I’ve developed a habit, like a mental tic. Every time I see a photo of Samuel, I calculate how much time he had left before he died. He was so happy in his turkey hat at the school Thanksgiving celebration, but he only had one week to live. Just 7 more mornings to wake up and get out of bed. At the beach last summer, as he dived in the water like a dolphin, he had less than 6 months. Our spring break trip to visit grandparents, 8 months. And the photos of our adoption trip are the saddest. In some of them he is happy, his round face smiling. Other pictures capture the confusion and sorrow that he was experiencing, even though he wasn’t two years old yet. He didn’t know, we didn’t know either, that we would be bringing him to the country where four short years later he would be buried in a frozen field.
Lurking behind the countdown is a horrible thought. He would have been so scared if he had known what was coming. He would have cried, his eyes frightened, fought against it, asked me to stop it somehow. And I would have been powerless to change anything, or even to comfort him on this journey he would have to take all by himself. He couldn’t even tie his own shoes, but he had to face death all by himself. And I have to push these thoughts away because if I think about them I will break.
Second-guessing the past is torture. Should we have adopted him? If we had known, would we have chosen differently? Not for ourselves, but for his sake. His adoption didn’t give him life, it lead to his death. Would he still be alive if he had stayed, if he had never met us?
I sit in the dark in the early morning and cry. I hold my coffee cup close to my cheek, getting a little comfort out of it’s warmth. But it soon chills on my face, as cold as the rest of the house. I can’t muster the energy to get off the couch and warm it up again.