TanyaIn 2005 or 2006, I received a letter from a charity supporting orphans in the Ukraine. Inside the envelope were five or so cards, each with an orphan’s photograph and a brief bio or other sentiment on the back. Out of these, I kept one – a beautiful red-haired girl named Tanya who was 15 at the time who dreamed of helping people and being an artist. We were going through a very difficult time, but I felt a strong need to do something for her so I sent what I had along with a short letter – its message amounting to don’t ever give up. I’ve held onto to Tanya’s card all these years. But being that she aged out of the orphanage at 16, there was no other means of contact.

Fast forward to 2014…

Our oldest son married Natalia, a beautiful Russian woman. Among many things we have in common is that she was adopted too. After adopting Natalia and her two sisters, her adoptive parents established transition homes specifically for those aging out. Aged out refers to a child that can no longer be adopted once they reach a certain age. They are given their belongings and released (kicked out). It matters not if they have no where to go or way of fending for themselves. This is a key factor many end up homeless, on drugs, become alcoholics, prostitutes, trafficking victims, or die within the first year. Some countries age out earlier.

Michael & NataliaThen I learned Natalia was in an orphanage in the Ukraine. I immediately thought of Tanya! I knew it was ridiculous, but you never know so I showed her Tanya’s picture. She knew her! In fact, Natalia’s sister was Tanya’s best friend. Tanya killed herself in 2008. She was 18.

I didn’t know Tanya, but the news hurt me as if I did. Out of all the cards, I had kept hers; periodically praying that she was okay. Sometimes wondering if there was more I could have done. How ironic for my American son to have married a Ukrainian adoptee from the same orphanage.

I still have Tanya’s card. It’s now a reminder to always do whatever we can, and that we do not understand how intertwined our lives truly are.

To learn more about the home Natalia’s parents established, visit Heart for Orphans.