I've avoided this post for a long time, but I don't think I can do it anymore. To do so is almost an insult to happy memories and treasured blessings. Christeal deserves better than that.
Last Thursday I was babysitting for Julie. It's been about three weeks since she's been to my house. She came inside and let out a little gasp when she saw my family room. "Oh!" She pointed to the wall where a purple toy chest used to be. "It looks so empty now without Christeal's things. How sad!"
I thought I was doing okay with this loss. But Julie's acknowledgment of it brought it right to the surface. I immediately started to cry. And couldn't stop. I sobbed the whole time she was gone. I sobbed as I did my dishes and made her children lunch. Jessi was playing on the kitchen floor and out of the blue she looked up and asked me, "Is Christeal taking a nap?" I had to explain to her that Christeal wasn't here anymore and that made me cry harder.
I miss that little girl. I miss her smiles and her hugs. I miss her saucy attitude and temper tantrums. I miss her asking to watch Nemo and Toy Story eight times a day. I miss seeing her chubby soft body in the tub and snuggling her on my lap in a fluffy warm towel, my lips pressed to her wet hair. I miss reading to her about how hands are not for hitting and watching her rock her baby dolls and wrap them in blankets. I miss listening to her prayers...
"Bless Joowie, bless Skyboo, bless Colby, bless Joey, bless Abby, bless Joowie, bless Skyboo, bless Joowie, bless Nemo, bless Nemo, and Nemo..."
I miss Beka bringing her to me first thing in the morning, little face swollen from sleep, clutching her blankie and Jessie doll, naked because she always undressed herself during the night. I miss her kisses and her funny faces, I miss getting after her for washing her hands in the toilet and for coloring all over my walls.
But I'm not the only one who misses her. Each of my kids has shed quiet tears during the night and needed reassurance during the day. Her presence is felt everywhere. Sunday morning Scott and Ian were looking at videos that Ian made on Scott's computer with the web cam. I was folding laundry when I heard her little voice. At some time Ian made a video of Christeal and he and Scott smiled and laughed as they watched her. I had to go in the bathroom and cry.
A week after she left Ian was doing chores, washing walls to earn some extra money. I noticed he was scrubbing some marker left by his little sister. He said, "Mom, I really miss Christeal."
I decided to make a phone call. I called Christeal's mom and asked her if we could have a visit. Arrangements were made for Christeal to spend the night with us. I went to their new apartment to pick her up. When the door opened Christeal was standing there. Her eyes got so big and sparkly. She threw her arms around my legs and cried, "MOMMY!" She took me by the hand and said, "Come see my room." She then proceeded to take me on a tour of her new home. She was so proud of having her own room with a toddler bed and a closet full of toys. During the tour she would spontaneously stop and lift up her arms to me. I'd pick her up and she would snuggle into my neck and pat my back and say, "Mommy."
I knew she missed me, but it was also clear that she was happy in her new home with her real mom and dad. We have a good and open relationship with Christeal's parents. They are very good about keeping in contact and Christeal's mom even asked me if I would be willing to be a daycare provider for Christeal. I know that my family's role in her life is not over. I don't know what is in store. I just know that right now, things are different. She no longer lives in our home. She just visits once in a while. And her absence is a big hole, physically and spiritually. But not for one second do I regret being her foster mom. It was the right thing to do and my family received tremendous blessings because of it, the biggest blessing being Christeal herself. I knew going into the relationship that there was a good chance this little girl would not stay forever. And I was okay with that. My family was okay with that. And even though it hurts, we are still okay with that. She was with us during a critical time in her life. A time when her parents needed help and she needed a safe place to stay while they received that help. And almost one year later, she's been able to return to her family. A family that worked hard and did everything that was required of them. In Christeal's case, it wasn't just a child that was saved. It was a whole family. So even though I cry and hurt, I know I've done exactly as my Heavenly Father wanted me to do. Because not only is Christeal His child, so are her parents, and He loves them the same.
A few days ago I got an email from my resource family coordinator (foster care boss) asking me if I was ready for another placement. I had to tell her not yet, but maybe in the future... a little boy?