How Do You Say Good Bye?
Today I went from being the mother of seven to being the mother of six. I’ve been here before; it doesn’t feel any better this time, doesn’t seem to get easier. Maybe there are foster parents out there who get used to this. How could they keep doing it otherwise? But, that doesn’t seem to be me.
A month ago we had the first overnight. Baby with his birth mom. Me at home rocking in an empty chair beside an empty crib, clenching my arms to my belly as if to keep myself from coming apart. Then two nights. Then three, four, and now --gone. A baby inexorably pulled from the only family he has ever known.. A baby we brought home from the hospital at just two days old nearly a year ago and told we would adopt.
I was out with the four youngest at a store recently and people stopped me repeatedly to remark on how full my hands were. Yes blessedly full, blissfully full, but for just a little longer. Next time those people will see me with only the three and make the same remark, not realizing just how empty these hands truly feel.
We’ve never done it this way before. Our first two foster babies were here one day and gone the next. There was no gradual transfer. It was horrible, but the grief could come and the healing begin. This time, it’s a yo-yo of pain. The leaving, the returning. The way he cried and reached for me when I handed him over, having no choice but to walk away. His joy to return to us, only to be torn away again a few days later. Can an eleven month old feel betrayal?
Can I forgive myself for betraying him? My brain knows I have no choice, but my heart won’t quite believe it.
Add to this caseworkers who are the epitome of apathy. A lawyer who hasn’t seen his little client (or asked how he’s doing) in the last nine months. A prosecutor going against DHS recommendations rather than gathering evidence and doing her job. And a judge who made all this possible with one life destroying decision. A recipe for bitterness and cynicism.
People say to me, “Nothing happens apart from the will of God.”
These people failing this little baby? That’s not God’s will. The reasons he came into foster care in the first place? Not God’s will. Brothers divided one from the other? Not God’s will. Human free will, human choice, and a fallen world are bringing more pain to a sin filled earth. This isn’t God’s doing.
Come, Lord Jesus. We’re ready for your return, for a new heaven and a new earth, for an end to the sorrow and the pain.
How do we say good bye? How do I help my kids grieve? Grief is different for each. My seven year old slept an extra four hours yesterday, then cuddled for much of the rest of the day. My five year old alternates between hugging and crying and dancing and playing.
Jacob, our two year old who is Jason’s biological brother, is too young to understand. He points at the empty crib and says, “Shhh!” thinking the baby is there and asleep. I didn’t know how to help him say good bye. I just put his carseat beside Jason’s in the van yesterday and listened to them babbling away at each other, giggling over things that no one else could understand, brothers for a final fifteen minutes.
Then there are my older boys, old enough to really get it. They carried, cuddled this baby for hours, days, months. They’ve changed diapers, given bottles, bathed, dressed, comforted. A grief so real. So strong it takes my breath away. Knowing that I brought this on them.
I try to share what I have with them, because even in the pain I can feel the Presence. Solid. Definite. Almost like a cave of granite solid around me, under, and above, cradling. The blessed assurance that I am loved, sheltered, seen. The grief --so strong-- will not overpower me because He is stronger. I will heal. I will grow. I will be better able to understand, to serve others who grieve.
I touch on this with my sons just a little at a time. Can they understand that He’ll comfort them, too?
Then there are Matt and me. The parents, if just for a time. How do we let go? How do we move on? We wonder, is this pain what it takes for us to grow deeper into God? Is this what it takes for us to feel his comfort, his steadfast presence? If so, I say, even as I weep, let it come.
Bring Your kingdom.