Reflections from our recent trip to Ethiopia:
She lifted Mikias's face with her hand. She ran her finger along the line of the scar under his chin. I had always wondered how he got that scar. He caught his chin on a sharp rock when he was swimming. I thought he learned to swim at the YMCA here, with us. He learned there.
So many unknowns are now known. She told him, told us, what a good boy he was. Everyone loved him. He was so positive. So encouraging. Even in the hardest of times, he lifted her spirits. This was no surprise, he is that kind of son to us, too. I try to imagine what it took for her to say goodbye to him. I can't. It hurts too much.
Between us, we hold his history. With the help of a translator we fill in the missing parts for each other. We piece the parts together for him. The distinctions, adoptive, and birth don't matter. Together we make his family. Because of Mikias we are each other's family as well.
I couldn't get over how many people could fit into the small round house. They filled all the available space., They encircled us. Voices came from all directions. The translator told us that they were sharing memories with Jemberu. He soaked it all in quietly. He found it hard to find his voice when he was asked questions. He murmured to me that he had no idea that so many people knew him.
They showered him with hundreds of kisses. Jemberu's cheeks were wet from the tears of the women that came to hold him. They knelt and praised God that he was well, that he was loved, that he was with them now. They embraced Kurt, Mikias and me into their love as well. They wanted to know all about how our girls were doing, too. We all belong to each other because of Jemberu.
As person after person approached Jemberu and folded him into their embraces, I asked the translator, "Who is this?" I would guess an aunt or a cousin. There were relatives there. but most often the answer was, this is a neighbor. After a time, I stopped asking. There was no difference. Relative or not, this was his family.
I knew that Jemberu lost a parent when he went to an orphanage. I often thought about the pain they must have felt when their tiny family of two was split in half. Jemberu lost more than I realized. He lost a village.
Mikias and Jemberu's Ethiopian families did something that Kurt and I couldn't do without them. Our words, on their own, could never assure our sons, with out any doubt, that these three things are true.
They were loved.
They were not forgotten.
They are still loved.