up a lot of the time. I find people to be so beautiful, so strong and this world to be such a painful mess for the brave people who live here. I tend to take on the pain of others as my own pain, because I believe it IS my own pain. Because I really, truly believe that we all belong to each other. I believe that heaven, at first, will be a revealing, a lifting of the fog when we will look back down on Earth and see that we were in fact, one big family. And that hell will be seeing that and knowing that while living our lives, we let our brothers and sisters and mothers and father suffer and starve and die, while we had more than we needed. That will be hell, I think, for awhile. Knowing the truth. Knowing we let our own family members die. But then God will wipe our tears, and forgive us, and make everything new, and redeem us all. And we’ll heal, and become whole and enter our eternal family with forgiveness and understanding and love for all.
That is my interpretation of Matthew 25:33.
And so I just want to be part of my eternal family now. I love being a mama, and I love other mothers. I am awed by our strength and sacrifices and bottomless love and passion and courage. And I don’t understand why I get to raise my babies and some mamas don’t. Why I have every resource I need and more, more, more and some mamas, dying of AIDS, have to travel miles in bare feet to beg for medicine for their starving babies. Babies whom they love and cherish every bit as much as I love and cherish mine.
Thinking about this disparity drives me close to what I would consider the edge of insanity. I hate it. I don’t understand. And I feel compelled to do something, to show my love for and solidarity with these women, these mamas who are just like me. And so I think, I can’t do what I want to do, which is to fix things, to make things fair so that these mamas can raise their own damn babies. But I can give one of their babies a home. I can offer one of these mama’s babies every good thing I have- which is my husband and my children and my home and my faith and my friends and my joy and my hope. I can do that part, I can beg God to use me to answer another mama’s prayers. I can care for her baby since she can’t. I can be part of the second best thing. And I can love that baby and raise him to know how much his first mama loved him too, and when I get to heaven I can put that baby into her waiting arms, because I’ll know her, and she’ll know me, and we will finally be a whole family.
And all of this- it still doesn’t describe completely or precisely why I want to adopt.
There is a book I love, called Pillars of the Earth. In it there is a man named Tom, whose dream it is to build a cathedral. He sacrifices everything -his family’s money, future, security, even health to realize his dream. Some people, even in his own family, decide that he’s a foolish, selfish, crazy man.
When he finally gets his big break and the man who holds the power to make Tom’s dream come true asks him: Why? Why do you want this so badly? Why have you sacrificed everything to build this cathedral?
Because it will be beautiful.
That’s my real reason, Anonymous. I want to adopt because it will be beautiful, to me.
That’s why I’ll never be an adoption advocate, which has been requested of me several times. Because I don’t believe that everyone should adopt. I believe that everyone should discover what she finds to be most beautiful and then create it.
So anyway, that’s what I should have said, Anonymous. I should have tried to bridge the gap of understanding between us instead of building a bigger wall. I should have explained instead of defended.
I may have been extra sensitive for this reason:
Craig and I had to make the horrible decision of letting our adoption go last week. We were as close as a family can possibly get to bringing our baby boy home, but we had to say no, we’re sorry- we can’t. Please give our baby to another family.
My health, it’s getting worse instead of better- and there was a bit of an intervention from some people I love.
Glennon- you’re sick. You’re barely making it through the day. You can’t do this. You must take care of yourself and the family you already have. You must heal.
It was quite familiar to me, actually. I’ve been through a similar intervention before. That one was tough to hear too, but necessary. Good things came of it.
It’s been hard, but not impossible. I have a friend who’s doing impossible, and I know the difference.
We have some emptiness now, Anonymous. Empty space in our hearts where we thought that baby would be, an empty nursery, empty time, empty plans where shopping and decorating and nesting used to be.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned about empty, it’s that empty can be more exciting and ripe with promise than full. There is space, now.
What will come fill it? What will enter our lives? What’s next?
I hope that healing comes next. From this loss and from my disease. I hope that I will learn what healing is, what it means, what it looks like, and that I will be able to share the whole healing process with you. Because we are all healing, right? So we might as well do it together.
Love You, Anonymous sister.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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