24: I Named Her Lily

24: I Named Her Lily

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

I Named Her Lily

Every child begins the world again.

~Henry David Thoreau

“You will never, ever be able to adopt this child.” I read the words again. “Don’t even think about it.” The e-mail went on to explain all the reasons why it would be impossible for me to adopt the girl I had left behind in China.

I thought back to that day. She was on the other side of a room filled with kids, mostly girls, at the orphanage in Nanjing. She was already grown, a teenager, not a child. She glanced at me and smiled. I fell in love. “Don’t be crazy,” I told myself. “You have four kids already. You do not need another child.” But I made sure to get her photo and her name before she walked out of the room. Just as she disappeared from view, she looked back at me and smiled shyly. It was all I could do not to run after her. I didn’t know if I would ever see her again.

Once I was back home, I found a way to sponsor her in school and correspond with her. Her delicate Chinese characters were a magical secret code. Whenever I got a card or letter from her, I would race to one of my friends who spoke and read Chinese to translate. I scribbled down every word so I could read them again later.

Meanwhile, I started making inquiries about adopting her. I sought advice from adoption agencies, from friends at the State Department, from former law students of mine now practicing in China. Surely someone could give me some encouragement.

But no one did. No matter where I turned, the answer was the same. She was not on the list of children available to adopt, and there was no way to get her on the list. She would soon be over the age limit. The Chinese government frowned on people selecting their own child, especially before being approved. And no, there were no exceptions. Not ever.

Why, then, was I so sure that she was meant to be my child?

I didn’t give up. I kept asking. And then, in the midst of all the discouraging responses, I got an e-mail. “I have spoken with someone who thinks that she can help you.” The first glimmer of hope. Oh, but so many things had to fall in place in my country and hers, through the bureaucratic red tape of two governments. I didn’t hesitate. “Let’s get started.”

It was only then, when I thought that it was possible, that I sent a letter to the person who mattered most. I wrote to this girl I had only seen for twenty minutes and asked her if she would like to be part of my family. I described our life and sent pictures. I tried to be as honest as I could. I told her I couldn’t make any guarantees, but if she wanted me to be her mother, I would do everything in my power to make that a reality. She was about to make the most important decision of her young life.

The days stretched into weeks as I waited for her response. When it came, I stared at the one English word in the midst of all the indecipherable characters — mother. My ever-patient friend soon translated the rest. Yes, she would like to be my daughter.

Now we were in a race against the clock. Everything had to be completed before her next birthday. Like Cinderella when the clock struck midnight, she would then be over the age limit. There was no room for errors or delays.

If I wrote about all the people who made heroic efforts on both sides of the ocean to make miracles happen, it would take up this entire volume. Many of them I never knew and couldn’t even thank. But step by step we got closer to the time when I would get on the plane and go to China to bring her home.

With the adoption plans moving forward, I wrote to ask her if she wanted an English name, and if so, what name appealed to her. She replied that in China, parents give their child a name that represents a wish or hope for the child. She wanted me to choose her name, to state my wish for her.

I thought about all that had transpired since I met her. I thought about her courage to leave behind everything that was familiar to her. It was like being born again.

So I named her Lily, the flower of Easter, the flower of life resurrected, with the hope that her new life would bring her joy and fulfillment.

A year and a half after that fateful day when I watched her walk out of that room, I sat in another room in Nanjing, waiting for her to arrive. When she walked through the door, I saw that same shy smile. I said hello to her in Chinese and held out my hand. With the pure trust of a child, she put her soft hand in mine, and we began our new life together.

I recently ran across that e-mail from the expert telling me that I would never, ever be able to adopt that girl. I just smiled. Never, ever underestimate the power of a mother’s love.

~Galen Pearl

More stories from our partners