Dearest Cecilia, our dear sweet daughter and dancing princess,
Ten years ago today, on Feb. 27, 2005, we “gotcha” in China. We can hardly believe how quickly the time has gone. You’re growing up so quickly, sometimes maybe too quickly. You’ll always be our “little girl”. I’m so proud of the young lady that you are becoming. After so many years, I’ve decided to write you this “love letter” to tell you how much I appreciate the miracle of adoption and the innumerable, magnificent gifts you have given to our family. You have enriched our lives more than you can imagine: your face, your charm, creativity, laughter, happiness, bubbly personality, spontaneous dancing performances, amazing artistic creations; but most importantly, your very strong love for us, your parents, and our family and for life. Life is precious and short and can disappear in an instant. So I must write this now while I can. We have only today, we may not have tomorrow. Please understand that there is no way I can fully capture my thoughts in one letter, that might fill an entire book (or more). Full of happy, joyful memories and strong emotions that flow like waterfalls but promising to keep the salty tears to a minimum, if they happen, please understand that these are tears of joy. Wiping them away now.
Once upon a time long before we met you, your mother and I desired to have children. Then God gave us the cross of infertility. We carried it and prayed and prayed for an answer or solution. Finally, we began praying for adoption. Adoption entered my heart first, and I gently persuaded your mother. Then your mother persuaded me on China. Mutual persuasion. Children come to families in different ways, sometimes in ways we do not expect from nearby or far, far away. For some families, the miracle called adoption is the way that their forever families are made. Why is adoption a miracle? Because it powerfully changes families in transcendent ways, allowing families to have children that perhaps otherwise cannot or for families to have additional children when they are able to do so. It allows a wife and husband to be parents and children to have loving, caring parents. Adoption forges a strong bond of faithful love that binds the family together by common experience and understanding. Adoptive families likewise share a special bond with each other that I cannot fully explain except by experience.
In July of 2003, our adoption dossier reached China. By Jan. 2005, we were matched by the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) with you. Then we got the China travel notice a few weeks before we were to travel.
In February 2005, we flew from Omaha to Denver to San Francisco to Taiwan on the way to China. We were stuck in Taiwan for a little while, for hours actually waiting for the fog to clear before landing in Hong Kong on Feb. 25. Yes, Hong Kong is part of China now. Earlier Hong Kong was a separate independent city. (It’s a long story but the British surrendered Hong Kong to China, changing its status.) For the first time together, your parents experienced serious jet lag but made new friends, our friends from the CCAI (Chinese Children Adoption International) travel group 726. Some already had children of their own and some, like us, were so far childless but hopeful. Anyway, it was good to have some friendly faces who could speak English with us and share in our adoption experience with a common understanding.
After one night in Hong Kong, we flew to Shenzhen, China, then to Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, China. See map.
We were amazed at the rocky, seemingly mountainous landscape, the poverty that we saw, and so many kites everywhere. We enjoyed the uniquely delicious Chinese food and the tea was fantastic, like no other tea we had ever tasted. We were clearly strangers in a foreign land, hearing a language we did not understand when we heard it or tried to read it. We looked like tourists and stuck close to our guides and group. We stayed at the Miracle Hotel in Guiyang. After only one night there, we had briefings with Daphne and Ellen (sisters) to prepare us for Gotcha Day, the day we first saw your beautiful face.
Remembering that morning of Gotcha Day. We had breakfast in the hotel with our travel group. Our kind CCAI hosts helped us prepare. Finally, we were ready and waiting. By this time, we knew that some of us were adopting children from different orphanages in China (they call them Chinese welfare institutes there or CWIs for short). Your orphanage was called the Huishui County Welfare Institute. A few of the children had been previously placed as foster children. Other than our briefings, adoption research, and study, we didn’t know what to expect. But we knew that what we would experience was to be a deeply imbedded transformational life-changing experience.
One by one, the adoption workers brought the children into a meeting room at the Miracle Hotel. It was beyond ironic to experience a powerful adoption miracle at the Miracle Hotel. Families took turns taking photographs for each other for the magical “gotcha” moment. We didn’t find out which family was next until right before or right when the workers entered the room, agency by agency.
Finally, we realized that you were there along with two other children from your Chinese orphanage. Wrapped in bright yellow clothing, with red shoes, you were holding a green frog toy that we mailed to you from the USA to you at your Chinese orphanage with our picture. Your rosy cheeks stood out, we noticed the adorable dimple on your face. When they called our names/your name, we came to the front of the room.
The orphanage director gave you to us, carefully but gently placing you in Mom’s arms.
