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Shattered Dreams and Coffeecake Crumbs

I was baking a coffee cake when we got the call. Pillowy cake studded with tart pockets of rhubarb, showered in a gingery crumble that was warm in your mouth even if the cake was cold. I was baking it on Thursday, in preparation for Easter. We were supposed to leave the next morning to meet the birth mother who was scheduled to give birth in just a few weeks to the child we were planning to adopt.

When the phone rang, I answered it carefully, my hands sticky with rhubarb.

It was the news that every person on an adoption journey dreads. She had changed her mind. The baby that had always been hers would now forever be hers. And we were left with dreams shattered and coffee cake crumbs covering the counter.

It was over a week ago, but the memories from the days that followed are still vivid. Last night as I lay in bed, the grief softened but still very much there, I was struck by how those days have a literal taste to them.

Thursday, mere hours after the news, milkshakes showed up on our doorstep, delivered by a sweet friend. We cried and drank them, the thick, cold pushing past the hardness in our throats.

Later that evening, our church showed up, knelt in front of us and handed us bread and wine. The body and the blood. I wept and chewed — bread with an edge of bitterness from the cloves and molasses, wine sweet and biting.

Over the next few days, friends brought take out and soup and sandwiches — warm and nourishing things that we ate nestled next to each other on the couch. They also dropped off brownies and cookies and ice cream, sweet to counter the sharp.

On Sunday, we hosted Easter brunch, desperate to feel normal for a few hours. The coffee cake made its appearance. I expected to be able to taste sadness in it, but it was, in fact, delicious. The day also tasted of burnt bacon, grief clouding my mind, forgetting to set the timer. It tasted of good coffee and steak smoky from the grill. Of salty tears when I snuck off to the bedroom to cry and breathe deeply.

The following week friends continued to nourish us. Cuban black bean soup, whispered prayers, burrito bowls, long hugs, fresh bread and reminders we are not alone.

This morning I woke up thinking, we made it another week. It has been 12 days since that phone call. And the remnants of our grief and the boundless love we have received are everywhere. A full refrigerator. A closed nursery door. Flowers and phone calls and late night tears.

We are loved. We are shattered. We are.


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