The last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for us. It all culminated over the weekend as our foster care term came to an end, and we bade farewell to our foster daughter. It was a teary event as we handed our foster child, who had been with us the last two years, back to her parents. As we try to settle back to a family of five, the absence of the laughter and cries of our 2-yr-old reverberates like a jarring silence in the walls of our home. It’s not been easy and the sense of loss is felt all too keenly.
Little Ruth (not her real name) came to us in the middle of the night. Escorted by two officers from the government, she landed in our laps at just 4 months old. She was adorable, sweet, and such an easy baby to look after. She stole our hearts immediately.
We had to dust off old skills that had lain dormant for years as changing diapers and night feeds became a regularity in our home again. Our boys chipped in. They learned how to carry and cradle an infant, how to prepare milk, change diapers, and bathe baby Ruth. During the school holidays, they volunteered to do the night feeds. Leaving the house each day became a brand new routine of preparing milk powder, hot water, baby wipes, and lots of spare diapers – things we left behind years ago.
As she grew, we rediscovered the wonder and thrill of a child’s early development. We applauded vigorously when she turned on her own for the first time. We laughed with delight when she finally stood up. It was an incredible milestone when she took her first steps. I was grateful to be able to relive this excitement since our own boys’ achievements in these areas had by now become a vague blur from the distant past. It was like turning back the clock.
Soon, her personality began to shine through. She was determined and yet always looked to us for support. She was unafraid if only we’d hold her hands and be by her side. Her inquisitiveness knew no bounds, and that meant we had to muster enough energy to keep up with her exploratory forays. It made me realise I’m not quite as young as I used to be. She kept a stock of myriad expressions that charmed every one who met her. Let her see or hear something just once, and she could re-enact or regurgitate it to us. When she started to speak, the words flowed endlessly. Words became phrases and soon, sentences came like torrents. She demanded first rights to speak in the family, and effortlessly commanded our attention.
As abruptly as she came in the middle of the night, we handed her off in the same manner on Sunday night. We met our social workers, who had capably managed and helped us over the last two years and, perhaps foremost in their thoughts was if we’d continue as foster parents. So many foster families stop after helping one child because the attachment resulting from extending parental and familial love cannot be so easily shaken off.
We met our community of helpers and support – church members who had come alongside us in more ways that we could’ve imagined. We thanked them and once more, leaned upon them to carry us through our emotional pain through their presence and prayers. We’re deeply cognizant that we couldn’t do what we did had they not lent a helping hand. As they hung around our home, new friendships were forged. In some small way, we hope this has changed them positively and helped them discover the deep reservoir of love that God has placed in all of us.
Finally, we met our three boys – our champions. We thanked them for their willingness to share their parents with others. We thanked them that they rose to the challenge by taking on added responsibilities that other kids their age might not have. We asked them to embrace the pain because loving someone will cost something, just as our Saviour demonstrated to us on the Cross. We reminded them that we’ve chosen not to live for ourselves, but to always extend ourselves to love others.
This weekend, I’ve no Scriptures to share; no three points to expound. All I have is an open wound – painful and agonising. I gaze upon His open wounds. I hear an invitation to embrace love and the pain that comes with it.
Some lessons cannot be taught except by walking down the same road that Jesus took. What a privilege.