I called you by your Chinese name, Hui Min Mei (the orphanage director corrected me: “Min Mei Hui”), forgetting that Hui was your surname, not your first name. Somehow the name Mei stuck with us. Mei means beautiful in Chinese. We had already chosen your English name to be Cecilia Mei Murphy, naming you after Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. We kept Mei to keep some of your Chinese heritage. Cecilia Mei just seemed to fit you, the names blended seamlessly.
While you were in Mom’s arms, in that room, you cried and cried. So many tears.
We tried so hard to comfort you.
You clearly were upset and did not know or understand what was happening then at the age of 14 months. You wouldn’t eat or drink much at first, partly because you were ill as we learned later. We took you to the hospital to get some medical treatment. But you were clutching Mom and you velcro-bonded with her as we describe it. The mother-daughter bonding was very easy for you.
After all the families had received their children that day, we each returned to our hotel rooms. The orphanage director met with us privately to tell us about you and answer questions. We were amazed how beautiful you were, how small you were, how carefully wrapped in so many layers of clothing. We unwrapped you and ordered your first room service lunch. And you clung to your mother, insisting on sleeping with her attached like a small but determined sea barnacle.
At first, I did not understand why you clung to Mom and not to me. But when this was explained to me by mothers and adoption workers, it made more sense. Most of the orphanage directors/workers were women so it was rare for adoptees to have a lot of contact with men. Some of the new adoptees bonded more with fathers, some with mothers. It varied among our families, and we commiserated about the difference in bonding. We shared information as to what you children would eat and drink. Congee was very popular with you, so was runny, liquid yogurt (sorry we sneaked medicine into your food but you were sick and we had to in order to get you to eat it and get well). It took a while to build your trust with me. For some reason, you thought I was scary at first. Not many men working in Chinese orphanages, that was part of your suspicion. (Finally an ice cream sandwich in Guangzhou helped a lot, as well as lots of shopping and long walks in China.) But finally, you let me hold you, read to you, sing to you, and play with you, too. You seemed to understand that Mom & I were together and that our family circle was complete. I didn’t realize the completeness part then, God told us that years later.
It was a long and winding road to get there. Lost or misplaced fingerprints. SARS interruptions in adoption process from the avian bird flu. Clearing our schedules for the trip. Wondered if the long circuitous route would ever end. It did. With God all things are possible.
We love you so very much, more than I can express in spoken, written, or musical words. We are here for you always. Our door is always open if you need to talk or just need loving parents to listen or help. We will never leave you. And thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for enriching our lives in such a powerful way. Our lives will never be the same. We thank God every day for the graced privilege of having you in our lives. We are blessed beyond measure, far beyond what I feel I or we truly deserve. Even when we are challenged in unexpected ways. We are so grateful to our family and friends for their prayers. It was a very challenging, difficult process, one of the most difficult things we have ever done. But prayer power made it happen. Not even your mother’s temporarily missing fingerprints could stop it.
Our adoption process was like mountain climbing. Sometimes we felt like we were climbing or rappelling up or down steep mountain cliffs. So much bureaucratic red tape, so many hoops to jump through but all for a good worthy cause. Sometimes it actually seemed like we were slipping down those cliffs and not moving forwards or upwards. Some of these important life skills we learned through our adoption process you must learn and use in your own life: trust, risking peril and failure, faith, perseverance, and teamwork. But if you learn these skills and combine them with love, family, and friendship, you will succeed.
I’m sorry we “tricked you” into walking for the first time in China. Not on Gotcha Day. But later at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China. But you figured out we tricked you and stopped walking for the rest of China. That’s okay. Turnabout is fair play.
Be strong and Be not afraid! God is always with you. Chase your dreams!
Defy doubt. Rise above controversy. Ignore people that hate you. Love them anyway. Pray for them.
Be bold. Be courageous!
May God richly bless you, now and always! Remember: “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:19.
I LOVE YOU! Always remember that. I don’t tell you enough. Thanks for giving us so much inspiration and hope even when it feels like we are fighting impossible battles or struggling with very steep challenges that at times seem almost insurmountable. But with God’s help, anything is possible. Your life, love, faith, and support means the world to me.
You are loved. You are special. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Be you, truly and authentically. Don’t try to ever be someone else. And the sky is the limit. Dream big and prepare your wings for flight. For God will call you to fly when you least expect it. Don’t forget to pray every day. God is always there to listen. Please pray for us, your parents and loving family.
With faithful love in Christ, your loving father, praying for you and supporting you every step of the way,