The most anticipated episode of “This Is Us” did not disappoint.

We’ve all known Jack dies, and we’ve been following the clues, but tonight was the night when all our questions were answered, as promised by the teaser.

There is so much I could write about, but there are two moments, in particular, that really stood out and teach us great lessons. Among all the sadness (I think my eyes will be puffy for at least a full 48 hours), Kevin’s talk with Jack  and Tess’s future occupation stand out to me as two of the most beautiful and redeeming moments of last night’s episode. These moments are very much relevant to adoptive families.

Kevin and Jack

There are times in our lives when we are compelled to slow down. For Kevin, it’s his addiction. He gets to a point where he has to slow down . . . stop, in fact . . . and make a fresh start. As we watch, we are seeing him face some of his life’s most painful experiences head on, and he is finally beginning to turn to his family.

For me one of those times came when my daughter was born. She was born with a pretty severe genetic condition and it stopped me in my tracks. All the plans we had for the future no longer mattered. What mattered was this little girl and how we were going to move forward in embracing our new reality. Though we love her completely, those early months and years had some pretty dark and sad days. But this perfectly imperfect little girl changed our lives completely for the better. During this time, I leaned on the support from our family.

Each of us, I believe, will have a moment, a trial, an incident, a feeling that stirs us so much that we will stop.

In the midst of the darkness, we will look to someone or something that makes us feel whole. Often, family is a key to our healing. They are our support. Last night, Kevin turned to Jack. Now dead for twenty years, Jack is still a significant part of his son’s life. Though Kevin may have tried to ignore Jack’s ever-present influence, when Kevin really needed him, Jack was there – even though they were apart. Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that just because our children may not know their birth parents, that they aren’t a part of their lives . . . because that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether a birth parent is physically a part of their child’s life or not, they are forever bound by a connection that can’t be severed. They gave this child life, and so they are always a part of that child’s story. As adoptive parents, we can’t feel threatened by that, and we cannot dismiss it without damaging our child. Allow them that relationship, even if they don’t have physical or even written contact anymore. Don’t try to erase people from your lives, even if they aren’t present. Don’t do it because it only brings more pain. Look to Kevin’s example to learn what avoiding really does to a heart.

Now let’s talk about Tess.

WHhaaatt?! I love all the flashbacks in “This Is Us,” but the flash forward?! Thank you! After all the tears, that flash forward made me smile. Here’s the deal. Parents often feel like they’re messing their kids up. I think we all need to get over it. Because we are. Okay? On some level we’re all doing something that will mess up our kids one way or another. But you know what? When our kids know we love them, like more than anything, they turn out all right. They may say, “My mom and dad did _____ and I would never do that now that I have kids.” But as long as we are sincerely trying our best and letting our kids know that we love them, they’ll come through whatever it is they go through.

I remember talking to one of my daughter’s occupational therapists. Since Samantha was born, we’ve adopted three other children. Our lives are busy and sometimes crazy. I was talking to her OT and mentioned that maybe we were crazy and maybe because we had more kids I wasn’t devoting the time necessary to Sammy’s therapy . . . and maybe that was ruining something for her.

You know what she told me?

She stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Jenny. The love Sammy gets from you and her siblings is worth everything.” She continued to explain how those relationships are helpful to her development and that there’s a huge benefit to Sammy having siblings.

I have often thought of that discussion and it has brought me so much comfort. I know that Sammy knows she is loved. She is adored. And she is happy. At the same time, I’ve worried that our kids will feel resentful that we can’t do certain things as a family because it’s not accessible for Sammy, or that it’s just too challenging in general – or that we spend too much time on therapy, or whatnot. Parents have a million things we can stress out about.

Tess becoming a social worker? Now that represents something special. Lesson: We are molded by our experience. When those experiences are enveloped in love, we are changed for good. And the awesome thing is that as parents, we have the power to fill our homes with so much love our kids have no choice but to feel loved, secure, and brave. They will want to go out the door, ready to help those around them. We can ignite that fire in them through our infinite love for them. It’s sorta a superhero power parents can tap into if we choose. Choose to do that. Choose to lead in love and kick fear to the curb because this next generation? They’re pretty dang special.

I suppose my tears are dried up now, but it’s only a few days away before Jack’s funeral and I’m not sure my heart can bear it. Until then, my crockpot is safely stored away and my tissues are nearby for any Jack aftershocks.