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     The worst day of my life came and went. When I woke up yesterday morning, my eyes swollen from crying and my body weary from restless sleep and nightmares, our family was informed that Isaac was going to be leaving us at 8:30am. I had an hour and a half left to hold my baby, smell his skin, and kiss his chubby lips. There is no amount of preparation that can be done to get ready for a moment like this. My parents, my in-laws, our grandmother, my husband, my kids, and myself all stared at Isaac with solemn faces as the clock ticked loudly on the wall. Baby Bear played happily, excited to have so much attention, not understanding that he was going to be leaving the only family he knows in a matter of minutes. Will he be scared? Will he think we don't love him or that we abandoned him? Will they keep him safe? Did they read the 4.5 page letter we sent with all the necessary information about our baby, or did they toss it in the trash? Will he remember me?
     My mind swam with questions as I played with the dimples on Isaac's feet for the last time. It's so hard not to worry... It's so hard to muster up the amount of trust needed to send your most precious possession into an unsafe town, with people he doesn't know, to a man that engages in illegal and unsavory activities. How do you stay strong for your family when you're already collapsing from heartache? Even still, I tried to keep my tears in for the sake of my other babies. My husband asked my father to pray over Isaac in our remaining 5 minutes. And as we held him tightly, my little girl's heart broke and she began to wail with unharnessed tears. All bets were off.... there was no more being strong in that moment. Hearing her cries and watching my other son's chin quiver while I could feel my husband's shoulders shake was more than I could handle. Our circle of 9 surrounded Isaac with freely flowing tears as the car arrived to take him from us. I tried desperately to stop choking long enough to get another smile from him, but as my husband placed him in the car, Isaac began to scream and cry. I wanted so badly to grab him from that car and just start running, as fast as I could, knowing that I wouldn't get far, but feeling like it was the only option I hadn't yet tried. I wanted to take away his tears and hold him forever. But I couldn't. I had to give up my role as Isaac's mother in that moment.
     The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster. As a family, we tried to keep the kids occupied (or maybe we did that for ourselves). Taylor learned how to ride her bike without training wheels and she regaled us with children's songs, pleased to have an audience. Cameron helped cut fire wood and showed us how he can ride his bike standing up. But every time I walked past the empty high chair or glanced at his picture on the wall, I realized that my home now felt hollow. We are missing a vital part of our family and each of us is painfully aware. Despite my desire to not move anything from it's place, or even to wash the last of his dirty clothes (for fear I'll lose the memory of his baby smell), I know that my family needs me to pack up some of his things. The constant reminder in each room is too much for any of us, and we need to get his things ready to send to his new home. And so, today, I started the process. I finished filling out his baby book and added to his life book that was made by his caseworker with the intention of him being adopted into our family. And it was then that I realized something.... Pat and I never wrote our letters to Isaac that would be displayed in his life book. But how do I write one now knowing that he is gone? How do I write him a letter when I'm hurting so badly? And will his biological father throw it out or keep it from him? So, I came to this substitute conclusion. I will write the letter to my baby here.... and maybe one day he will find it, or maybe one day I will have the chance to give it to him face to face. Or maybe I just need to write it for me.

Dear Sweet Baby Boy,
     My first glimpse of you was through a glass window. You were swaddled tightly in a blanket, sleeping soundly. Your Daddy and I were outside the hospital nursery, waiting anxiously to be let inside so that we could start a relationship with you that would forever change us. As we touched your little fingers and kissed your tiny toes, we knew that, no matter what, you had our hearts. We promised to love you unconditionally, and that promise we have kept. You found a way to make me a better Mommy before you could even speak, and you left your stamp on my life and on this family in a way that cannot be put into words.
     When I would hold you in my arms, I would pray over your life. I prayed for safety from sickness, danger, and bad decisions. I prayed for wisdom to always do what was right, no matter what the cost. I prayed for love to find you at every turn... and it's safe to say that every person that's ever met you has loved you. And I prayed for happiness and laughter to be in your heart, not because the world is always happy or funny, but because Jesus has put a joy inside of you that can never be tainted, broken, or destroyed. Baby, your name, Isaac, means "He laughs". Your birth mom didn't always do everything right, but what she did do was pick a name that fits you more perfectly than any other could. Your very name is a testimony to the effect that you have on others. The joy that pours out of you, even as a little one, has overwhelmed everyone that you meet, giving them that contagious smile that won't quit.
     We gave you the nickname "Bear" when you outgrew "Bug".... which was rather quickly! Your size and outgoing personality, along with your many grunts seemed to make the name stick. You were my Baby Bear, my cuddle bug, and my sunshine. Every smile pulled me in deeper and each laugh turned me to mush. It kills me that I won't be able to tell you these things myself, but these are some things I want you to remember:

