Monday, December 1, 2014

Chenell Family Story

I remember it clearly.  My husband and I had just pulled up into the driveway when my phone rang; it was my stepmother.  Not expecting what I was about to hear, it was as if the world had gone into slow motion.  My father had only days to live.

How could this be?  I had just seen him days prior and even though he was battling cancer, he was on the list for experimental drugs and we all still had hope. 

And, we were just a few months shy of bringing home his first grandson.  I simply couldn’t believe it.


For years leading up to my dad’s death, my husband and I tried conceiving.  We went through testing, tried acupuncture, and I even had surgery.  Alas, we were told that the only way we could conceive a child would be through invitro fertilization.  Knowing that this was not an option that interested us, we chose to take the journey of adoption.  Selecting the country of South Korea was a fairly easy decision for us with our interest in Asian culture, our religious beliefs, their overall adoption process, and the welcoming and compassionate adoption agency that we found (AAC). 

After our paperwork was turned in, our wait started.  We were number 24 on “the list” to receive a “referral” – meaning we were to be matched with a child.  We were told this could take quite a while.  Then, once receiving our “referral”, we would need to wait for approval from the South Korean Ministry to bring our child home.  Again, this could take a good amount of time in which we were looking at possibly 2 years or more for the entire process. 

From that point on, I started praying our Buddhist chant, “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” insistently for our child to come home soon.  Within days, our number on “the list” started moving down dramatically.  All of a sudden, our agency said they had an influx of little boys needing forever families!  Within four months, we received our referral.  A beautiful baby boy! We were over the moon!  Instead of waiting years for a referral it had only taken 4 months!  But now, we were on to the wait to bring him home.

During that time, my dad was becoming quite ill.  The cancer had spread to a variety of places in his body and we were all waiting patiently for him to be accepted into a drug trial.  This prompted me to chant even harder.

That is why when I received the call on that January evening in 2012 that my dad only had days left, my world seemed to fall apart.  We were just a few short months from bringing home our son and my dad would not make it to meet him.    

At first, I felt as though my prayers and chanting had failed me.  All of that prayer and they wouldn’t meet each other!  There would be no sitting on grandpa’s lap, no fishing in the lake together, no good night kisses for each other.  It was devastating.   I went through the next few months in a state of disbelief.  How could this happen?  I struggled with this fiercely at times.

Until, we got the call.

“You can bring home your son now.” our coordinator, Regina, said as soon as I answered the phone.  I couldn’t believe it.  Only a few months earlier a phone call had brought endless tears to my eyes, and here was another one of those calls, but for a very different reason. 

Within 24 hours we were on a plane headed to Seoul.  We were about to meet and bring home our son, River.  And even though my dad wasn’t here to meet him, we were bestowed a very special gift while we were there. 

Our trip only lasted 5 days in Korea and out of the entire year of all the days we could have been told to travel, we were fortunate enough to be there the one weekend a year that Korea celebrates their Lotus Lantern Festival, the birth of Siddhartha Buddha.  It was a beautiful, joyous time that helped us grow even further in our Buddhist practice.  We witnessed thousands of lanterns light the city in his honor, a stunning parade telling the story of Siddhartha, and a festival of Buddhist mountain food, lantern festival wishes, and conversing with fellow Buddhists of different sects.  It was absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience…or was it?

I could end the experience there and tell you how grateful we are for our son, River, which we are, or, I could go on to tell that when we adopted our second son this past year, we brought him home during the exact same festival time.  We received custody of each of our sons the Monday after this celebration in both 2012 and 2014. 

Without a doubt, I see the power of our chanting prayer in creating our family.  Although we experienced profound loss (we lost my mother 3 months before bringing our second son home as well), we have been fortunate enough to be blessed with two beautiful children that light up our lives.  They may not fill the void left from my parents’ passing, but they bring a new form of love to our hearts that we didn’t know possible. 

In honor of the love and appreciation we share for our family, we celebrate our own Lotus Lantern Festival each year at our home with friends and family in honor of Siddhartha Buddha, our practice, and our sons’ culture.  We are forever grateful and do our best for my parents’ legacies to live on through the love and experiences we provide our two sons. 

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