Angel’s Legacy

by | May 20, 2008 | Death, God's Hands, Helping, Kindness

He was a beautiful bundle of chubby arms and blue eyes and I only got to hold him once in his life. My sister was young and unmarried and her baby’s father had vanished, so she made the hardest, bravest decision a woman can ever make. And God must have guided her all the way in this decision, because no one on earth could have known what lie ahead for my sister.

Tanner’s parents were with us throughout her labor and delivery and she couldn’t have chosen better parents for this little angel. Friends of friends of our mothers, they had had a rough road with trying to adopt a child and one disappointment after another led them to ask if they could adopt my sister’s baby when they learned of her situation. Gentle and loving, I watched them with both a heavy heart and an inner calm as my sister worked to bring this gift into the world and into their lives. I was deeply saddened that we would never know Tanner, but truly happy he was going to such wonderful, kind parents. They glowed with the excitement of finally having a baby and I had no doubt my sister was not only giving them the greatest gift of their lives, but also giving Tanner the greatest gift in these two people.

Angel and Tanner’s parents had an “open adoption”, which meant that she could contact them throughout the course of his life and they would send her yearly pictures and updates. What a blessing this turned out to be!

A couple of years later, Angel got married and standing in the receiving line, I heard a gasp and hushed, excited voices and a name: Tanner. Tears filled my eyes as I saw the little family walk toward us and embrace my sister. Tanner was now a gorgeous tow-headed toddler and as his little arms encircled my sister’s neck, tears flowed down my cheeks and I froze the moment in my heart forever. I still have a little photo of Tanner and my sister in her wedding gown, with him sitting amid the enormous fluff of her train and her radiant face telling me what a purely joyous moment this was in her life.

We didn’t get to see Tanner again until six years later. My beautiful twenty-eight year old sister was fighting for her life. She had a brain tumor and only a few months left to live. It was September and we had contacted Tanner’s family and they had generously agreed to bring Tanner to spend the afternoon with Angel and our family.

We waited excitedly and I thought this must be how our loved ones feel who wait for us in Heaven. It was a reunion to be unequaled in joy. My sister covered her now bald and scarred head with a Disney baseball cap. Her silky blonde hair was completely gone. The steroids that she was taking to control the swelling in her brain caused her face to swell and her entire body to shake. But she was still so beautiful, so radiant. I helped her put on makeup and carefully applied lip gloss – she wanted her son to think she was pretty and tears burned my eyes as I fought to keep control over my emotions.

Finally the moment arrived and we all watched as Tanner and his parents got out of their van, Tanner carrying a gigantic teddy bear that was literally bigger than he was. My heart caught in my throat as I watched Angel’s face. She was just glowing and I could see the pride in her eyes as she watched this little miracle stride toward her.

Tanner’s parents brought video so we could see important events in his life and our two families gathered around the television as Angel and Tanner sat quietly at the table. I stood in the kitchen to videotape Angel and Tanner and save every single second for her to watch later. I knew in my heart of hearts that this would be the last reunion for the two of them. If she would have chosen to keep Tanner and raise him herself all those years ago, what would be happening to him now? We were so blessed that he wouldn’t be as deeply wounded by her passing because he was placed with the most gentle, loving parents possible for him. I knew that whatever happened, he would be alright. They would make sure he had a good life. If my sister wouldn’t have chosen to give him up for adoption, he would have his life ripped apart before he was even eight years old. She had listened to her heart and done the right thing. I know it was a heartbreaking decision, but she had always been confident that it was best for Tanner. I just let the tears pour down my face as I listened to their conversation and marveled at Life’s events that brought us to this moment.

“What happened to your hair?” he asked softly.

“I’m sick.” His birth mother answered simply. She removed her hat and let him feel her head.

“Are you going to get better?” he asked the question of the year. I could hear a falter in his voice, a fear that told him this was a serious kind of sickness to have. The room became silent and I held in the tears and waited for how on earth she would handle this question.

“Oh, yes, don’t you worry. I’ll be fine!” my valiant sister reassured him. Her voice soft and reassuring, her only thoughts were to shield him. If she hadn’t been before, she became my hero in that moment. I could no longer control the tears and left the room so I wouldn’t ruin this perfect day.

Tanner’s family ended up staying several hours and it was a golden day that we will all remember dearly. We took pictures of Tanner with my kids, his cousins who had never known him, and pictures of Angel and Tanner sitting close together, big smiles on both their beautiful faces.

Angel died the following spring. Lying in her casket with my sister was the single rose that Tanner had brought to her funeral. Angel left a legacy of many important lessons – she was so strong and so compassionate to others, even when her own life was ebbing away. But her greatest gift to the world was Tanner. He was truly Angel’s Legacy.

Susan Farr-Fahncke copyright 2007


Angel’s Legacy