In September 2014, we will celebrate our oldest son’s 3rd birthday. His name is Adam and from what medicine and logic predicted, he was not supposed to live past 2 months. Three years? How quickly they seem to have passed as I look back. Fourteen surgeries have come and gone for Adam. Nearly $300,000 was given on his behalf. Two brothers, Elliot and Rohan, joined the ranks of our family, and Adam became an older brother. Our family has traveled from India to America and back again.
On September 18th, 2011, a new level of pain entered my life. Or rather, my husband and I invited it. We adopted it in.
But, on that same day, undeserved mercy and beauty entered our lives too. We did not know we were inviting them in. But He knew. And He brought them in.
Let me back up and share a bit of our story.
Our son Adam was born in September 2011. He was born in rural Northeast India where we were serving at the time in a small mission hospital—my husband as a Psychiatrist and I as a nurse.
Adam was born with no eyelids, no fingers, webbed legs, and a severe cleft of the lip and palate. He was considered a curse and left by his family. Despite persistent pleas from hospital staff, he was left alone. In man’s feeble understanding and finite wisdom, Adam was without hope. But in a Divine Creator’s infinite love and wisdom, he had incredible hope.
I remember a question that hit me as we were in the process of adopting. We were told that Adam would not live longer than a few weeks. Palliative care was the only option.
Can I raise a dying child?
Again and again this question consumed me.
Can I love him as my own and treasure each moment knowing he is dying?
I imagined so much pain. I feared not having joy or time.
But God’s still small voice echoed in the darkness of the deep confines of my heart and mind: Jessica, my daughter, you, too, are dying. Raja, your beloved husband, he too is dying.
Yes, our Spirits will live. But this body, it is fading.
After all, didn’t Solomon tell us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die…?”
For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever”
Yes, we are eternal beings. That I know. And in that I rejoice. We will one day see all things made new! The idea that we are all dying is not fatalistic. It is Truth. Each year that passes, I see changes in my own body. We age and no man knows if he is guaranteed tomorrow.
Again, in my spirit, He asked, “Did you choose to not marry Raja because one day he may die before you?”
“Do you love him or any of your family and friends less because of unavoidable death?”
I love them deeply in this moment. Then why should I question loving, adopting, and caring for this precious boy because medicine says he will have a shortened life?
So much has passed since then. There have been many operations and many disappointments. There have been joy filled moments and tear filled moments. Adam has surpassed all of our expectations. Limits are on Adam no longer. He is thriving.
There have been setbacks. But, still, he has amazed us. Adam crawls and bounces across the room when he hears his dad come home. He loves to look at books and inspects toys incredibly closely. He has the most adorable glasses and looks quite dapper in all the caps that have been given to him over the years. He is learning to make sounds with a valve over his trach tube and he is slowly learning to eat by mouth. Throughout all of this, he is wrecking people’s lives (mine and my husband’s most of all) with the Truth of the Gospel, namely, our own adoption and the power of love and life.
There have been many sleepless nights, many seemingly hopeless moments, and many times that the fibres of my being seemed to be unraveling. But, dear ones, it has only served to refine and sanctify this frail little heart. He, our Lord, is likened to a Refiner. And, you know how gold is refined, don’t you? In fire. In the heat. In the intensity of it. That is where gold is beautified. If His ways are likened to that, why do we expect anything less? Not only that, but OH! The fellowship of the suffering that we have entered into. To see His design unfolding. It is all just so crazy beautiful.
Let me share a little picture of this “fellowship” in suffering.
There was a patient admitted to our little hospital a few years ago with depression related to being paralyzed after a fall. He was the only child in his lower class Indian family. In their eyes, his future in school as an engineer was their only hope. Their idea of a hope crumbled and died when their son fell and was forever paralyzed from the neck down.
One night, my husband and Adam went to visit this patient in an attempt to offer some distraction from the everyday dullness and ache of a hospital ward.
Adam, who rarely goes to others besides family, surprised Raja by sitting freely at the boy’s side. His little body, unformed and pieced back together so many times, balanced on the stretcher of a bed and watched the boy.
It was as if an understanding pulsed through him—an understanding that exists between those who suffer physically in ways I cannot fathom.
Adam leaned down and fell onto him (most likely squishing the poor boy’s face with his hands to keep balance). And as he leaned in, Adams mouth met the boy’s cheek.
It was the closest thing to a kiss we have seen from Adam.
All the patient could do was receive Adam’s kiss. Receive his love. His paralyzed arms could not protest. His legs could not flee. He could only lie there, with my son’s fingerless hands squeezing his face. Tears slowly streamed down this patients face, who had once been so calloused and hardened by the severity of his injury. He could see and feel the brokenness of Adam’s body that lay up against him—he could feel the drool and the love.
He just laid there, staring at Adam, his little mother weeping at the bedside.
That is the kind of Love that confronts me daily. There is fellowship. Fellowship in suffering.
At times I do not want to accept it. I do not want to see purpose in pain. I want to scream and I want to cry and I want to give up and I want to stop pressing into Him. Because it is just all so unfair…
All these babies born sick, these young children robbed of life before the lunch bell rings, these momma’s dying in labor by preventable causes, these people trafficked and forgotten behind brothel doors, these loved ones perishing before we deem their time appropriate.
It is just all so dark and frightening and frustrating. In my finite eyes. But I forget the One who “works all things together for good.” I forget the One who is coming to “make all things new.”
I so quickly forget.
But then I see my oldest son again. I think of the first time he laughed and the miracle his laughter and his dimples are. I think of that paralyzed boy, comforted. I think of our new sister/houseguest/family member scarred from a brutal fire years ago who was finding it hard to carry on with such visible scars, but when she first cradled my Adam, she wept tears of joy because “if God created him and is using his life, then my life has purpose”.
And I just fall. On bloodied knees. Bloodied from kneeling again and again. Bloodied from bending low. Bloodied from crawling when the walking is too hard. And as I fall on these bloodied knees, my heart heavy and dark, His Word speaks:
Let there be light.
Yes, we are dying. Me and Adam both. And yes, it is hard to handle the stares and the questions again and again towards my son. And yes, I struggled when our other sons were born with all things formed. I wonder why Adam has to suffer. I am tired of sleepless nights at times, tired of feeling defeated somedays.
But then the Author whispers to me “I will make all things new.”
And there is purpose. For our good and His glory.