This is Love

He had beautiful brown eyes, a great smile and a laugh that made everyone around him happy.  He loved the same music she did, Michael Jackson, J. Geils Band and Queen, probably because she introduced him to them and he loved her.  Nicholas and Bethe loved each other in a way that would change them both forever.  For four months, they spent every moment together.  Bethe knew all along that he belonged to another, but she loved him without holding back.  She was his foster mom.

Bethe and her husband, Carlos, are Americans living in China.  Bethe volunteers at a nearby orphanage while Carlos works at the job that sent them to the other side of the world.  When given the chance to be Nick's foster parents, they didn't hesitate.

Nick was 16 months old when Bethe placed him in the arms of his forever mother.  He won't always remember Bethe, but his life will be better because she loved him.  Not like a care giver, not like a temporary mom, she loved him like a mother.  He lit up when he woke up and she came for him. They made each other laugh.  She showed him that he matters, that the world is better because he is in it.  Bethe will tell you she is the lucky one to have had Nick.  I agree.  But Nick sure was lucky too.  All four of my kids and my dog (and our previous dog) love Bethe.  They love her beyond what I would consider normal.  Kids and dogs are smart.  They know who loves them and who is just being polite.  That kind of love changes the world.

You can't love like that without falling in love, even when you know it will end.  It wasn't just Bethe's heart on the line, Carlos fell in love with Nick, too.  Nick was Carlos's little buddy, following him around while he got ready in the morning.  Nick was secure in Carlos's arms and loved to nap there.  It has been two decades since their own girls were so tiny.  It was a pleasure to do it again.

They knew Nick was in good hands with his new mom, but saying goodbye was heart wrenching for Bethe and Carlos.  They knew Nick would wonder where they were.  They knew that Nick was used to the routines that they shared together.  They knew that it would take a little time for Nick and his new mom to get their bearings. It was hard to think about him wondering where they were.

When Carlos and Bethe returned home, it was too quiet, it felt strange to not have Nick's noise and energy.  When they spotted  Nick's blanket, which was inadvertently left behind, they broke down.  It was going to take some time to get used to life without Nick.

Carlos and Bethe remind me of all of the people that loved our sons before they became ours. Birth family, neighbors, strangers, orphanage workers.  Most of the people who cared for them, we will never know, never get a chance to meet, never get to thank.   Mikias was four and Jemberu was three, when they became our sons.  We know they were loved.  They knew hunger, they knew terrible loss but they knew love.  They knew that they mattered.  They trusted us to take care of them.  They returned our hugs and kisses.  They quickly found their places in our family. We know that we can't take credit for that.  In their important first years, they were loved, like Nick was loved by Carlos and Bethe.  What an indescribable gift.

Carlos and Bethe, and every person who gives love and temporary shelter to a child, paint a picture of what love looks like. And that picture takes my breath away.