Sherri Gragg

Juggler of words and children…collector of pottery shards

Love Has Come to Stay

Four years ago today.  As the two of us stare at that first photo of us together on a rooftop in Haiti, I am struck most by her eyes.  They look…weary.  Battleworn.  Impossibly saturated with grief. 

She touches the picture gently with a mocha brown finger.  “You are smiling,” she says.  “I am not.”

“Smiling” hardly covers it.  I was beaming- so thrilled to hold my daughters for the first time after almost two years of longing for them.

But she was broken.

Soon after that photo was taken, she began to wail, pacing back and forth.  I tried to hold her, but she would not let me.  I offered a snack.  She would not eat.  I tempted her with bright, new toys.  She turned away.

I didn’t understand it at all then.  The orphanage told me they had explained I was coming and that she was excited.  I felt rejected and helpless.  If only I had known then, what I know now- that the beautiful little girl in my arms had suffered more in the previous two years than would have seemed possible to me. 

The orphanage undoubtably saved her life, but it was also a place of such desperate hunger that she resorted to eating anything she could scrounge to fill her little stomach.  A lime given to her for a bee sting.  Her own fingernails.  A piece of plastic once….

It was a place of terror too, where the very people entrusted to offer her care were often the ones who injured her the most viciously.  She learned to be wary of any change for fear that it would bring some new abuse.

I stare into those deep brown eyes in the photo, filled to the brim with sorrow.  How could she have known that love had come to stay?

I wish I had known then, what I know now.

“Look at your eyes,” I say.  “So tired.  So sad.  No wonder you didn’t trust me…”

She scoots closer to me, and I wrap an arm around her.  Our eyes fill with tears as I recount to her one of her own memories, which she has since forgotten.

“How do you remember this stuff?” she asks.

“That is my job,” I tell her.  “To remember things for you, so that you don’t have to anymore.  I don’t know how it works, but it seems that sometimes when you tell me the bad things, it is like I carry them afterwards, instead of you.  Then, you are not so sad about them.”

“But then you’re sad!” she says.

“Yes, but I am okay,” I reply.

Ok?  Yes.  But I will never be the same.  Each recounting of the nightmares she lived in that place have carved deep, winding paths through my soul. 

“I’m still a little sad,” she says.

“Yes,” I reply honestly.  “And you always will be .  It won’t keep you from the life God has for you, but you will carry it always.”

She nods solemnly with more understanding than should be possible for a nine-year old child.

Then, like sunshine breaking through the clouds, she smiles radiantly through her tears, wraps her arms around me and hugs me tightly.

“I love you!” she says.

I hold her for a long moment and tell her I love her too, and how much I appreciate her giving me the chance.  Then, she bounds off to bed- full, healthy, safe, and strong.

Because love has come to stay.

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11 comments on “Love Has Come to Stay

  1. Betsy
    November 11, 2009

    So beautiful…. I thank you for bringing these precious girls into my life. They are such a blessing.

  2. watchingthewaters
    November 11, 2009

    This is interesting, Sherri… while my other kids (at a different horrible orphanage) were able to tell us their (horror) stories right from the beginning.. the child who was at the same O as yours never did. Not any stories, actually, positive or negative. She delighted in watching the video we had made of the O, but I think that was more the novelty of seeing herself on the tv screen. I think that most of her silence was due to language processing disorders (she has auditory processing disorder and speech problems.. so she just was not ABLE to communicate for a long time) combined with what seems to be a non-existent memory (which has also complicated her learning). Within 3 months, she would look at pictures of the nanny who had cared for her for 2 years, and did not know her name.

    What heartbreak and joy, intermingled, adoption is.. who knew?
    Corey

  3. Jessica Eaton
    November 13, 2009

    Sherri,

    I am a friend of Betsy’s but I feel as if I know you and your family in a special way through seeing pictures and hearing stories. I just wanted to let you know how touching this piece is, and all for matter are. I find you such an inspiration and think you and your family are amazing! God has truly blessed your wonderful family!

    Jessica

  4. david
    November 14, 2009

    tears

  5. jel
    November 15, 2009

    glad she has a loving home now ! 😉
    thanks

  6. david
    November 17, 2009

    i am moved by your love for these children and impressed by your ability to tell their story

  7. Cate
    November 19, 2009

    We’ve had these exact conversations with our little ones these last couple of weeks. They are not as far along in healing as your baby. So when they are having a really big feeling, I tangibly put my hands out to have them give me their hurts, feelings, memories.

    I love the tenderness you always communicate between the two of you. 🙂

  8. david
    November 26, 2009

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family

  9. Jayleigh
    December 5, 2009

    I continue to marvel at your telling of the story of these girls coming to be a part of your family. I am weeping as I comment just now because God is so like that… we tell Him our hearts and then we’re OK and He carries it around.

    Your love for your children is so beautiful.

  10. tara
    December 9, 2009

    Checking in on you. Beautiful words and thoughts … God is good and He heals. I’ve needed some of my own this year. Prayers for you and yours.

  11. david
    December 17, 2009

    a blessed Christmas to you all. God has given you such great gifts to share.
    Much Love in Christ, our Savior

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2009 by in adoption, children, family, parenting, thankfulness.
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