From Christy: For the last three years, my family has been caring for a little Ugandan girl named Gracious. We have been pursuing her adoption for the last eighteen months. Recently, we received the news that she had passed away from complications due to pneumonia. She was seven years old. Our local church, Imago Dei, in Raleigh, North Carolina, held a memorial service for our daughter where I read this letter. I’d like to share my words to Gracious with you now.
My precious Gracious,
I miss you so much. It seems like the entire three years I’ve known you have been spent missing you. Never enough time with you. I thought we were about to have all the time in the world together. I was wrong.
I love you so much. That first day we met, I loved you. I didn’t understand it, but I couldn’t deny it. How could I love someone I just met? But nothing about our relationship has been conventional. Conventionally, we never would have met. Supernaturally, the Lord brought us together, put me on that plane, placed me in your village, and opened my eyes to see you.
There were so many kids vying for my attention that day. But I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You stood alone, distancing yourself from us and the other children. They were excited and interacted with us. You were shy and sad and curious. I was captivated. I carefully walked over to you, knelt down, and we locked eyes. We didn’t speak the same language. So I offered my hand, you took it, and followed me back to sit with our group.
Our visit was over too soon. Leaving you that day was painful. I felt like I was leaving a piece of myself behind. That’s exactly what happened. You took a piece of me with you that I was happy to give. I became yours that day, and you became mine.
I never thought I wanted a daughter. But meeting you was like meeting someone I never knew I wanted. I wanted to love you, to hold you, to hear you call me “momma.” I wanted you to be healthy, to feel loved, to know your brothers. I wanted to tell you about Jesus. I wanted to watch you grow up. I wanted you to know that you mattered.
You’ll always be my daughter. I never needed a piece of paper to call you mine. You were mine in my heart from that first day. At the time, I didn’t know what that would look like for us, but I knew it was true. You were a part of me of then, you’re a part of me now, and you always will be.
I wish I could tell you how much you changed me. I regret that you never knew this. My life was never the same after I saw you. I began wanting different things and working for better things. I wanted the fatherless to know the Father’s love. I became an advocate for you and many others like you.
I wish I could tell you how I cried for a while after our team left your village that day. I wish I could tell you how I told your dad about you, and he immediately wanted to take care of you, too. I wish you knew how much your daddy loved you before he ever met you just because he knew how much I loved you.
I wish you knew how much we talked about you, prayed for you, worried over you, and dreamed of welcoming you into our family. I wish you could have met your brothers. I wish you had been able to teach them things and that you were able to learn from them, too. I wish you could have known how excited they were to meet you.
I wish you knew the impact you had on so many people connected to us. I wish I could have told you how people from several states gave and prayed so we could make you a Britton. I wish you knew how curious people were about you and our love for you. I wish I could tell you how many times I got to tell your story.
I wish that I could still spend my time and energy fighting for you. I wish you didn’t have to suffer for seven years. I wish I could hold you again and tell you all these things and much more. I wish you could have met so many people who felt like they knew you because we talked about you so much.
I wish I knew how to be this new woman. I don’t really know her. I don’t want to be her. Her love includes loss. Her fight involves defeat. Her joy mixes with grief. Before you, I didn’t know much of loss, defeat, or grief.
I wish I could make sense of this. I wish I didn’t have to fight each day to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I wish I could go back to that first day when we met. I wasn’t in Uganda looking for you. I didn’t choose you. I always felt like you just happened to me. I saw you and something changed inside of me. You broke my heart that day, and you’re still breaking it today. But if I could go back to that moment when I first saw you, I wouldn’t just let you happen to me. I’d run out of the van to meet you. I’d choose you. I’d offer you my heart, my all, even knowing I’d still end up right here today, reading a letter I never imagined writing and words you will never hear.
I would give my everything for you again. I wouldn’t hold back to protect myself from this pain. I would never trade my pain for the privilege of loving you. I’d love you bigger, bolder, better. I’d give more. I’d take more pain. You are worth it.
Your daddy told me he couldn’t wait to answer the judge’s question of why we wanted to adopt you. He said he planned to tell the judge that God’s eye is on the sparrow. And you are our sparrow. Our eye was on you. God made you our sparrow.
I’m so thankful that God purposed for us to see you. I’m thankful for every visit we had, for every hug, for every update, and every picture we received. I’m grateful for every person who walked alongside of us in this adoption process. I’m grateful that God displayed and continues to display His power in our weakness. I’m thankful that God made you our sparrow.
As we try to figure out who we are without you here with us, we will remember that you represent millions of little sparrows. We will open our eyes to see them, too. We will show them our Father. We will love them bigger and bolder and better. We will not hold back so that we can live easier and less painfully. We will run to them. We will fight for them. We will give them our hearts just like we did with you.
My precious Gracious. I wouldn’t trade anything for knowing and loving you. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.