Tag Archives: Joel

When Kids Cry

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As a Mom to four kids – ages 8, 7, 6, and 5 – I have discovered the wide variety of reasons for crying. Most of the time it’s because someone snatched away a toy, or being told it’s bedtime or naptime. Or on other days, it’s because of being put in time-out, realizing a special item is broken or is missing, or simply being told “no.”

But this past week was different; it brought sad tears as we learned of Todd’s grandmother’s death. Nana was a remarkable woman – larger than life! She was a loving servant who gave not for her own gratification, but solely for the benefit of others.  She was inspiring as she provided an annual Christmas to group of homeless women in Georgetown, she served continuously as an adult volunteer in Job’s Daughter International, she was an active member in two churches, and family was priority #1. My two favorite Nana Christmas gifts of all time were a cow purchased for the Heifer Project in my honor, and a Chinese eye-chart t-shirt. Nana had a knack for finding creative ways to show that she valued what you did.

We tried to prepare the kids as best we could for what they might experience or feel as we traveled for the funeral.  We gave them the following advice:

  1. It’s okay to have different feelings about Nana dying. We feel sad because we will not be able to hug her again. But we also feel happy and relieved knowing she is not in any more pain and she is in Heaven with Jesus.
  2. It’s okay to cry. It’s also okay not to cry. And if a special memory about Nana makes you smile or laugh, it’s okay.
  3. If you don’t understand something, ask Mommy or Daddy. We will do our best to explain it.
  4. The funeral home is a place where family and friends can get together to talk about Nana’s life and what they will remember about her.
  5. Death is a part of life, meaning every one will die one day.  Life is beautiful so we must treasure each day that we have, and make it count by living out our faith.

As we took our time as a family with her at the funeral home, there is nothing quite like the tears of child when it comes from sadness. Having never dealt with death or dying before, Quentin and Elise gained a sudden realization that Nana was gone – not just sleeping. Their tears were raw and powerful, and it broke my heart to feel their pain. For them, it made sense – this life is temporary. It was amazing to watch Quentin’s courage in comforting his sister by telling her that “we’ll see Nana again in Heaven one day when we die.” He told me later on that his first thoughts upon seeing Nana were of curious wonder and knowing he would miss her.

Elise had reached a moment when the emotional burden of everything going on just broke her down. She cried a lot. Through her tears, all she could say was that “Nana died.” It’s got to be hard when your 5 years old to try to understand what all of this means. Todd took Elise for a little walk out of the room where she finally calmed down. She stuck close to my side for most of the night, but easily found distractions to occupy her mind.

Jasmine and Joel knew it was sad time, and as they struggled to comprehend what it all meant, you could tell they didn’t like seeing Nana so still. But with a precious smile on her face, Jasmine told me that “Nana looks pretty and I like her purple shirt.” I think that having Down syndrome is a blessing because even in her awareness of seeing people upset, Jasmine saw the simple beauty of who Nana was.

Joel was able to meet Nana for the first time on the day after Christmas. This meeting is now so very special to us.  Throughout the night at the funeral home, Joel’s constant question to us was, “Nana wake up?”  I had no other reply than to say, “No baby, Nana can’t wake up.” We stood together as our family of 6 before her casket to say our final farewells. I’ve never been more proud of my children than in that moment.

Each of them spoke to Nana telling her they loved her and would miss her. They thanked her for everything she had done for them and for having all the noisy, dancing animals at Christmas time. It was obvious she has left an indelible mark on their lives.

I had no idea how my kids would navigate this idea of death and dying, and the reality is that we will experience it again with other loved ones, friends, and eventually, ourselves.  It’s really true when they say that kids are resilient.  I’m so thankful for the life of Barbara Sanders Ridge and the impact she had on my life and the life of my children.

What’s the Game Plan Now?

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People who know me best know that I like to have a plan in place. I’m usually good if the plan changes, but I need to know where we’re headed or where we want to end up. I know I want to end up in Hong Kong soon. Well, actually I want to end up in Lynchburg…with Joel at home with us. That’s the end point.

So our mail was blessed today with our notice of action (I-797) on our I-800: Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative. It was provisionally approved! Why only provisionally, you may ask. In order to officially approve the I-800 there are a few more things that have to happen.  I’ll try my best to explain the “game plan.”

1. Our petition approval gets transferred to the US Consulate in Hong Kong (takes up to 2 weeks for this to happen – so by June 1st).

2. US Consulate notifies Mother’s Choice (the orphanage) when the approval and family file arrives in Hong Kong.

3. Mother’s Choice sends legal documents to the US Consulate for further processing.

4. Once processed, US Consulate issues an Article 5 letter and sends it over to the Social Welfare Dept (HK Government).

5. SWD applies for the High Court Order to transfer guardianship to our adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services (can take up to 8 weeks from date of issue of Article 5 letter to get HCO – so we’re looking at mid-to-late July).

6. While waiting on the HCO, Mother’s Choice will arrange for Joel’s medical Visa appointment to clear him for travel to the US. Mother’s Choice is preparing Joel for all of this and introducing him to us through our videos and pictures.

7. Once Joel’s visa and passport are issued, along with the HCO, we’ll be traveling within 2 weeks of the HCO date (so hypothetically around the 1st or 2nd week of August).

So, we roughly have a little more than 2 months to get ready…and a big part of this remains raising funds for our plane tickets to and from (approximately $4000). We’re having a yard sale on Saturday, June 18th - so please support us if you can through donating items to sell or coming to shop. Please keep praying for Joel and his transition from life in China to life in the US. He will have so much love and support, but it is going to be critical to have your prayers for him. Ask God to hold his heart close to His and comfort him when he gets scared or overwhelmed with adapting to a new life.

My two groovy girls were talking about Joel during our road trip back to Lynchburg yesterday.  They asked when he was coming home and I said, “I hope in August.” I didn’t know I’d get our letter from Homeland Security today. So now, we’ve got a game plan that takes us there. Can’t wait to land!!

Groovy Girls 5/22/11