Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Flesh and Blood

Continued from Merciful Comforter

When I was looking for Roma's first family on the Russian equivalent of Facebook, in late December 2014, I made it clear that I was looking for family members separated through adoption. One person who had accepted my friend request sent me a private message, "Do you mind me asking why you got to be adopted? Families in that region are very close and rarely adopted."

Even though I hadn't "met" Liana yet, I couldn't help but remember Roma's stories he shared when he could speak English. Most of what he told us about his life in Russia were loving memories of his sister, Liana. I had cried privately after Roma told us how she had visited him and brought him candy. I could read between the lines of Roma's broken English, getting acquainted with his sister, a young woman of seventeen who did everything in her power to keep her collapsing family together.

But she really had no power. One day, on one of her visits, she discovered Roma had vanished.  He had left for America. For the next thirteen and a half long years, Roma was lost to her. (Read my favorite series, beginning with Hope for Restoration. Major tissue alert for this epic Russian tragedy. The photos are great and some are shockingly familiar.)

This new friend on who was perplexed by an adoption accepted my friend request because he was born with the same surname as Roma. I would abandon less then 24 hours later, miraculously, and ditch all my new "friends," as soon we located the needle-in-a-haystack Holy Grail: Liana. But his statement expressing his curiosity and surprise about the rarity of adoption in that region gave me insight into what I suspected from hearing the Liana stories. And as soon as I became acquainted with other family members, especially his father's first cousin, Lia, I understood this bond in this lost-and-found family: the intensity of that family-love. A bond that was blood. Roma belonged to them in a different way than he was ours. 

I tried as best as I could to share with them his childhood they had been deprived.  As much as Roma had been our blessing, his loss had been profound. They had never forgotten "Igor's disappeared son."
Beloved Igor, so much like his son

Now he was found. What a joy it had been in early 2015 to share Roma's photos from the past thirteen and a half years, showing them a happy, loved, and well adjusted little boy growing up be a handsome, respected and respectful young man who was a cherished part of a family and community they didn't know. Their story of loss was heartbreaking, but learning about Roma finally brought them peace. We talked often through Facebook messenger with online translation tools. We yearned for a meeting in the Republic of Georgia. The only thing holding us up was Roma, who was very emotional about the the recent discovery. He said he needed time. Time, it turned out, Roma didn't have. 

The news of Roma's fatal accident was devastating to share with Liana and Lia. Only three weeks shy of a year earlier, we were rejoicing in finding each other. Now we were mourning the loss of our common bond, the boy we both held so dear.  On Facebook Lia and Liana's responses to my posts were the sad emoticons with long tears. I felt their grief intensely, as if it were mine, because it was mine too. We were a mourning family, separated by almost 6000 miles. Our private messaging would go on for hours. They had lost him in 2002, then they had found him again in 2015. Now they had lost him again, this time permanently. Previously, they had been able to hope he would be restored to them. Now he was lost forever, this side of Heaven. I had the joy, and the challenges that grew my faith, of raising him. They had only unanswered questions for most of that time. Then they had extreme, but temporary, joy and hope of connecting with him again. 

Three weeks after the accident, right after Christmas, Lia finally asked some hard questions she had pondered for those three long weeks. On December 27 she finally approached the painful topic.  (She gave me permission to share, and these are her words, via Yandex Translator.)

"Debbie, I didn't ask you about the details. I didn't have the strength for that. But my mom is interested. Did he work construction? The roof was high? He worked without any special headgear? Was the injury spinal? Sorry for the details, but these question arise spontaneously."

Lia's questions were tentative and almost apologetic, but I wanted to tell her everything I knew. I wanted to grieve with this woman I had never met in person, but with whom I felt a strong bond because of her obvious love for her family, even her newly discovered nephew, son of her beloved cousin, Igor. I held nothing back from her. I want to hold young Liana,  the age of my own daughters, and weep for our joint loss. I answered Lia's questions with as much details as I knew, helping her understand the accident, as well as the last seven weeks of her precious nephew's life.

Then, without expecting to share my premonition of harm coming to Roma, I impulsively told her that too. 

"I had a horrible feeling about Roma lately, something bad was going to happen with him. I couldn't get him to understand. I almost think that it was God's timing for Roma, but it's still so heartbreaking." 

"It happened to us too." Her response startled me. I had a strange dream. I dreamed that the roof of my apartment was leaking and drops of water fell on my head. And it was so real that I woke up. Falling asleep again, I dreamed the same dream, only the ceiling of the apartment was already wet even more and began to fail and it really scared me. Several times I called my mom and asked about the health of my father, because he is very sick and waiting for the bad news. And my mother has often asked about Liana because it had been a long time since we had communicated with her, and we were worried if she was okay. And here a week later, we receive this terrible news." She ended with the familiar cry emoticon, which always broke my heart. 

Her words stunned me. So she had felt it too, that sense of impending doom. Then a ding announced her next message. "Probably the blood and the flesh feels in advance." 

Yes, the blood. The love. The bond. The sacredness of family. I felt an honor had been bestowed on me to be drawn into this noble family with their rich heritage. Their beloved cousin, their nephew,  brother, and son, who was also my son as a Gift from God.

I'm sure they have questions. We all have our questions. Why would God take Roma away from their family when they were trying hard to keep that family intact? Why would God call me from thousands of miles away to go get him? I don't know the answers. If I did I might understand why God, after calling us to go get Roma from an orphanage across the northern border in Russia, would then call him home to Heaven, too soon to suit me. 

The questions go into my "Too Hard" stack. They are God-size questions that I cannot comprehend with my little ant-brain. But I know this with solid confidence: God transformed me and others with the gift of Roma in our lives. And for that miracle, I am forever grateful! 

Roma's first family members have expressed their gratitude that we loved Roma so dearly and gave him a happy childhood.  Only Liana, in all of the family I've had contact, knew Roma, and she must understand that loving Roma came without effort. It came with joy, faith-building challenges, and eventual suffering. 

Perhaps Eternity in Heaven will be spent, at least in part, of having questions answered so we get a glipse of how God used these messes of our lives to redeem us. I suspect there will be some great stories on what has been going on in the Heavenly Realm on our behalf. I can already feel Roma's overflowing eagerness to show and tell. 

But first things first. I hope I can visit my new family in the Republic of Georgia and Russia before God calls me home. We may not be related by blood, but our common bond by the Spirit runs deep. 

We are blessed. 

Continue with Preparing for "Deployment" 

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