I handed her the paper in the living room after dinner, “You need to read this” I simply said. I’d been waiting for hours to give it to her, knowing full well what it would mean to her, how the words would make their mark, knowing I had no choice but to show it to her. She glanced at it and knew right away. She didn’t even finish reading it.
Rylee has been writing Fatuma, her sponsored Compassion child, for seven years. They almost share a birthday but they’ve shared many words, colored pictures and family photos over the last several years. In the beginning I wrote the letters. She dictated to me what to say and I wrote. She would color or sign her name. But these past few years, she writes herself and shares life and love with her precious “sister” in Kenya.
A year and a half ago she came to me and asked if she could forego birthday and Christmas gifts and save money towards her years long dream of going to visit Fatuma and meet her face to face. And that’s exactly what she’s done. She opened a bank account and together with her brother also started an egg selling business to save enough money for a ticket to Kenya. She is close to the amount required for a ticket. Next year was the year we planned to go.
So when the letter came, the one that said Fatuma’s parents had taken her out of the program and she could no longer be our sponsor child, it absolutely broke her sweet heart. She started to cry and she did not stop for the rest of the evening. I even made her favorite cookies. She tried to smile and said a quiet “thank you”. But then returned to her spot on the couch where she rested her head for the evening. On her own initiative her little sister brought her out a birthday gift, one she’d bought with her own money, three weeks early, to give in hopes it would ease the sadness.
Who will make sure she is ok? Can we still go see her next year? The questions came through the tears. Will she have enough to eat? Why did they take her out of the program? Is there any way we can find her?
Hard questions. Ones I couldn’t answer. It took me two days to think I was ready to call Compassion and ask them for any more info they might have. Turns out I wasn’t ready at all. Our hearts are so intertwined with this sweet girl far away. I choked out questions and the young thing on the phone had no idea what to do with my tender heart. She read from the file on the computer. She answered the same questions twice. She listened.
There was nothing that could be done. The workers had gone to her house, she was well but her parents simply had made a decision. We could write one final letter. And that would be all. Rylee’s trip in September of next year that she had painstakingly saved for, would not look like the in-person reunion she had dreamed of. And she would have to wonder if her friend across the world was finding her way all right.
As we brushed shoulders in the kitchen and she crumbled in my arms again, I got this beautiful, heart-twisting glimpse of what real love looks like. And just like I wrote in my last post, it hurts. It hurts to love hard. There is cost beyond what you can possibly calculate to loving with abandon.
“God’s still good right?” I whispered. Yes. All the time. Always good. Not the good I’d choose of course. But always good. “If we didn’t care about her so much, this wouldn’t be such a loss. Don’t doubt for a minute that God has a plan for you, for your journey, for everything. We just have to ask and wait. He’ll show us.”
Love and loss go together. Today at lunch as kids admired my pendant necklace, the one with one of Grampy’s ties encased in it, they asked about him. It’s been five years this month. Five years since my husband returned from the search and rescue mission to find his father in the mountains. Audrey was a baby then. She asked lots of questions and pondered how very hard it must have been for her daddy to find his father frozen by the lake. I’ve held the necklace between my fingers dozens of times today. Wishing he were here to do silly things with our kids, to be proud of who his son is, to love my cooking and pour me another glass of sparkling cider.