One previous foster situation, with two little girls, didn't work out. But when a little boy with strawberry blond hair was placed with them, Joe and Mary immediately fell in love. The boy's birth mother was addicted to drugs, and his biological father was in jail. He was just shy of a year old, and despite their trying to discourage it (because they didn't know how long they would have him), he took to calling them mommy and daddy.
Both attorneys, they knew the system, but that didn't stop them from being frustrated at delays and the repeated rescheduling of hearings. When the boy's birth mom left the state in June (something tantamount to abandonment), they knew they were close. Still, they had the termination of parental rights hearing to get through, and then an appeal period of nearly a month to endure. With only a week left until the appeal period was over, they found out the boy's biological father was out of jail on parole. Would he try and contest their petition to adopt? For days they lived a knife's point, praying. Messages were sent asking for more prayers, and saints were invoked.
Well last week, their dream of becoming parents finally came true, as they officially (legally, at least, as they'd been a family in their hearts for well over a year) adopted their son, Elijah. The minute they could finally do so, they flooded Facebook with pictures of Elijah they'd been hoarding for just such an occasion. The very first photo Joe posted, in fact, came with the caption "Behold my SON, with whom I am well pleased."
Immediately, there was an outpouring of congratulations. Although we didn't live it first-hand, so many of us as friends prayed with them and for them, talked them through daily struggles, and encouraged them that this day would come. I cried several times for the sheer joy of it, rejoicing that their patience had been rewarded. I wasn't the only one, with even other men admitting to wiping away tears in their offices, posting the most heartfelt messages of thanksgiving.
I have been reading, and just finished, the Venerable Fulton Sheen's book "Way of Contentment," and toward the end of the book, came across this quote:
"Every man rejoices when he has a partner in his joy.
He who shares tears with us wipes them away.
He divides them in two, and he who laughs with us makes the joy double.
Two torches do not divide, but increase the flame.
Tears are more quickly dried up when they run on a friend's cheek in furrows of compassion."
It made me think of the hundreds of their friends and family members who had shared in this family's happiness. Their love and joy was multiplied a hundred, even a thousand fold. There are no two parents more deserving of this blessing.
Joe has told me he's still a little bit in shock. There are so many things they can do now: take a family vacation without having to file and carry paperwork giving them permission to cross state lines; have a date night where they can leave Elijah with a trusted friend, not someone who's undergone a rigid background check; discipline him (within reason), whereas before they couldn't, as he wasn't theirs; have to have a Children's Services worker come inspect their home.
I have been around for so many of my friend's pregnancies, and they are all special, all gifts from above. Somehow, though, this particular child seems more so because, the funny thing is, even though he's adopted, Elijah seems to look like both his parents. He makes the same goofy faces as Joe, and has a similarly shaped face to Mary. He really was meant to be theirs.