Saying Goodbye

I won’t ever forget saying goodbye. I’ve said it five times. Five times I’ve kissed little cheeks, whispered last words of love, tucked them into their car seats, handed them to the caseworker. Five times I’ve wept and hurt, and given those precious little ones into my Father’s hands once again. Begging Him to watch over them, to hold them when my arms can’t.

Parts of saying goodbye caught me off guard the first time. I knew this is what fostering was like. I knew that the main goal of EVERY fostering case is reunification with the biological family. I knew that many, many times that is the very best thing for this precious child I loved! I knew. And it still hurt more than I can possibly express.

I’d only known this baby six days. Only six days. And yet the fierce mommy love and protection was already firmly in place. He was a teensy little thing. Still in newborn clothing at two months. He was right on the line of failure to thrive and desperately needed bonding and attachment. So, I had worn him in my baby wrap nearly every single moment of those six days. He needed such special love and attention. He needed what I could provide. And I wanted to provide what he needed.

And then I got the call. “Dad is ready to take him.” I wasn’t shocked by it. I had been expecting it. I snuggled that little boy all afternoon. Packed up all his things – plus a few extra. Took one last video of his little face. Let all the other kiddos say goodbye. I shed my tears. Kissed the cheeks. I was ok. This was good. This was the plan. I prayed over him and tucked him into his car seat.

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And then the social worker came to the door. We chatted about the details. I handed over his bag and folder. But when I bent down to pick up that carrier, I suddenly felt like I’d been punched in the gut. There was NOTHING in me that wanted to hand that little baby back to her. I started to cry. I tried to stop, to gain control, but I couldn’t. I said, “I’m so sorry. I know this is right.” And I kept crying. The practical/logical side of me simply refused to kick in.
I closed the door behind them and literally fell on my face weeping.

It hurts. It still hurts. I’m crying as I write this now. And guess what? It doesn’t get any easier. I have grieved intensely for every single little one who is no longer in our home. In our arms. Under our care and protection. I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you it doesn’t hurt. I am not a superhuman. Nope, not wonder woman either. I don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unpredictable. And it hurts like crazy.

“How do you let them go?”
“I could never do what you do, I would get too attached!”
“Isn’t it hard to say goodbye?”
“How do you do it?”

These phrases are said to me nearly every week. Strangers comment in the grocery store when they notice the uniqueness of our family. Friends from church ask. Family wonders.

Usually when I am asked in the moment, I smile sweetly and give a short, nice answer. Today I’m going to give a little longer answer to each of those questions.

“How do you let them go?”
~ You just do. You bend down and pick up that car seat or take that tiny hand in yours and you hand them to the case worker. You just do it. You save the tears for after the door closes if you can. You plan pizza for dinner. An early bedtime for everyone.
We have all experienced loss. Grieved the death or distance of a loved one. You have to keep taking the steps of life while desperately missing the presence of the one you love. All relationships include loss or grief. This is a part of life. Don’t we all know the saying?

“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” (~Alfred Lord Tennyson.)

And these children. These precious little ones desperately need someone willing to experience loss so that they can learn to know love.

“I could never do what you do, I would get too attached!”
~ Right. Yep. Of course you would get “too attached.” Mommies are supposed to be “too attached” to their children. The truth is that this isn’t about you. Your focus is on the wrong person here. This is about babies who need a mommy to be “too attached.” This is about babies who have never had anyone who was “too attached” to them. This is about you loving these children so much that you realize that what is best for them might not be a future with you. This is about loving with all you have for the time that you have.

“Isn’t it hard to say goodbye?”2016-03-14 05.58.43
~ Um. Yeah. It is hard. So hard. And yet, it is beautiful, too. I have had to learn to trust God in ways I never planned on learning. We have a wall in our home with pictures of the shoes or feet of every single child who has lived here with us. I often sit on the stairs and just stare at those pictures. Weeping. Praying. Trusting. God has enlarged my ministry in ways I would never have imagined. My family has grown and changed in ways I never dreamed could happen. And I have been blessed to learn what a powerful gift prayer is.

“How do you do it?”
~ I truly think that people who ask this question believe that I have a step-by-step, bullet-pointed formula for success. Or maybe they think I will pull them aside and whisper in their ear that I’m actually an undercover superhero. That’s just not how it is. There’s no secret steps. No formulated plan. No cape. No mask. Just love. Love that is willing to sacrifice for the good of another. You see, God allowed His Son to be crushed in a vile, cruel death so that I could know love. He chose to turn His back on His beloved child in order that my soul could be redeemed.  I know sacrificial love. I live in the light of it every single day.

If that is true, then why shouldn’t my heart be crushable? Why shouldn’t my life be open for hardships? Why shouldn’t I love with no guarantee of any return? Jesus loved with everything He had. He gave all that He was. He sacrificed when it wasn’t easy. This isn’t a formula. There’s no superhuman abilities. It’s about thankfulness. Thankfulness for the love and sacrifice that has been given for me. Recognizing that when I fully understand what has been given to me, I will have the strength and the desire to turn around and give that same love to others. Loving these precious children and their families helps me understand my Savior in a way that I never did before. And guess what? So does saying goodbye.

“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection,
and may share His sufferings,
becoming like Him in His death…”

~Philippians 3:10



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One Response to Saying Goodbye

  1. Susan Henrikson says:

    You are so beautiful friend…I love your soul and your heart. I have heard the phrase “how do you do it ” so many times when people refer to the loss of my three children, I typically give a sad smile and say “I just do” but in my head I’m screaming “DID I HAVE A CHOICE?!?!” But I think I like your wording a lot better 🙂

    Love you and your family!

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