Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dying, Grief, and Rebirth

It was an awful dream. Gruesome and bloody and terribly disturbing. It came when we were in China, the night after Hengxin's first major shutdown and I wondered why it seems like the dreams that are the most telling to me have always had a gruesome element to them.

I dreamt I was still in college, and as with most dreams, much of what I saw made little sense or was strangely bizzare. But the one thing that was perfectly clear was the terrible aftermath.

I had come home from class to find police tape restricting the entrance to my dorm room. A flurry of investigators were inside my room, taking pictures and collecting evidence.

"Your roommate died today...murdered," the policeman told me off-handedly. "But feel free to go on in and go about your business. Just ignore us while we finish up our work. We'll be done and out of your hair soon."

I ducked under the police tape and was aghast. Blood was splattered throughout the room that we had shared. It was horrifying. Choked with grief and shock, it was staggering to comprehend the loss of my friend and the horror of what had just happened. My world had been completely turned upside down and I knew I would never be the same again. There had been a terrible tragedy and I had been asked to pretend that nothing had happened.

I woke up, still overcome with grief from my terrible dream. I looked over to the little girl we had just adopted a few days before, sleeping restlessly in the room next to me, and realized this dream had been about her and her life.

She has had a hard life. Abandoned at the age of five, she remembers many of the details of the terrible day that forever changed the course of her life- the day her biological father abandoned her. She remembers her parents, her siblings, and many of the painful aspects of her first few years. Life has always been difficult for her, even when she was home with her biological parents.

She was then sent to an orphanage, where she would spend the next six years bouncing between foster families. Developing deep friendships with her foster siblings only to have them severed as they were either adopted or shuffled around to other foster families. The only permanent thing about her life was the very nature of its impermanence. Nothing stayed. Everything eventually left. And left behind in the wake of so much tumult and uncertainty was a small little girl, with medical issues and grief of her own, expected to pick up the pieces and continue on her merry little way. She speaks of it matter-of-factly. It is what it is, she says.

This girl is a fighter and I am continually amazed at her resilience- at her ability to be cheerful and kind and selfless when life has given her so many lemons. But it still breaks my heart.

This weekend was tough. Friday morning she was admitted to the hospital for tachycardia and severe hyperthyroidism. Her endocrinologist said he had never in his career seen thyroid levels so high and that he couldn't send her home until she was more stable. Her tiny heart was racing at 180 beats per minute- dangerously high- but again, she continued to smile and said she felt fine. The doctor had confirmed what I had suspected from the first day I met my cheerful little girl- that she is much sicker than she looks.

And then came the tests: MRI, EKG, echocardiogram, ultrasounds, blood draws galore, and the promise of dozens of more tests and visits to every possible type of specialist in the coming weeks and months.

I once heard grief described as the waves of a storm on a sea, pummeling a traveling ship at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. As she lay on a hospital gurney after eight hours of being unable to eat, and an hour and a half of being poked and prodded by an ultrasound technician, she was hit by another wave. Curled up in the fetal position, she sobbed. Tears streamed down her face and her tiny body trembled. It was just too much for such a young mind and heart to be taking in all at once.

Although I believe she truly likes us, and possibly even loves us, there is still a chasmic grief for the life and the little sense of security she left behind. There probably always will be. Although we will love her forever and are here to stay, no amount of love can ever reverse the many terrible things that have happened in her past.

Not to say that her life can never become beautiful or move on- but for there to be a rebirth, there has to first be a death, or a series of them. The death of her medical symptoms. The death of blame she places on herself for the course of her life. The death of being an orphan. The death of feeling like she has to do this all on her own.

As we sat in the hospital room and I watched her undergo test after test, I thought of the beautiful irony that this all was happening on Easter weekend- during the very days that tell the ultimate story of death and rebirth. The Son of God, who Himself was well-acquainted with grief, was surely buoying up this precious but wounded daughter of mine during her grief.

After the wave passed, this little ship put a smile back on her face and resumed her teasing of the doctors and nurses, and making me laugh with her silly antics. We read books, strung beads, and spent way too much time playing games on the IPad the hospital had lent to her.

When we were in the hospital, she told me that when her birth mother would leave her home alone to care for her younger brother, as she did every day while she went to work, they ate ice cream to pass the time. I had to smile to myself. In the four weeks that we've had her, we've made it our little tradition to have ice cream every day. I didn't realize that this was perhaps why our little tradition is so dear to her. It is as a link to her biological brother who was also torn from her that terrible day.

On this weekend that we celebrate the beauty of death and rebirth, I give thanks to God for letting me witness such a beautiful rebirth in such a precious daughter of His. Because of Him, she will live again.

A dozen roses from her dad as a welcome home gift from the hospital,
as well as soft blanket with her name embroidered on it.
We still aren't sure who brought it by but she loves it! Thank you!


Jo's Corner said...

I will be praying for your daughter. So much hurt, yet so much joy and love to discover.

Cher said...

beautifully written and so tender.