Approximately three weeks after Angelia’s death, we got a call from Adrian, Angelia’s youngest daughter. She wanted to come live with us. We agreed, as emotional is it would be, that it would be for the best. Perhaps it would help us to heal the loss of Angelia, and we certainly hoped we could offer a home and a life of love, caring, support, strength and encouragement to Adrian, a young woman so recently left motherless. We needed to make it legal, though, so that we could properly care for Adrian, so we hired an attorney and her father signed over to us legal custody and guardianship of his youngest child. The day we had to meet him to sign the papers was a day we’ll never forget. We had arranged to meet at the house where his mother was staying. It was now about 6 weeks after Angelia’s death. We got there on time. Ricky, however, was running late. Sitting there in Angelia’s mother-in-law’s house was the urn containing Angel’s ashes, as well as many, many pictures of her, everywhere. We heard a truck pull up and out hopped Ricky. Behind Ricky....no, oh my God, who is that? It.....can’t.....be! Who is that? It looked exactly like Angelia. What? Who? Huh? It was Ricky’s new girlfriend. Teresa. They had met about two weeks ago, when he passed her broken down in her car on the side of the road. He stopped to help her, and they hooked up and immediately began living together. And he brought her with him to his mother’s house, the house where, 6 weeks ago, he had been living with his late wife. To sign over custody papers of his youngest daughter to his father-in-law and me. He also brought along with him and his new girlfriend, pictures of his wife’s memorial service, to share and look through, with his father-in-law and daughter and his mother......and his new girlfriend. With his wife’s pictures and her ashes, sitting right there. Hubby had that same hollow, sick, sunken look about him that had come over him that day in the hospital, the day when Angel died. He was looking at Angelia’s twin sister. Needless to say, another numb spell came over us and our time at that house did not last long. We left as quickly as we could, and no one said a word on the way home. Adrian was mortified, hubby was sick, and I was mad as hell. Ricky’s mother later told me that after we left, and she was there with Ricky and the new girlfriend by herself, that the 8 x 10 picture of Angel that was on the end table, right beside where they were sitting, out of the blue, fell over to the ground and shattered. No knock, no nudge, no sharp gust of wind coming through the window, no sudden movement on their part. Just Angelia, falling to the floor. I believe her.
Over the summer, we began attending Compassionate Friends, which is a support group for bereaved parents. We also quickly fell into a feeling of family and familiarity with Adrian. She was a poor, lost child in a great deal of pain. We all helped each other to begin to look at life again. It was rough, but over time, life simply had to go on....we now had a teenage girl in the house, and if nothing else, the place began to become loud and lively again.
Our dreams really came back to life, however, of all times, during a hurricane. It was Labor Day weekend and Hurricane Ivan was raging through Florida. The same Labor Day weekend as our family reunion. It was the first family reunion of my mother’s side of the family in many, many years. We had family members in town that we had not seen in 30 or 40 years. And while both my house and my mother’s house were lucky enough to not sustain any real damage, both our homes were without electricity for over a week. While riding out a hurricane is a dangerous and anxious time, I will always look back fondly on those dark, stormy days, for it was then and there that my hopes of dreams of motherhood came back to life. My teenage cousin, Tabatha, from Alabama, was there with her parents for the reunion. I had not seen her in about 4 years, and she had grown and changed a lot, as do most all teenagers over the course of time. I thought she looked a lot bigger than I remembered, and hubby said she looks pregnant, but I thought to myself, “no, I would certainly have heard about it through the family grapevine if she were”. So the weekend and the hurricane party continued.
As happens during gathering and in large groups, people tend to pair off into small groups and begin chatting and talking. Tabatha went off with all the teenagers in the house, and I sat with my Aunt Chris to chat a bit. I mentioned for humor that hubby had thought Tab was pregnant and then kind of laughed it off with Aunt Chris. Then Aunt Chris floored me, with a statement that would forever change my life. She said, “Well, actually, she is. And she is thinking about asking you to adopt her baby”. The thunder and lightning outside of Hurricane Ivan could not compare with the thunder in my heart and the light in my eyes when she said that. “What”, I croaked. “She what”? Aunt Chris said she wasn’t going to say anything just yet, but since the cat was out of the bag, here it is. Tab’s pregnant, and she is not really ready or able to raise a baby on her own, and she knew of our previous plans to adopt, so she’s considering asking us to adopt her baby. Aunt Chris advised me, however, that she had strenuously advised Tab to not even consider asking us if there was even one iota of a chance that she would change her mind after the baby was born. Aunt Chris warned she would come after Tabatha herself if that happened, because that kind of pain, after the year we’d been through with losing Angelia, well, she was afraid we’d never survive. And she was right.My legs felt week. My chest felt tight. I was dizzy. I had to sit down.
Aunt Chris left me alone to catch my breath and collect my thoughts. I went after hubby. I took him outside with me. I sat him down. I shared the news. If there are two moments in my life I’ll never forget, one was the moment of looking at hubby when he learned his daughter had died. The other was the moment I told him, that we were finally, at long, long last, going to be parents to a baby of our own. The light, the LIFE, came back into his eyes. A smile returned, to his face and his heart. Life began again. It was months later when I realized the significance of all these dates.....losing Angelia, days after Easter, the Christian holiday memorializing the death and resurrection of Jesus, and 9 months later, Alex’s birth, days after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I also recalled a dream I had had, not long after Angel’s death. It was a dream about Angel and she was giving me the hand of a small child. When Adrian came to live with us, that dream seemed to make sense...that Angelia was trusting us to finish raising Adrian. And while that still may be true, it also makes a lot of sense, that somewhere, up there, she met in Heaven the little baby brother she would never get to meet on Earth....that she was handing him to us, straight from God’s hand, to hers, to Tab’s, to ours. As so it was with renewed hope and belief and happiness in the goodness of LIFE, that we began to prepare for the arrival of our son. It was time to start living again.