Torn Pages Made Beautiful

Adoptee Lily Daniels shares how the sad stories of her family’s lives became one big beautiful story of restoration, tinged yet strengthened by loss.

Lily's senior portrait.
Lily’s senior portrait.

I want to tell you a story that is really about how a lot of different little, sad stories became one big, beautiful story.

The setting is June 17, 2001. Two stories collide and become one. In my mind, it was always about two groups of characters whose lives mirrored each other. There were the parents who lost their unborn children. They tried many years, traveled many miles, and faced the unknown. Then, there was the newly born baby girl who lost her parents. She, too, waited long, traveled far, and faced the unknown. They both needed something — family. And so, it became a beautiful story of restoration, tinged yet strengthened by loss.

Except it was never simply a story about just two groups of characters… There were also the parents who lost their daughter.

Lily and her older sister, Eva, were both adopted. Here they are as kids with their parents.

June 6, 2000, give or take a few days. You welcomed me into your life. June 13, 2000. You said goodbye to me forever. One week. Just seven days of my life, seventeen years ago, that I cannot remember. I lost something that I never remember having — my name, my parents, my family, my culture, my country. How can you miss something that you never had? And yet, a piece of my history is missing, and I will never find it because finding you means going back in time, changing history, and trading everything I know.

It’s like someone tore my story apart, ripping out irreplaceable pages and giving me some new ones that didn’t quite match, but I had to piece it together all the same. All of that tearing and rearranging hurts — it’s heartbreaking to lose a piece of your history and it’s hard to fill that empty space and it’s painful to come to terms with the fact that you can never actually completely fill it back up.

Truth is, I only thought of you as an event — something that happened long ago. It was only when you became people to me that the loss hit me.

Lily as a baby.

It happened when I was at a retreat. During one of the sessions, for the sake of an illustration, the speaker asked us if we knew our great-great uncle’s name. Most of us clearly did not, and that was okay. Then, later that day, a small group of us were talking about DNA tests and ethnicity. Somehow, because of the combination of these two separate events, it struck me. I don’t care that I don’t know exactly what percent Chinese I am. What does that matter to me, when I don’t even know who my birth parents are? Obviously, like most of my friends, I don’t know what my great-great uncle’s name was. Unlike most of my friends, I don’t even know the names of my birth mom and dad… or if I had any siblings… if they are dead or alive… saved or unsaved.




And that is when I began to see you as people — people who have their own side of the story. In this story, you gained a daughter only to ultimately lose her. Was there any restoration for you? Is your story complete? Do you still think about me? Do you miss me like I miss you?

It is just sad. There is nothing anyone can do to make it better.

But I guess thankfulness is a good place to begin.

Thank you for how I look. (Not like you really had much control over that.) Yes, there have been a lot of things about my appearance that I don’t always like. But, I should be thankful and proud of the features that I inherited. This is one thing that you gave me that I get to keep… Sometimes I wonder who I take after. Do I have your eyes, MàMa? Or your mouth, BàBa?

Most of all, thank you for giving me the gift of life. I guess I always took it for granted that I made it as far as Chesapeake, Virginia. Even though you had no hope of keeping me, you selflessly gave me a chance at life. You even left me at the safest place you could find when you had to say goodbye. So thank you for everything… because that’s what you gave me when you decided to let me live my life.

Lily with her family today.
Lily with her family today.

Throughout this whole story — the characters and the themes — there is an underlying lack of control. My birth parents could not control where they lived or the government or the laws. My parents could not control whether or not they could have children. And I could not control when and where I was born, who I was born to, or who eventually adopted me. This is where a fourth and final character comes to light — although He has always been a part of the story. God, the author of this beautiful story, was in control through the pain and loss and joy… And He still is in control. Even though I don’t know how my birth parents’ story ends, I can trust that God has written a beautiful story on their torn pages — He is all about using our imperfect stories for his perfect plan.

Lily Daniels | Holt Adoptee

adoptive father with arms around four older adopted children

Holt Post Adoption Services

Holt offers lifelong support to all adoptees, adoptive families, birth parents, caregivers and others whose lives have been touched by adoption.

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