Love Starts With Us
Just as mine is, Kelly’s social media feed is filled with images of orphans waiting in China. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes those little faces get lost. But in February of 2013, my friend didn’t scroll past LWB’s blog post, “Jenny, Jenny”. She read it and took a moment to share it, urging, “Jenny needs a family.”
And our love story started there. With a keystroke, a friend introduced us to our daughter, and love came fiercely.
Her face appeared on the screen and our journey began. “Oh, we’d love her,” I responded in the comments. It was a casual response, but my heart was gripped. I smile now, unsurprised that first words spoken of her included love.
A long list of potential families had already responded on the LWB blog and Facebook page. Hands trembling, I emailed our agency, and they responded, “We will inquire, but prepare yourself, because it is a long shot.” We understood, but this little soul had seized our hearts.
As turns it out, love is a potent force. More compelling than agencies, countries and a long line of families in line for, or reviewing, a file. Miracles manifested, and remarkably, her file landed in our hands, requiring only a “yes”.
Before we could board a Beijing-bound plane though, we had to push and pray through a wall of doubt and fear over what “complex medical needs” might mean. Also in our way was an ocean of logistics, eight months of paperwork, fingerprint rejections, an extended LOA wait, and two countries’ worth of red tape.
As we awaited travel approval, our “Jenny” was hospitalized again and again for infections. We studied images of her in the care of “ayis” in hospital rooms from Beijing to Shanghai, and it was evident that she knew love. Finally, we fully felt and understood the mission of Love Without Boundaries. Love. The true, breathing, active kind.
Despite the costs, our daughter received ongoing treatment and specialized attention at the Heartbridge Healing Home. She was listed as “urgent” on the list of children needing surgery sponsors, and people gave and sponsored, prayed and gave some more. Though she had no parents by her side, she had an army of individuals who’d said, “Love starts here.” And in the truest way, they made all the difference.
The day finally came when her new, terrified parents felt the weight of her in their arms, knowing her needs were urgent, but unaware of the severity. Cycles of surgeries, infections, and hospital stays in three cities had left her organs beginning to shut down, and we had no idea.
All we knew is that our beloved Han Huizhen was a feisty little one with a high fever, who either slept or watched us from a distance with traumatized eyes. She’d only known the care of nannies and nurses and they’d been taken from her. Her experience with love started with them. It was the best and most gut-wrenching scenario we could have asked for.
Then “Jenny” became Evelyn Han Huizhen Radicchi, a daughter and sister, and love started all over again. She now has a booster seat at our table and a hook with her very own owl backpack. She’s mourned and fought, but she’s attached and blossomed. It’s been heavy, but the fierce love that began with a blog post has carried us through four surgeries in two states, weeks of medical evaluations, five kidney infections, a hundred specialist appointments, nursing care, antibiotics and medications. But it has also been light and joy-filled, with kitchen dance parties, hundreds of Elmo viewings, sister slumber parties, fat crayons, campfires, and pink, plastic princess heels.
Her heart beats and fights and plays because of the many who intervened on her behalf.
Jenny did need a family, and we needed her. We’ve felt weary and weak, but love is funny. It bears much and still spills beauty. The gift of Evelyn has deconstructed our family, rebuilding us with hearts better focused and eyes more prone to searching out blessings.
We’ve fallen hard for the feisty and mighty three-dimensional her. The little soul who covers her mouth when she giggles, could do her own vitals checks, clings hard to her momma’s side, and would prefer that all meals include Lay’s original potato chips.
For Evelyn, love started with the founders, caregivers, volunteers, nurses, surgeons, prayer warriors, and donors of the Love Without Boundaries community. They counted her life as valuable, offered her life-giving care, and gave us a daughter. We are overfilled with gratitude and merely hope that we, in return, can stand up for other tiny, fatherless souls.
Love asks both simple and hard yeses of us. Yeses that require us to reach beyond ourselves.
As for me and you, we who follow LWB’s social media feed, let’s weave our lives into the stories of the waiting little ones in their care. Let’s scroll through the children needing surgery sponsors and the healing home babies needing monthly sponsors, or consider helping rewrite the story of a family in need through the Unity Fund. Then let’s advocate, pray, give, volunteer and adopt.
Let love start with us.
*Special thanks to our friend, Kelly Wilson, LWB volunteer and advocate.