We're following the leader, the leader, the leader.
We're following the leader wherever he may go.
We won't be home 'til morning, 'til morning, 'til morning.
We won't be home 'til morning because we told him so.
Connor looked up at me and smiled as we repeated the verse again and again. I told him that his name is ancient Irish for lover of hounds or wolves. "That's because I love Bella and Beau!" he exclaimed excitedly, "I wish our dogs were wolves, though." Satisfied and emboldened by the fact that he also shares his name with numerous ancient kings, he held my hand as the wind plastered our clothes to our bodies so completely that fabric edges trailed us like superhero capes. We looked like two Han Solos cryogenically preserved in carbon. We felt like kites; pretended to be blown backwards and off balance, laughing. The bright sun bounced off the lake surface but offered no warmth. No matter, though: we were on a spy adventure and spies care not for the cold.
|Beloved Hounds. Photo: MLB|
A few weeks ago, Connor's wide, easy smile healed one hundred grieving hearts. Someone very close and precious in his birth family died. The funeral service was on the first warm day after a too-long winter. The morning air was light and bright but still smelled more like snow than spring. White arms shimmied out of black cardigans in the heated sanctuary. After the service we all stumbled out of the church as if blinded by the unfamiliar sun. Or was it by Connor's smile? He was easy to pick out in a crowd comprised almost entirely of adults. Numerous extended family members and friends introduced themselves and asked to shake his hand. He already knew his immediate birth family as part of his adoption story and was eager to see them again even as we mourned the loss of one who had been dear. Everyone at the funeral knew Connor's name and his relationship to their family, but his seven-year-old's understanding of their relationships to him had remained--until that point--more abstract. After the two-hour drive to the church and the very touching hour-long mass, Connor was in Star-Wars-Spy-Ninja-Lego withdrawal, as any self-respecting seven-year-old would be. And, yet, he was enchanted by every reconnection and new acquaintance, greeting everyone who approached him and posing for photos for over an hour without any sign of flagging.
While I would not call attending a funeral an adventure, Connor was interested to go to a new place and meet people whose import to him he is still learning to understand, to smile, shake hands, and offer hugs to so many loved ones hungry for his likeness and his congenial spirit. People often say that Connor looks like his Daddy and me, and it has been observed that families do grow to resemble each other--even non-biological ones such as ours. When we see ourselves in others, we know they belong with us. A sense of belonging brings comfort in the assurance that we have a place with others in the world. That day, outside the gleaming white chapel under still-bare branches, Connor's wide grin and fearlessness seemed to give peace and comfort to so many now bereft of another smiling, adventurous one. We all found some comfort in the belief that although bodies die, spirits remain--sometimes in the smile of a child. Throughout the service and in the churchyard afterward, no adult was ever far from tears, but an amazing transformation seemed to occur when joy entered into hearts previously full with despair. Despite the tragic circumstances that brought the congregation together that day, Bryan, Connor, Cole and I treasure those bittersweet reunions and new relationships formed.
|That Smile! Photo: MLB|
What an amazing kid I get to mother!
Connor's birth parents named him before we met and, although we could have legally changed it, we kept his name because we wanted to reflect the depth of our connection to them. When they named him after the great kings of his heritage, as one who loves all companions, how did they know?