With an Open Heart


A few months ago I received a message from a mother who had come across my blog. Lisa Murphy told me she was writing a book about her son Daniel, who had passed away after she and her husband adopted him from China.

I was so grateful that Lisa had reached out to me, and I was in awe of the strength she found to share her story. Losing a child is every parent’s greatest fear. I thought of the Murphys’ hopes and dreams and wait to meet their son—only to see him go to heaven four months later. I didn’t know how they could possibly bear it.

When Lisa’s book landed in my mailbox last week, I saw the smiling faces of mother and son on the cover. And I knew I had to start reading the book, With an Open Heart: A True Story of Faith, Love, and Courage, that night.

 I tried to brace myself for an emotional read, but immediately I got pulled into the story of this Catholic family in Florida.

I felt their nervous excitement as they decided to adopt a younger sibling for their daughter, Madi. I recognized their joyful surprise at seeing their child’s picture for the first time.

And I thoroughly enjoyed their trip to China, where I even knew one of the characters, Jordon, a Christian shopkeeper in Guangzhou with a smile for everyone. They traveled to China to adopt Daniel just a few months after our trip to adopt our first son, so I felt a real connection to them.

As I read, I knew the Murphys’ days with Daniel were limited, and I wanted to try not to get too attached to him. But I couldn’t. Lisa manages to capture her son’s vibrant personality and loving charm in such a lively way that I found myself smiling at his antics and marveling at the close relationship he forged with his big sister.

Then tragedy struck. Daniel came through heart surgery with a great prognosis, only to start losing ground. I shed many tears as I read of Lisa and Jimmy’s agonizing last days with Daniel.

As I watched them come to grips with the fact that they had to say goodbye to their son, I also admired them for relying on their Catholic faith to carry them through the ordeal.

When I closed the book, I was deeply sad for Daniel’s parents, but I was also filled with hope. Because—as hard as this may be to believe—the book is overflowing with joy.

It would be so easy to doubt and question and wonder what could have been, but that is not Lisa and Jimmy’s approach. Lisa conveys tremendous gratitude that Daniel was a part of their family, even for such a short time. The evidence of their deep trust in God, which is woven beautifully through the book, is truly inspiring.

And, even though I speak of the Murphys’ loss of their son, that’s not an accurate portrayal of this family’s story. As Lisa writes, it is clear that Daniel is still very much a part of their lives. They feel his presence in many ways, especially when Lisa and Jimmy sense that God is leading them back to China to adopt their third child, Charlie.

With an Open Heart is a book of sorrow and joy. The journey this family embarks on requires more of them than any family believes it could bear. And yet they share their story in hopes it will help others.

Lisa closes the book with these words:

“We hope that our family’s story has inspired you to hug your children a little tighter each day, take more time to smell the roses, and embrace each moment a whole lot more. It’s important to remember that each of us, while here on Earth, has a life that is truly precious and packed full of unknowns.

“It is also our sincere hope that you will keep your heart open—so that you may hear when the Holy Spirit whispers to you. Whenever you think of our Daniel, we hope you will be inspired to live, listen, and leap with an open heart.”

I have invited Lisa to answer a few questions for a future blog. If you have any questions you would like to ask, please feel free to leave them below as a comment or write to me at openwindowcr@gmail.com.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.