I grabbed my daughter’s hand as they wheeled her into surgery. Behind my mask I whispered over and over, “I’m not going anywhere. You’re my baby.”
Ashley looked up at me. This was the third surgery in as many months to try and rid her body of the cancer that threatened to take over. She clutched my hand and smiled, clinging to the promise that she was ours.
“Dumb luck, huh?” she joked.
“Yeah, but remember, you’re mine and that won’t change.”
I cried as I watched my daughter slip into a medicated stupor. Ashley was right; this was dumb luck.
After years of trying to have a child, Tom and I had decided to become foster parents in the hope that we might be blessed with a baby to adopt. Months went by with no available babies. After much consideration, we decided to take in an older child. Tom had gone with me to meet Travis. He was a darling black boy. We’d loved him at once, and took him home with us. We’d almost lost it four months later when his mother came back for him.
“I’ve been six months sober,” She’d said. “I’m ready to take my baby home.”
Clutching me with all his might, eyes puffy from nights of crying, there was nothing Tom or I could do to keep them from taking Travis; he wasn’t ours. No matter how much I doubted his mothers turn-around, the State believed her and that’s all that mattered.
A few weeks later, I received a call about a fifteen year old girl that had been abandoned and needed a home. She had been found in an alley with only a Bible and a teddy bear. My first response was “NO!” But later, after telling Tom about the young girl (much older than we thought we’d ever foster) the fact that she carried a Bible with her struck us as something special.
The day we first met her, her hair was short, having been cut to rid her of the lice that had covered her, and her big blue eyes were pronounced, holding in them a deep sadness but an obvious sparkle which I thought seemed ridiculous considering her circumstances. She had been so polite and gentle, seeming to cling to the idea that we shared her faith. She spotted the crucifix that hung above our mantle, and tears ran down her eyes.
“It’s hard to believe that he did all that for me,” she’d said.
Tom looked at me and I looked at him, and we knew, incredibly, this was the child God was sending to us. We took her into our home, and loved her. Selflessly and fully, we loved her, and she in turn loved us. Our friends said we were crazy to adopt her; they said a teenager was nothing but trouble, but we knew they were wrong. Ashley was meant for us. Nothing else mattered. The day the adoption was final, nothing could have knocked that smile off her face, or ours for that matter. We were a family – a God formed family.
It wasn’t too long after that when she started developing the symptoms. I wanted to ignore them as long as I could, but ironically my mother’s intuition was strong. Something was definitely wrong. We had all just stared in shock when the doctor told us that she had a brain tumor.
“The size of a fist,” he’d said.
I didn’t want to believe it. Wouldn’t we notice a tumor the size of a fist!? Immediately they went in to remove it. They were confident that because of her age, she would pull through. We were confident they knew what they were talking about.
But here we were, our third surgery, and hope was wearing thin. I waited in Tom’s arms daring myself to believe that she would come back to us. Slowly, he turned me to face him.
“Would you change any of this?” he asked simply.
“Are you kidding?” I wanted to say, but he was right.
I had been the happiest of my whole life the last few months with Ashley in our lives. She had taught me more about life than a fifteen year old should know. Even in this trial, I would find joy. At last I understood the sparkle in those saddened eyes; God’s joy might not make sense, but it endures through the tears, through the fear, and yes, even in death. God’s joy is complete.
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