I have decided to tell y'all about Little J. She is not a secret in real life anyway and I'm tired of tiptoeing around her here.
Observant readers may have noticed that there were five kids in the ice cream photo yesterday. Five, the astute reader may have wondered...I thought Em had four sons on earth and one daughter in heaven. Ah, but one of those five precious kiddos is Little J.
Little J is Mike's cousin's biological child. We found out in November 2010 that she was in foster care and was going up for permanency. Looking back, I have no idea why we started a homestudy application and began considering adopting her. We already had four apparently healthy children who were still very young. But apply we did, and God must have been in it because everything went through at lightning speed and Little J moved in with us on March 3 2011. Had it taken any longer Eva would already have been sick and there is no possible way Little J would ever have been placed with us. When Little J moved in Eva was 4 1/2 months old, Little J was 13 months old, Theodore was 21 months old, Vincent was 3 years old and Samuel was 4 1/2 years old. It was insane. Looking back I wonder why they, the almighty they, even considered us a good placement. But so it was, and Little J joined our family.
Sometimes I look back on that crazy time and wonder if I was so busy caring for Little J and making sure her emotional needs were being met that I neglected to take care of my Eva. Neglected to notice her needs. This is something I'll never know. Something I hope to be able to let go of one day, but that day hasn't come yet. There are other things that haunt me too and, one day, I'll blog about them...but tonight is the night for Little J.
When Eva got sick in June 2011 we called foster care and asked for respite care for Little J for a few days while Eva was in hospital. A few days of respite care that ended up lasting for several months. We still had no idea how sick our little girl was. God, I could go back in time and slap myself.
In July, when Eva was in stable condition but we were still in Edmonton, Little J's foster mom came to see us and brought Little J to see us too. I have some photos of Eva and Little J together from that time, which I'm glad I have now. I didn't think then that Little J would ever come back to live with us. Eva's condition was too volatile and would require frequent, regular trips to Edmonton. If we even made it home at all.
On August 3rd 2011 Eva and I drove home in celebration that we had made it. Eva was alive and we were going HOME!!! We were home for 11 days and then headed back to Edmonton on that awful day of August 15th. During that 11 days at home we met with social workers and said that we didn't think we could care for Little J and all our children. It was just too much. We wanted to stay in contact with her but Eva needed much more care and the future remained uncertain as to how sick she might one day be. I regret that meeting now. I wish we had never forsaken Little J. I never would have said, well, I can't take care of Samuel, Vincent, or Theodore. I would have just sucked it up. But that is what happened and that's just the way it is. So, whatever. There's so much I regret about the summer of 2011...
On August 15th 2011 we drove to Edmonton and Eva died at 9:15pm. While I was cradling my dead daughter in the ER and weeping and wailing I thought of the cross. John 19:26 says that when Jesus was on the cross he looked at his mother and also the disciple John, whom he loved and who was standing nearby. He said 'Woman, this is your son. Son this is your mother'. I always used to read that verse and think about how amazing it was that Jesus was looking after his mom even while he was in excruciating pain on the cross.
In the ER as I held my own dead child I felt Jesus speak to me and say 'Woman this is your daughter' referring to Little J. Finally I understood that passage from Mary's perspective. Mary wouldn't have been standing there grateful that Jesus was taking care of her she would have been screaming 'Jesus, Jesus, Noooo, I don't want John, I want you. You are my son. I don't want him, I want YOU'. Because Mary was a mom through and through. And as Jesus' mom she loved him as the precious child he was to her. She loved him like a mom. She loved him like I love Eva. She loved him like mothers the world over love their children in that unexplainable bond of love. And I sat in ER with my beautiful, lifeless daughter in my arms. As I wailed the death wail that you only hear come from the throat of a mother wailing over the body of her child, I raged. I did not want Little J. I wanted Eva. EvaEvaEva. Mary did not want John, she wanted Jesus. And as Mary had no choice 2000 years ago, neither did I have any choice 2 years ago.
As we drove home from Edmonton with an empty car seat in the back seat I phoned the social workers and said we would like Little J to stay placed with us. She stayed in respite for a few more weeks but moved back in with us in October 2011. Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. We were still in shock. Eva's first birthday was coming up on October 15th. What were we thinking? In hindsight I can see that we weren't thinking. And neither were the social workers, apparently.
I have long felt that it is God-ordained that Little J be in our family even while many parts of me have rebelled at the reality of it. Little J is only 8 months older than what Eva should be. Little J is a constant reminder of what I don't have in Eva. Little J complicates my grief over Eva. Unthinking folks have made unthinking comments to me that it's okay cause we have a little girl...are you f*cking kidding me? Little J is cute. She is precious. She is friendly. But she is not Eva. I can't ever expect her to be and it wouldn't be fair to either Little J or Eva anyway but it stabs me in the heart a little bit when she is cute and friendly and admired by people around me...has everyone forgotten that I should have TWO girls. That Little J in NO WAY makes the loss of Eva any easier. In fact, she makes it harder while, I, simultaneously, sincerely love Little J. She is a bright-eyed happy little girl who has her own room in my heart.
I feel so alone with my feelings about Little J. There is literally nobody who I can talk to about these emotions. I know bereaved parents and I can talk to them about all the emotional aspects of losing a child. I know adoptive parents and I can talk to them about all the emotional aspects of adopting a child. I know people who have chosen to adopt after their child died but no one who has had this mish mash of fostering, dying, adopting all mixed together, especially combined with a child the same gender and age as their beloved child in heaven.
I know that no amount of wishing is ever going to bring Eva back to me. There are no bargains to be made with God. I can only parent Little J, and all my children, in the best way I can while grieving my precious Eva and wondering how God can bring good from something so f*cked up but trusting that he can and hoping for restoration and peace that surpasses all understanding as I move forward. Picking up the pieces of my shattered life that once was so beautiful and full of promise. Putting those pieces back together in another way. A way I never dreamed or planned...but hoping for beauty nonetheless.
And there you have it, Little J and I in a nutshell.