Life is full of ups and downs, but the downs are much more intense. I liken it to weather. If you think back to some of the nicest weather you have ever experienced; likely it was warm, sunny, and if you are like me, it was on or near water. Nice, pleasant memories. Now think back to the worst weather you have been in. I am willing to bet it is a much more intense memory, rain, wind, lightning; I bet you can still hear it, smell it, perhaps taste it, but definitely re-live it, and if you are like me, likely it was on water which makes it much much much worse. I bet if you think about it long enough, you will feel your heart pitter a little.
It is my observation life is the same. I can think back to the highs of my life, the good weather, and there has been a lot of it. When I think back to the storms, there have not been nearly as many of them, but they have affected me much more adversly. They have left life long impressions on my mind, heart and soul. Today was one of those storms, and this my friends was a catergory five, one of the top five of my life, and I would venture the same for Tra. Today at 5 pm we drove to the gas station 1 mile from our house, like we have for years. Poignent to the day, it was raining, not a hard rain, but a consistant drizzle, the worst kind. There we met the man that was to take our daughter away from us forever.
The day was Sunday the 19th of July 2009, a day that is now forever seared in my heart. I should have known when I walked out to start my car and it was dead, and the van was dead, with the jumper cables already at church with Tra. Apparently an air-soft battle the night prior had resulted in the cars being used for shelter, with the windows rolled down and the keys left on all night. An hour later I was finally able to get my hands on some cables and got the cars running. I knew it would be an emotional day. I had felt from the time I got out of bed that my head was in a fog; sounds were distant, thoughts unclear, numb and trying not to think about 5 pm.
In church, Pastor Steve called us forward to pray for our family, which pretty much emptied all our tanks and the tanks of all those praying for us. It was a strong, deep emotional time. In some small way, it was reassuring, but it did not take away the inevitable pain, it just unleashed it outwardly manifesting itself on our entire family.
The afternoon was spent with Jo time, coloring, building a rabbit, playing with a rabbit, eating bad food, crying, praying and much more crying. Then faster than a speeding bullet, it was 4:45. Tracy worked to finish packing Jo’s box, partially filling it with the salt from here tears. Our intent was to meet at the same gas station we always had, in two cars then off to church.
In my heart I prayed that his beat up old red GMC would not be there, but soon I knew that was not the case, and my heart and hopes sank. I pulled in, not making eye contact, me and my boys. Soon after Tra and the girls pulled in behind me. I knew I was on the edge of a breakdown, I could feel it in my stomach, knots, butterflies, vomit, pain, it was all there. As I walked back to her car I grabbed the blue tote full of Jo’s memories from our house. As I handed them to the man I said “here is her stuff” some of the last words I was able to utter. When I turned around around, Jo was locked around Tra’s neck, small tears flowing from here eyes, and sobs from Tra’s, I was soon to follow. Then it was my turn, and as she locked around me I could feel my strength releasing. I could see she was not nearly as troubled to leave me as she was her mom, but still visibly upset. As I gave her back to Tra, I fought back the tears, clenching my jaw and clearing my throat. I had talked to the man already explaining the huge responsibility he was now taking on his shoulders. I had more I wanted to say. I had big plans, perhaps one of my greatest speeches ever, filled with words of wisdom that would cause him to change his mind. But as I looked at Jo, now crying in his arms, the only thing that came out of my mouth was a moan. I ran back to my car not looking here nor there, managing to get out “you better take good care of her, bye I love you Jo”. Then I sat in my car in front of my boys and sobbed.
It was over, a day that I prayed would never come, and prayed hard. A day that dozens had prayed would never come, but it had. I felt anger, ready to punch a hole through a wall, but I don’t like doing sheet rock work, I felt betrayal, why had it come to this? It makes no earthly sense. I felt loss, loss of a child, loss of a loved one. I felt fear, fear for her and her life, but most of all I felt pain. Pain that she will always think we abandoned her, that we didn’t want her, that she was never “ours”. Pain of all the memories that we had yet to make, all the growth we had yet to see, and the vision of what God had planned for her. Pain for Tra, Pain for my kids Pain for me, but mostly Pain for Jo.
That was yesterday, and the pain remains. I imagine with time the pain will subside. But we will still pray, day and night for Jo, we will be thankful for the great weather we have had with her, her three birthday parties, our trip to Orlando, picnics, fishing on the boat, picking berries,tea parties, building bears, Christmas’s, sledding and so much more. But we will never be able to forget the storm we have just experienced. Do we still have hope? Yes. Do we still have faith? Yes, but probably not as much as we should. As I look out my window I see the drizzle still falling and I know the worst thing about this type of rain is that unlike a torrential down pour, it tends to last for a long time.