I will never forget the moment I first saw your face, only a few weeks before your tenth birthday. So big to be my baby. So perfect in your anger, your loss and your hope. The picture was outdated, grainy, and tiny on my iphone screen but my heart skipped a beat at even the possibility of you.
A simple note from this social worker accompanied your picture in my inbox – “We noticed he is from Nanning like Ava, does she happen to know him?” ( Our social worker later told me how she had gotten goose bumps when she saw your picture and how she knew immediately that she should share your file with us.) I remember how I stood in our kitchen and how I tilted the phone screen to Ava’s eager face and asked her if she knew you. I remember the frustrated way she responded ” I can’t see ANYTHING, the picture is so hard to see!”
It was then that I asked for your Chinese names by email and as the pinyin version of your names opened up in my inbox just a few minutes later I read them out loud to your little peanut of a big sister – “X– J— Yun”. And I watched her eyes widen and her mouth fall open and I heard her gasp of surprise.
I heard her voice, high and hoarse ” That. Is. My. Best. Friend. From. China.” And then all I saw was her tearing down the hall to her photo album of pictures from the group home in China. And when she opened it and leafed through, pointing to each of your pictures I saw how you were the boy next to her in so many photos. The one we had immediately noticed one year ago when we first got her China pictures, when we first tried to understand this life she had lived.
Yes, you are one of her best friends from China. Of course you are! Why wouldn’t God answer the desires of your heart and hers, to carry a piece of your old lives into this wonderful and frightening new one? In a country of 1.3 billion people, where over 150,000 children wait in orphanages, somehow you had found us, we had found you, you and Ava had found each other. This is a staggering miracle that we still don’t understand.
Of course your sister wanted to know why we were looking at your photo. And of course I couldn’t tell her. Your dad and I had a lot of thinking, a lot of talking, a lot of praying to do. It was a wild ride those next few days and weeks. But what I remember most was that first day. Thinking that if you and Ava are friends, then of course you are my child. Wondering at our sheer luck to be able to be matched with you, to be able to bring you home. Feeling afraid of all the details that I didn’t expect. I remember how angry you looked in your profile picture, how you called yourself “the little tiger”, how I worried you would be too old, too manly and too brave, to let me cuddle you.
I remember how I went for a long walk that first day as the sun shone and the wind blew, and I remember how I talked to God and told him my hopes, my fears, all my heart. I remember the peace I felt, the way I felt anchored down deep at the very thought of you. I remember how it felt to know without a doubt that I could love you through ANYTHING, no matter what. I remember how choosing you felt. It felt like fragile-beautiful, like a gossamer web, like life itself, a beautiful adventure, fraught with peril and filled with love.
And that very first evening, on that long walk, He gave me your new English name. And I said it softly, then louder, letting your name touch my lips for the first time, like a prayer. It was not a name I had ever thought of. And it was a name better than I could imagine.
It fit you perfectly. A name for kings and priests. A noble name. A strong name. A name that carries power and authority and majesty, just like you do. You are fierce and free, kind and loyal, smart and good. You are the perfect son, the one we have always dreamed of. The perfect little brother. The best child in the world.
Of course right now we call you Yun. That is who you are and who you will be. Your English name will follow and add on, if and when you’re ready and you choose it. For now you are just Yun ( pronounced Yu-en), as you become ours and we become yours.
So we said yes. We said it slowly and then all at once. That is how you pulled us in. Quickly and excruciatingly. Inexorably. For you are impossible not to love, my son. Oh and there is so much more to your story, to our story. So much to be told over the next days and months and years. Because you changed everything. Ten years old. Only five months younger than your sister. Already flipping our lives upside down in the best way. The perfect fourth to our little troop. The perfect sixth to our family.
Our little Lion Man.
X– J— Yun.