if we could have another coffee date

Last time we sat down for coffee, it was the day before I boarded a plane bound for China.

Today, I am headed out of town again.

Let’s imagine we got to meet in the studio really early this morning, before I had to leave.

There are chairs inside now so it is more comfortable.

My $5.00 estate sale yellow floral chair is my favorite, you can sit there if you’d like.

If we could sit down and have a cup of coffee this morning, friend to friend, I’d probably tell you something like this:

I knew this time would come, but I never imagined it would be so hard. I didn’t know that immense gratitude and overwhelming grief could be felt in the same breath. While the world around me is asking if I am excited and am ready for my daughter’s surgery, I feel an ache and a wish I could have more time, more smiles, more clefty kisses. I’ve been through surgeries with kids before – surgeries and kids should never have to go together. Excitement is the last word I would use to describe how I feel. We live in a world that rushes to fix and change things and often overlooks beauty in our quest for a facade of perfection. My children have taught me beauty. My youngest daughter has forever changed the way my eyes see the world around me and its people. Though I would never want her to go through life with an unrepaired cleft, I can’t help but ache for the loss I feel. Surgery will change her life and her future. It is medically necessary for her to be able to do so many things she cannot do now…it is essential for her speech, hearing, etc. It is so very important and crucial. And yet, I am simply a mom in love with her daughter. When I close my eyes and picture my kids….that picture includes a dark haired beauty with a cleft lip. Though her cleft does not define her, it will always be a part of her story. It will always be a part of my story. And most likely those treasured lips played a role in how our stories became forever woven. I also ache for her birth family. They will probably never get to see her new lips and there is a sense of loss in that.

There is a movie called Smile Pinki by Smile Train. In that movie a little boy about the age of 9 with a cleft lip and palate is featured. He is unable to attend school because of how others treat him. He was also unable to speak clearly. The documentary follows Smile Train as they come to his area and offer a free cleft surgery. There is one scene where several from the village are surrounding the boy’s mom. They are urging her to accept the free surgery. You can see the agony in her face. Though she knows it is an incredible gift and much needed for her son, she is in agony over the decision. I know not many may understand this type of thankful grief. I didn’t understand it before. However, today I feel it.

I am thankful for my sweet friend Angie who has gone this road before me and held my hand through this journey. She assures me that there will come a day that Little One is bopping around the house with a nose scrunched grin and I won’t feel like it is her new smile. It will just be her smile. She will heal.  She will be just as beautiful. Her smile will be just as radiant. She’ll be her, just with rearranged lips. And I’ll be clicking away with my camera. And one day, she will look back on thousands of pictures of herself with her original lips. And one day, I hope and pray she will see the breathtaking beauty that I see. I hope and pray she will know she was exquisite since the day she was born.

I have a good feeling there will be a part of me that always misses her original lips.

And that is okay.

So today, I’ll carry her from doctor to doctor to doctor preparing for tomorrow’s surgery.

And then at 8:00am on Friday, I’ll gently kiss her lips one last time.

And I’ll probably cry tears of sadness and tears of thanksgiving.

And then eventually her new lips will be healed and I’ll get to start kissing them again.

And I’ll cry tears of thanksgiving.

Little One has a full day of appointments with various members of the cleft team today…not even a break for lunch or naps! It will be a long day. Her surgery is at 8am Central on Friday. We would covet your prayers on her behalf that morning. Thanks for our coffee date, thanks for loving my girl. ~ Ashley

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