I woke up a little before 6:00 this morning. Life has been busy and crazy lately, because we are moving next week, and it has kept me blessedly distracted. But my first thought this morning was of you, and of that day so many years ago when I first held you in my arms. I’ve told the story so many times. I have relived it in my mind so often, when after five years of waiting, after the assistance of fertility pills, after a complicated pregnancy, an induced birth, all my fear melted into the sweetest joy I had ever experienced, when I held you in my arms.
Most births bring joy. Most babies are loved deeply from that first breath. Other babies have been loved as much as you were loved. I know that because I had four of them myself. But Michaela, there was never, ever a baby born in the history of the world who was loved more than you were.
And you still are, wherever you are.
There are many times I wish I could rest into the knowledge that you have spent the last 31 years in a better place than this. My experience of the world after all these many years is that it has held the greatest of joys, but to be honest, it has not been an easy road. Life is not for the faint of heart. I heard a song awhile ago, 21 years by TobyMac, which he wrote about the death of his son, and his vision of God wrapping his son up in his arms and letting him know he is home. It was heart wrenching to listen to this song, the loss, the brokenness, and yet the hope that his son was in a beautiful place, loved. Not in a terrible place, held captive, abused, grieving and afraid.
“Have hope,” people tell me all the time. “I hope Michaela comes home soon,” they say. And I am so grateful for their hearts, but at the same time, these words sometimes make me crawl inside myself and cringe, because that hope contains within it a hope that your life has been defined by 31 years of suffering.
Oh, Lord, that any of this should have happened to you, that you should have been singled out to endure the fate we know, and whatever fate beyond. Well, my heart cannot contain it. But for you, it tries.
Michaela, if you are still alive, and if you are out there somewhere but afraid to come home, well I hope you know that you are loved, that nothing that has happened to you, that nothing you may have experienced or done, could possibly ever make me love you less. And as I mentioned, we are moving next week. We are leaving California, and moving to a very small town in Iowa. This is a place you could come home to, Michaela, without having the world beating a path to your door. I know people who live out that way who love it. It is so much more peaceful than the San Francisco Bay Area. A teacher I used to work with contacted me to tell me that she grew up near there, and the way she described it was a “sweet, sweet, kind place.” You would be safe there. You would be loved. Robbie and his little family are coming with us, and your youngest sister, who you have never met. We are here. We have arms to hold you, hearts to love you. We want you. We welcome you. And guess what? We have dogs. I know you always had to make do with guinea pigs, but now we have real dogs.
You know, there have been so many people, even more in recent years, who have claimed to be you. Maybe they even really believed it, although I never have. We have your fingerprints on file, so it is very easy to have them submit their fingerprints to the Hayward Police Department for comparison. If you are out there, if your memory is dimmed and you aren’t certain who you are, you can contact the Hayward Police Department. The detective currently working on your case is Robert Purnell, and you can reach him at 1-800-222-3999, or email Robert.Purnell@hayward-ca.gov. Or you can leave a comment on this blog. They all come to me for approval before being posted, so you can do this privately, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today will be a busy, busy day for me. I have not had a cake for your birthday for many years, not since I stood in the bakery department of a grocery store years ago and felt the absurdity of enjoying a sweet cake when you yourself could not. But through all the hours, all the minutes, in everything I do, you will be uppermost in my heart. You will be the sweetest of memories, but will be felt as I feel you right at this moment, an ache sitting in the middle of my chest, tears filling my eyes until they gently overflow them. You will be felt in a disbelief that this could . ever . have . happened. to. my. child. You will be felt as one of the most powerful forms love takes, and that is the grief of not being able to express it, of not being able to help you.
I hope you don’t actually need my help at this point. If so, maybe you can help me. Let me know where you are, whether on this earth or beyond. You are beyond my help, except for these words to let you know how much you are loved, but I am not beyond yours.
Happy birthday, Michaela, my sweet child. It is as true today as it was the day we first heard the words in this book read to us by the author at a La Leche League convention:
I love you forever. I like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.