At four, she was finally removed from the home, thankfully.
She's as smart as she is beautiful. On top of everything else, she survived the legal hoops of the "system" that appeared to be far more concerned about the image and reputation of the court's reunification record than the child. In the last few years, she's lived with us, three foster families and been reunified with her mom three times. This sweet little girl has had one of the roughest starts in life that could ever be imagined. The tears that have been shed, the prayers that have been said, in her behalf, are countless.
BUT! Those days are in the past! Six weeks ago, she was legally adopted and today, Zaylee was sealed for time and all eternity to her wonderful new family in the Logan LDS Temple! Doug and I, along with both of her other sets of "new" grandparents, one aunt and her six new siblings witnessed Zaylee kneeling at the alter with her mother and father, as they were sealed together as an eternal family! Doug and I were humbled to be witnesses and to be included in this intimate and sacred experience.
We were all led to the small sealing room, seated and waited just a few moments until Zaylee's new siblings were brought in, then Zaylee and her parents. All dressed in the most beautiful white dress, highlights in her cute little brown curls, those big brown eyes and the hugest smile minus four front teeth! I could not hold back the tears.
They knelt at the alter. The ordinance was performed. The three of them hugged and then Brother Jepson, the temple officiator, and an old friend, told them to hug their family. I was on my third Kleenex by then, but when all seven of these children jumped up and embraced in a big family group hug, with Zaylee smack dab in the middle, Doug and I both just lost it! HAPPY TEARS! We were so thrilled for this moment to have finally arrived... seeing Zaylee so happy and finally a part of an eternal family! Such a wonderful moment. We could hardly contain our joy! We were so thankful!
Next, Zaylee hugged us and I didn't want to let her go! I whispered in her ear, "We are soooooo happy for you! This is the most wonderful day ever! We love you and are sooooooooooo happy for you all!" Doug just held her for a long time and told her how much he loved her and to always remember this special day! What a special blessing to be a part of this experience!
We went outside of the temple and took a few quick photos. There were so many marriages this morning and so many family photos begin taken that Amy had decided to hire a photographer to take Zaylee back on another day for professional portraits. We did snap a few photos of Doug and I with Zaylee and of her with her parents.
After the photos, we went to the Bluebird Restaurant for a family dinner. Again, Doug and I were honored to be included. While waiting to be seated, Zaylee was intrigued by the tall staircase. I told her that when Grampie's mom, her great grandma was married to Grampa Dale, they had their wedding reception here and that the next time she came over, I'd show her pictures of Great Grandma Anna standing on those stairs in her beautiful wedding dress. She wanted to walk up the stairs and stand there too, "just like Grandma!"
A few minutes later, all 18 of us were seated at two tables. We were seated by Amy's parents and a sister. Zaylee sat between Doug and I. We enjoyed getting to know Amy's family, which was just wonderful. They are awesome, awesome people! Before we parted, they told us that we would always be invited to, included and welcome in all of their family events because "we are family!" They all certainly made us feel that way! Amy's dad said that he could just feel our love for Zaylee and that just by the way we spoke of our three kids, he knew that we were meant to be their parents. This touched my heart deeply.
At one point during lunch, Zaylee was going through the pictures on my iPad and looking at Aylabelle. She asked if we could call Liza. I stepped over to where Amy was sitting to ask her quietly if that would be okay. "Absolutely, anytime!!", she said. Just as the words were coming out of Amy's mouth, Zaylee walked over to me with my phone in hand, showing me that Liza was calling us. They got to visit for a minute, which was sweet.
Honestly, Doug and I were both very overwhelmed with joy and happiness, and felt nothing but peace about this entire day. I know that this may be difficult for some to understand. BUT. This child has been through more than anyone should have to experience in a lifetime. How could we be anything but thrilled that she is secure and safe and so, so loved by so many people! We could feel their joy! We could see their love! We see Zaylee's happiness and joy. It's a wonderful thing! A gift, indeed, to know that she is finally secure and a part of an eternal family!
Zaylee and her parents, Amy and Conner
I think that this is my favorite picture of Zaylee and myself together, ever. Tear stains and all!
I need to lighten these up a bit before I print it, but I wanted to get them in this entry.
Zaylee made us laugh when she ordered a hot chocolate to drink! It was very warm outside! I don't know what prompted that craving, but she does love her chocolate! Wonder where she got that from? I love how Doug looks at her in this picture. He loves this little girl! We all do!!!
We said our goodbyes and, as we walked back to the car, Doug and I, both, were in tears, thankful for this special experience. How grateful I am for the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, for the temple ordinances, for eternal families and for the four wonderful families who have made these five grandchildren of ours theirs. We could not have asked for better families to love and care and provide and bless these children! We are also thankful that Kelly was able to bring these five beautiful children to the earth so that they could find their eternal families, not to mention our own three! (That goes unsaid, as they are our life!)
As Doug said, "Today completes the circle." We've waited since the moment that Jason was born for him to "find" his family, who we knew were somewhere out there waiting for him. Zaylee took the longest to find her family, and thankfully, today, it's, as Doug says, "a done deal."
Life is good. Blessed and good.