“For everything you have lost, you have gained something else.”
December 8, 2012, Fulton, Kentucky: I heard my mother’s footsteps coming down the hall. “Charissa, it’s time.” I immediately got out of bed and followed her to my father’s bedside. We held his hands and tears poured down our faces.
“We love you, Daddy, ” we said.
“I love, honey, ” she said.
The words of my grandfather and grandmother rang loudest in a room filled with cries and tears: “You have been an incredible son. We love you. It’s ok. Go home.” And so my father passed away, peacefully, surrounded by love.
December 23, 2017, Henderson, Kentucky: William Finley “Finn” sat in my lap as we watched his favorite show on the TV monitor in his grandparents’ kitchen. Piper Rose was playing nearby. The last few weeks had been filled by a bit of turmoil: during the day, her father and I had pushed her to achieve her reading goal for the quarter whilst wrangling our individual careers. She hated it. By night, I had stressed and toiled over Christmas gifts for each of the children and sewed a Christmas program costume by hand. But more than that, there was the “turmoil” of a young and budding family. The ebb and flow and four people learning to live in harmony and peace with one another.
When Finn was born, Piper wanted nothing to do with him. I understood her sentiment, even though it hurt me to the core. I had disrupted her world: turned it upside down, really. The bump that had grown and grown on my belly had morphed into a real-life, tiny human that would require constant attention for countless months ahead. He had the same nose and cheeks she did, but he was wrinkly and whiny and small. She refused to hold him for the first three months of his life. And the first 48 hours? Their father pushed that little baby around and around the nurses’ station in a plastic crib while that little girl and I curled up in a hospital bed — me in physical pain, she in a pain she couldn’t explain — and watched cat videos for hours every night until they sent us home.
I remember the day that KO and I met so vividly. It was a sunny, Sunday afternoon. He convinced me to meet him for brunch, despite my “busy” schedule of self-made commitments to the gym and to work in the afternoon. After we ate brunch at Ramsey’s Cafe on the World, we walked around the corner to Heine Brothers, where he bought my favorite caffeinated beverage based on his memory of our conversations. Then we perused Carmichael’s Bookstore and talked about current events before we finally settled on the patio furniture outside.
“I’m divorced. And I have a daughter,” he shared. ” If that is a deal-breaker, I understand.”
But it certainly was not a deal-breaker for me. Little did he know that the past four months had been spent scouring every corner of my soul to surface and face every demon I could find. After Dad passed away, I was very much haunted. Not by my father himself (though he did visit my mother from time to time) but by the shadow of the life that he lived. I was also haunted the could-haves, should-haves, would-haves of my short life. I had broken hearts, and my own had been broken more times than I could count. In light of this inner turmoil, I found myself retreating to a beach in Northern Florida alone in September 2015 to cry and pray and reconcile myself to what could have been and what might still be. I admitted my heart’s desire: a partner and a family. I committed my heart to forget all that had been and embrace the potential of the future.
Two months later, I sat across from a man on Sunday afternoon who offered me everything I wanted. But not in the form I originally dreamed. It was certainly, perhaps, in the very form that I needed.
For anyone familiar with our story, our love and and our journey took the fast track. In just four short months, I learned that I was pregnant. I prayed for a partner and a family, and I received both in one fell swoop. “Here is the love of your life – your person,” the Universe said. “And here is your step-daughter. Oh, and also, your son is on the way.”
If you’ve seen the Broadway’s Wicked, you might be familiar with these verses:
“But getting your dreams is strange but it seems, a little bit, complicated. There’s a kind of a sort of cost. There’s a couple of things get lost. There are bridges you cross you didn’t know you crosses them ’til you’ve crossed.”
And so, I crossed my bridge that brilliant Sunday afternoon. Oh, and how hard the other side was. To love a little girl who would sometimes say, “You know I don’t like you, right?” To love and to care for not one, but TWO, very different children with very different needs as the same time. Oh, it was so easy to get lost in that time.
One night, when Finn was maybe four or five months old, I was laying in bed with Piper Rose. I’d held her brother in my arms many a night prior before placing him in his crib. This night, I looked over at her and everything clicked in a new way. That button nose. I certainly hadn’t delivered it from my body, but I knew it. It was precious and familiar to me, because it belonged to her brother too: and that was the night I gathered her up in my arms and held her — not because it felt like a nice thing to do — but because it was the kind of thing a mother does for the child she loves. And I loved her.
In high school, someone gave me a bookmark that said, “For everything you have lost, you have gained something else.” I held onto it for years and years, especially after my father’s passing, because it seemed to me a promise of something that was yet to be.
And then on a seemingly regular Saturday afternoon, so many year’s later, a big sister admitted: “I love having a little brother.” And that same day, the man I love looked me in the eyes and said: “You are it for me. You are my person. I love you.”
And so as 2017 draws to a close, this is my earnest prayer for anyone who may read these words and find some unanswered prayer or hope or desire in your heart. For anyone who has experienced the pain of loss — may you also experience the joy of gain.
“For everything you have lost, you have gained something else. If it were not for the darkness, you could not see the stars.” – Author Unknown(?)