Today, just about now, our son and his wife and their three little boys are saying good-bye to a precious little slip of a girl who has stolen all our hearts and will take more than a piece of us with her when she goes.
There should be no criticism of the social system in this particular circumstance. This is one of the good decisions, and it would be a malicious wrong to indict anyone involved. This is the sort of thing that happens when things need to be done right, and it takes time. There is relationship in place. This baby will be loved. She will be cared for. She will be taught about Jesus. And she will have contact with the family that holds her first year in their hearts, in their minds, and in their memories.
My heart is caught up today with the sadness of our Ohio family. On my mind and in my prayers are Raph and Gina and the boys as well as the extended family . Especially, I keep thinking about the grandparents there, Andy and Saloma Yoder. My grief as a Grammy has surprised me, making me aware of how far reaching this event is. Looking at this from a Grammy’s point of view has triggered memories that I had almost forgotten. Specifically, I remember something that happened to us nearly forty years ago that comes to this day with a familiar, aching twist.
We had gotten an eight and one-half month old baby boy, Joseph, in December of 1975. We were so in love with this beautiful baby. He was with us over 20 months. He was our first foster baby, and he was a favorite of everyone in our family. When he left to go to an adoptive home (back then, foster parents were not allowed to adopt except in rare situations) we thought we would die! Because our agency was known to close homes or withhold placements in homes where people “became too attached” we couldn’t voice our anguish to anyone at Franklin County Children’s Services. Our church was supportive, but I often felt alone in this grief that I felt we had “signed up for!” Certain Man and I moved through our days with a slow sadness that couldn’t be brushed away or even washed away by the buckets of tears. I remember the day I stripped the sheets off his crib to wash them, and I buried my face in those sheets and smelled the essence that was my baby, and I muffled my screams and cries of despair in their thick softness and then sobbed uncontrollably until the storm passed. The days were dark.
Soon after Joseph left, My Sweet Mama came for a week to “help out.” I was pretty much wrapped up in my own sorrow, and she didn’t invade much. One day she took a load of laundry to the wash line for me, and didn’t return. I finally went to see where she was, and I found her crying, standing among the flapping clothes in the breezy Ohio sunshine.
“I can’t stand it, Mary Ann,” she managed to say through her sobs. “I miss him so much! I just feel like I HAVE to see him, hold him, and hear his little voice calling for ‘Gammaw’,”
I remember standing there as a realization dawned on my fuzzy, grief-stricken heart. This loss was not only ours. It was everyone who had loved him – all of those to whom he was a grandson, brother, nephew and toddler friend. As I cried with My Sweet Mama, the sweetness of sharing this aching loss was comforting, and it was good. I look back on that day as when my grief started to turn around, although I sometimes think that the depth of sorrow that I feel over these grandchildren who come and don’t stay, (and the fierce protectiveness towards those who come to stay) probably has more to do with our experience as young parents in a sunny house on the hill in Madison County, Ohio.
The hard times, the grief and the days when we would rather die than live through them (except for the people that are counting on us) are the times when we come to realize what it is that we really believe, and what it is that we are trusting. I’m so grateful that God didn’t give up on that headstrong young woman who had so much to learn. And not only God, but so many strategically placed people who cared, and invested and supported and believed that their investment would be worth it. I’ve been the recipient of so much grace. I’ve been given so much. And in this loss, and in the other losses of my life, there has been an anchor for my hurting heart.
Today, I choose Jesus again.
My heart gives grateful praise.