The Story Behind My Son’s Contagious Smile

JackCruz’s smile is so big and bright, it’s contagious. But when Brooke Murphree and her husband brought him home from Korea two years ago, JackCruz struggled with the loss of his Korean foster family. For National Adoption Month, Brooke shares how she comforted her son through his grief — and watched his trust and joy bloom.


Our story begins many, many years ago with a dream of adopting from a far away land. Our hearts led us to Seoul, South Korea, where on October 14, 2014, we received one of the greatest gifts of our lives — our second son. We had longed for this day since we saw his sweet face on our computer screens a year and a half prior.


But the simple fact was that JackCruz had not. He had spent the first two years of his life with a very loving foster family who adored him beyond reason. He was perfectly happy living his life with them and had little idea about how his world would forever change at 10:30 a.m. that beautiful, cool autumn morning.Our custody meeting went as well as it could have, with giggles tucked in here and there between JackCruz and our older son, Perry. But JackCruz knew something was going on and he wasn’t too sure of this new Mommy and Daddy and whole forever-family thing.

I could tell his foster parents were emotional, but they were very gracious with our son and kept their tears at bay in order to not feed any nervousness into him. They truly love him as a grandson but, like many other foster families in Korea, were well with age themselves. While they may have loved to adopt JackCruz in their younger years, that wasn’t plausible for them at this stage in life.


Saying goodbye to all JackCruz had known for the first two years of his life was the hardest thing I think I will ever have to help him do.Within the first hours of him being in our arms, snuggled in the bed of our Korean apartment, my new son cried relentlessly. I stroked his hair and attempted to dry his tears, while over and over and over I assured him, “It’s ok, baby. It’s ok. Mommy’s here forever. It’s ok.” And then, in a sudden realization, through my own tears, I whispered, “You know what? You’re right. It’s not ok. It’s not ok. But I promise you, Mommy is right here with you, forever, and it will be ok.” And together in Seoul, we snuggled and cried and grieved together.

Stepping into his grief by no means took away his sadness, but it allowed me the privilege to meet him in his deepest need and to share his burden.


I wish I could say that our son’s grief went away over night, but our road to his healing took time and intention. Over the next several months, I never left JackCruz’s side. We integrated all sorts of bonding methods into our daily routines and changed our “normal” for a while by canceling vacations and big celebrations. We limited visitors and outings in order to keep his world small and safe until he learned that we were Mommy and Daddy and that we would meet his every need, always. And slowly, but surely, our son’s trust built up in us, and he began to realize that his place in our family was permanent. His personality started to blossom and it was an absolute privilege to witness.Being in such a loving foster family taught JackCruz how to depend on others, how to love and how to form strong, stable bonds within a family. Although the transition into our family was hard on him initially, with time he was able to successfully transfer his secure bond with his foster family to us as his forever Mom and Dad. He didn’t have to learn what family was because he already knew! I can only imagine that if he had spent his first two years of life in an orphanage without as much individualized care that our bond as a family would have been much more challenging to create.Over the last year and a half, JackCruz’s laughs have become gigglier, his smile has grown brighter, his mischief with his brothers has become sillier, and his love has become deeper — oh so much deeper. He brings joy to everyone he meets and has a contagious spirit. Since JackCruz entered our lives, our family has become closer. We are more patient with one another, we empathize more freely, and we cherish each and every moment that we have together, knowing just how incredibly far we’ve come in becoming a forever family.We are so thankful that JackCruz’s foster family continues to be a part of our family through letters and photographs. This connection to his birth country and life before us is invaluable, and I know will be cherished for a lifetime!Often times, people will tell us how lucky JackCruz is to be our son, but the truth of the matter is we are the lucky ones. He has taught us more than we could ever imagine. He is a handsome picture of bravery, resilience, trust, unconditional love and pure silliness! He fills a hole in our family that just so happens to be the exact same shape of his little body. We are not a perfect family, but we are absolutely perfect for each other.

Brooke Murphree | Alabama

Little girl holding a baby chick

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