The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saying Good-Bye

...The little girl gave Makeda a hug, a rub on the leg in sorrowful silence and left. (I believe she kissed her softly and turned quickly to leave...but the moments after this one are the most bittersweet I have ever experienced - and hope never to have to my entire life.)

As this little four year old orphan - soon to be no longer - left the common room, a nannie came entered. She was the one I'd always seen doing Makeda's hair, feeding her, loving on her. She has two small children at home but works six (or is it seven? I think it's seven) days a week in the infant room. Where her small (not-yet-school-age) children are during the day, I'm not certain. We tried to ask but the language barrier won out. I would hedge a bet that she'd taken Makeda under her wing from the get go, adopted her, and now she would say good-bye. Likely for the rest of her life.

What happened over the next few minutes is all a bit of a blur, both mentally and through the tears. I will purposely leave out details because they are a part of Makeda's story. And after what's to follow or your own understanding - this is all she has. Her story, our responsibility to pass on. The one thing she has to her name and from her origin. These details are intricately woven into our story of becoming family. It's not okay for others to share them with her, but rather the opposite.

I've not ached like that in years - perhaps never.

It was so raw, too real. It still is. In every life changing, perspective altering way.

And, it's nothing short of tragic.

And, for the most nano-of-a-second, I wished it all away. I wanted to reverse this experience, this desire to adopt, this now legally binding removal of a child from her second family, her birth country, her heritage, her culture, her home.

Her home.

I felt, in that split second, as though I was kidnapping her - robbing from her, the few things by which she was surrounded, that make her: Her.

I was intentionally - had spent years in fact - seeking with all my energy to take it all from her. I had been told. We had been taught. There will be loss. There will be unspoken sadness. But, not unlike many other events and occurrences, we don't fully grasp the severity of a situation until we live through it. And here I found myself: living in it.

It didn't seem fair.

It's not fair.

None of this whole journey is fair or right or just or okay.

And yet, it's how it is. And it's the path chosen for us. And she's ours. And while all those emotions still sit near the surface, I know also that this is good. It's right. It's faith followed. It's a God-directed, faith-based reaction to an intensely flawed system and the reality of poverty, which has determined new paths and lives for thousands of it's own.

There it is.

No one wins.

When a system is devastated, when a most incredible, beautiful country is devastated to this extreme, while there are thousands in it, doing all they can to save work for the vulnerable and is so very much bigger than any of them.

And the truth is, there is no saving it.

Until the rich realize there needs to be no boundaries, no great divide, there will continue to be the haves and the have nots.

That statement makes me sick - there is nothing okay, ethical, integral, just or moral about it.

I could get on my soapbox but I don't think it would be anything new that I would have to share.

I digress.

In the moment of wanting to reverse our past three and a half years; In the lapse of time between holding Makeda; Between touching her sweet four year old friend and thanking her for her love on our daughter; When the nannie walked in to whisper to her what only she and Makeda will ever know; Between all tragedy which followed over the next moments, the world stopped.

As E sat there with Makeda on her lap this nannie rubbed Makeda, she caressed her hair, held her legs and feet, all the while whispering, talking, sobbing, mourning. "Ciao" she kept repeating. I am certain she was encouraging her, telling her to be strong, to never forget where she came from, to return to her home when she's older, to grow up and be amazing and successful and proud. I am sure of it. Though I could understand none of it.

Another nannie came in, after the first left in an absolute state of sorrow. And the moment repeated itself with, I'm certain similar advice, love, sorrow. It was slightly different this time: the nannie couldn't physically remove herself from the presence of this wee being. She couldn't let Makeda out of her sight and would call for others to come and say good-bye, but she wouldn't leave the room.

I felt like the most horrible person in the entire world.

How did this miraculous, faith-filled journey come to such a screeching halt?!

How did this sense of grace, love, excitement and anticipation of family being formed so abruptly feel like hell?!

And it did.

And in that moment I knew as certain as I sit here today that adoption is not the very best option.

It's better than mere survival. It supersedes malnutrition and disease and famine and most certainly death by any of the aforementioned.

But it is not in the very best interest of the child.

Her birth home, her birth family, those are in the best interest of the child.

So do I think we made the wrong decision?

I don't.

In Makeda's case we are, all said and done, in her second best interest. Her first best interest is an impossibility due simply to the circumstances and country into which was was born. She is an orphan taken to an orphanage, and who, had she not been referred to us, would have gone to another (likely) Caucasian Canadian family.

We just happen to have been blessed with the most amazing orphanage, directed by the most amazing woman, who mercifully was/is/continues to be connected to Canadian families.

And when I say "happen[s] to be", I don't mean by chance.

None of this happened by chance.

And I would never change any of it. Not for the world.

Except if I could eradicate poverty, I would do that.

I would eradicate poverty and orphans and death and disease and famine and good-byes.

Because Makeda never should have had to say good-bye.


Katie said...

Oh Ashleigh. Thank you for sharing this side of the story....they side that we don't think about often.

Mrs Changstein said...

Oh...we've had many of the same thoughts. You will appreciate this link, if you didn't know of it already.
Blessings on you all.

andrea said...

You have so beautifully and painfully described everything we felt in our own moment... A

Sharla said...

I was ill prepared for the sadness I felt when taking our kids out of Ethiopia. And that is what it felt like in the moment...taking them away from, rather than bringing them to. I didn't know the grief that I would feel for them, the sorrow that I would have for what they were leaving behind.