1) You are so smart, and I hope you always know that. I won't be there to help you with your homework or to teach you to ride your bike, but you have such amazing abilities to catch on to things so quickly.... you can do whatever you put your mind to, so never give up. Try your hardest and let others help you when you need it.
2) There's an amazing spirit inside of you. From the time you could make noise, you figured out your singing voice. Each time I sat at the piano, you calmed instantly. When I sang, you sang. When there was a beat to be heard, you found a way to make your own beat to join in. And when it came time to worship, you were at full attention. Praise Baby would put you into a trance and church would get you shouting. Always worship that boldly, Isaac. Unashamed, unharnessed, unleashed. Let it out and always be passionate about who you serve.
3) There will be many things that sound like good ideas. Most of them won't be. People in your life may offer you things to "help you loosen up" or to let you "have more fun". Remember that every action has a consequence and every seed planted eventually gets sowed. You're awesome just as you are. Don't let anyone make you feel pressured to act a certain way in order to fit in. YOU be the leader of the group. YOU be the example that others want to follow and fit in with. And in moments when you feel tempted, or you slip up because you have a weak minute, don't throw in the towel. Every wrong can be righted and you'll figure it out. I have faith in you. And remember, I'm always standing next to you in prayer about any problem you have.... you're not alone, baby boy.
4) Women are tricky. So just take one, okay? No one has ever made their life better by sleeping around, having a string of loves, or a full little black book. Know what you want before you start dating and be the type of person that you want to attract. Start praying for your wife as soon as you hit puberty. Chances are she'll need someone covering her in prayer during those crazy years, as well. Respect her, love her, romance her, and put her before yourself. You'll know you chose right if she is doing those things right back at you. So never settle. A moment of fun is never worth missing out on True Love.
5) The final thing I want to teach you, baby, is that you will never go wrong if you love the things that God loves. He loves humility, so be humble. He loves a peacemaker, so make peace. He loves the brokenhearted, so help pick up someone's pieces with them. He loves forgiveness, so don't hold grudges. Be kind to everyone, especially the underdog. Always show gratitude to others, stay away from pride (but be confident, Bear, you gotta be confident!), and love endlessly. If you follow God's heart, you'll never ever lose. Love always wins.
     When I first found out that you were being taken from our family, I was devastated. Our family was never going to be the same because we were going to be missing our Laughter. When trying to make sense of the grief I was experiencing, I opened my devotional and read the Bible lesson for the day. It was about Sarah and Isaac. (It's funny how God always knows what we need to hear, when we need to hear it... don't forget to look for those moments He gives you, baby, because those moments will get you through the toughest times of life.) Most of the time when we hear the story of Isaac, it's about how God asked Isaac's father, Abraham, to sacrifice Isaac in order to show his dedication and obedience to Him. At the last second, God sent and angel to stop Abraham and to thank him for his faithfulness. I feel like I can finally relate to how Abraham must have felt when he was instructed to sacrifice his son! The helplessness, the questions, the sorrow.... But the Bible lesson I wanted to share with you was about Sarah, not Abraham.
     Sarah was very old and she was unable to have children (that's me... without the old part... yet). She prayed for decades to be able to have a child, but it never happened. Finally, when she was 100 years old, she gave birth to her only child, Isaac. She named him Isaac, because his birth brought Laughter to her soul. The lesson went on to share how Isaac's name was referred to as Isaac's laughter at times, and in other passages it referred to the laughter of his parents. The devotion then showed something interesting....in the middle of Abraham's preparation to lose his beloved son, it referred to Isaac's name as giving laughter to his parents. In the middle of the worst experience of their lives, God reminded their hearts that Laughter was already there. In the middle of utter loss, was the Ultimate Joy.
     Sweet Boy, you are my Laughter. Even in losing you, I have gained so much. I wouldn't change a second of my time with you, nor will I regret this experience ever. My secret hope is that you will one day come back to me. But I know that even if that can't ever happen, I will never ever stop loving you with my entire heart. I will continue to pray over your life, just as I did when I held you each night. And I will find a way to trust God more than I trust myself, knowing that He can keep you better than I ever could. Remember that you are special. You are chosen by God and loved by so many.... it's no wonder everyone wanted you for their own. I may have lost out on getting to watch you grow, but because of you, I have grown myself. Thank you for your amazing spirit, pure joy, and endless laughter.

Always in my heart,

Your Mama

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