Leaving Ethiopia

Believe in fate. But lean forward, so fate can see you. ~ Quentin Crisp  We left Ethiopia looking somewhat like these people, but we actually took this shot when we first arrived there. It was a sloppy, fun marker of just how excited we felt to be leaving customs as we headed straight to see our little boy again. Ethiopia, airport, Tamara and Steve Lackey We didn’t take a photo when we were leaving Ethiopia because we were far too emotional, exhausted and bedraggled to even think of it. We left Africa feeling deeply grateful for how much Beautiful Together work we got done in such a short amount of time, with so much love and tangible support from many of you. Truly grateful. But we also left after having just said another goodbye – for a third, brutal time – to our now six year-old son, who is still living at an orphanage in Addis Ababa. Who is not yet able to come home with us, as we continue to wait. (And wait.) Our son, who is growing up on the other side of the world from us. Before we go, before we have to let him go, I hold his face and look into his eyes and tell him just how much we love him and how we will come back for him. Again. As often as it takes. And I remind him to please brush his teeth and to please keep washing his hands and to please try to stay as safe as possible and to please try to stay in his seat more now that he’s in kindergarten. I try to squeeze all my mothering of him into these last few moments as much as I possibly can. I try to keep the panic I feel rising up in me out of my voice. My husband takes my hand. All three of us are in tears. We hug tightly one last time. And then (this part always feels beyond unnatural), we leave him there.   While in Ethiopia, we spent most of our time working on our Build an Orphan Feeding Kitchen project in Korah and checking in on our projects at the orphanage in Addis. It was a very full and rather sleepless trip – but our son was with us for all of it. Every morning, we would drive across town, wash him up, buy him new clothes, and hold him close. I say I love you to him all the time when we’re together, but when I say ‘ewodihalehuI’d’, Amharic (the language of Ethiopia) for I love you, his smile is bigger. He whispers it back to us. I’d hold him on my hip or we’d walk hand in hand, or he’d go up on dad’s shoulders. We stepped through a large list of to-do’s for our Beautiful Together work, which took us to a whole lot of places, and he very naturally went to all of it with us. Because he just fits with us. It was like that the last couple of visits, too, when our whole family was there. He just fits with all of us.  

Beautiful Together, Ethiopia, Orphan Kitchen Build, Tamara Lackey, adoption

Buying appliances for our Build an Orphan Feeding Kitchen project in Korah, Ethiopia for Beautiful Together.

We said goodbye to him right before we packed up for our 25-hour flight back, leaving him with a bunch of little gifts, a photo album of the last year and a half of visits (which he looks through at least fifty times while we’re there, so carefully placing it back in the box every time), a ridiculous amount of hugs and kisses, and the complicated hope that he understands all of this, even as we don’t really understand all of this.
Ethiopia, adoption, Beautiful Together

My daughter took this photograph on our last visit to Ethiopia. I didn’t know she took this photo until she showed it to me later. It exactly, perfectly shows how I feel about him.

And we return to our three children at home, who we are ecstatic to see and who we hold close. Because it’s been too long without them now, too. We show them each and every photo of him and his friends, all of whom they know so well, while we tearfully, laughingly watch all their sweet and goofy video-taped messages to them. We hug my parents and effusively thank them for taking such good care of our little ones while we were gone taking care of our other little one. And then they all ask the same thing he asks. The same question we have been asking for so long: But, when? When do we stop saying goodbye and finally get to bring him home, for good? The truth is that none of us know for sure. Not one person involved in this whole adoption process can tell us that right now, and we know this for sure because we never stop asking. But we keep leaning forward, anyway. So that fate can see us.

10 responses to “Leaving Ethiopia”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Wow! I pray you get to bring him home soon. He belongs in your loving arms. ????

  2. kerry McCArthy says:

    There are no words I can offer to comfort you…No explanation that can justify the utter madness of your situation. How any person, agency or government can allow this to happen at the expense of the well-being and happiness of your sweet little boy is totally beyond comprehension. I can only say thank you for your goodness and strength and let you know my thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  3. Kate-E says:

    That is just so beautiful, you and your family do amazing things. Your little boy with be with you soon, keep leaning forward while you wait.

  4. Melissa says:

    This is so sweet, heartbreaking and beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your hurting. You are changing lives and I hope that brings you some comfort. Your attitude and perserverence have always inspired and amazed me. Love you friend…

  5. Paula says:

    My heart breaks for you and him! I’ll keep you guys in my prayers so that he can soon be home with his parents, brother and sisters.
    You have a golden heart, Tamara. I’m sure you’ll be repayed with this miracle sooner rather than later, because good things always come to good people.
    Much love to all of you ♥


  6. April Nicole says:

    What is going on? I have never heard of someone not being able to bring their child home for that long? Is it the Embassy?

  7. Steve says:

    You so beautifully showcase what it’s like to be so far from one we love. Sooner please is what I imagine saying to whomever is listening. And I couldn’t be more grateful than to lean in with you.

  8. Jenn says:

    Our prayers are with you and your family. We have walked thru the adoption trials with loved ones and know how hard those questions can feel. Praying for a swift and joyous homecoming for your son.

  9. Erica Erck says:

    In tears reading your words – so beautifully written. I feel a huge lump in my throat for you as you talk of leaving him again and how crazy frustrating that must be for all of you. I know your determination and spirit though and I know you will bring him home some day. Keep the faith. Love to you all and all the work you do to spread love and kindness around the world. It really is inspiring and amazing.

  10. Dawn Culen says:

    I’m in mixed emotions for you and your family. I am tearful and heart broken as I read your story of the need to have your boy home with you, how you must feel as you are driving away from him, how he must feel when his mom and dad have to leave and how your house must feel as if it is always missing someone. I also feel happy for all of you that your family shares so much love. Of course I am encouraged that there are people like you and Steve that are so generous with not only money, but time and emotions. Beautiful Together.

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