We see the passing of another birthday for a child no longer with us. Still alive, but growing up in another home: the first little girl we loved and raised for a year as foster parents. She has been gone for nearly three years, but it still hurts, still brings tears. Yet, there are reminders that, even though we may feel the loss the greatest, we are not alone in our pain. These children connected with our family and left holes in their hearts, too.
My father-in-law recently ran into another child we cared for over the course of eleven months. This boy had come to know him as grandpa and called us mommy and daddy. He saw my father-in-law pass by in a store and called out “Hi!” My father-in-law returned the greeting, but didn’t recognize our son. It wasn’t until he was nearly home that he realized who it had been. He started to cry as he relayed the story to us. I know how much it hurt that he was so close and missed an opportunity to tarry and maybe even get a hug. He apologized for the mistake. There was nothing to apologize to us for. How can you apologize for loving a child too much?
Our daughter had as strong of an impact on our family. So many nights we stayed up praying for her. I wonder how many hours the whole family lost to prayer. At my stepfather’s reading chair, there sits a small round end table with her photo. I couldn’t take my eyes off it the first time I saw it there; after she had left. Three years later, it’s still there. The same little smile and big round eyes. Sometimes, I fear the day when the photo will no longer be relevant and it will be replaced with something else. Such a thought may only prove how little I realize she is loved by my family. I forget, we’re all a part in this.
A few times each year, a new child enters into our home. Most of them take a piece of our hearts–all our hearts–when they leave. And somehow, our family is always the same. They never keep our kids at arm’s length for fear of being hurt once more. Instead, they greet our kids with a smile and say, “Call us grandma and grandpa!”