family fostering God's love

The Empty Cot: Our Journey of Grief & Hope

July 10, 2019

It has been a month since our little girl left us. Image stills from the past month remain vivid in my mind’s eye. After all, how do we deal with the sea of emotions that continues to engulf us at the ebb and flow of each tide?

It was a familiar sight each morning to wake up to her gentle calls. Alas those days are over, and we wake up each morning to an empty cot, a tangible reminder that she is no longer in our lives.


This blog post serves as a diary recalling all that has happened since the last week before she left, and it records the raw emotions imprinted upon our hearts:

One week more.

She returns to us after a visit to her birth family for one last time before our final parting. It’s been almost a week since she last left us, and our lives have gone on as if she had never come.

But beneath the veneer of normalcy, there is still an aching pain; a certain sadness about the finality of the parting.
I really do not know what to expect for the upcoming week; how we will be living each day knowing that it will be the last time she is with our family; knowing that our little ray of sunshine will no longer be with us in but a blink of an eye. 
How can we ever forget the one year she has spent with us? How will we ever forget her sweet smiles in the morning, her persistent requests for food, her warm and indulgent kisses? Those memories will forever be imprinted on our hearts.
We are truly saddened that she will no longer be a part of our lives.
Baby, it is our honour and our privilege to be your family, even if you do not remember us when you grow up. 
We will always love you.

This is our family of four; no longer a family of five. Every photo we take is a reminder of her absence in our lives.
The Last Day.

Dawn. 

I sit silently at the edges of your cot.
Soaking in the beauty of your peaceful form.
Asleep.
As soundly as a baby.
Your serene and secure sleep brings a smile to my face.

I love you my little girl.

Yet I know this will be the last time I will be this close to you.
My misty eyes reveal the inner sadness of my soul.
The weariness after a long and tired night.

I love you my little girl.

You have been with us a year and just a bit.
Yet it seems a lifetime away.
When you first came into our home
And stole the hearts of all you met.

Tonight we will say our final goodbyes.
And send you off in a Moses basket.
Our hearts are in turmoil at what the future holds.
Yet we know the God who brought you to us
Will be the God who will care for you
For the rest of your journey.

I love you my little girl.

And may you sleep forever secure
In the hands of our God.
All the days of your life.

Amen.

What does the future hold? No one knows. Only God.

Parting.

I seated her in the car, with her Pooh Bear in one hand and her Doggy in the other. 


She seemed peaceful; more serene than she had ever been; unlike the situations before this. Yet she looked at me with soulful eyes as if in half-acceptance of what is to come.

As I kissed her on the forehead, I whispered gently in her ear, “R, I will love you forever. Goodbye my dear child.”

The tears flowed freely; hers as if a mirror of mine.

And soon the door was closed and the car was gone; the little girl gone forever.

Gone forever from our presence but not our hearts.

Parting was not sweet sorrow; instead it left an aching pain and an emptiness in our hearts.

The morning after.  


Moments just shy of dawn.

The morning birds begin their daily chorus.
How are you my darling?
Did you sleep in your new bed
Wondering why we were not around by your side?

The morning rain breaks through the stillness of the night.
How are you my darling?
Will you call for us
When you open your eyes
Only to realise that we’re not there
No cheeky grin
And large broad smile
No rolling around the cot
And peering through the curtains.

The occasional car splashes through the silent streets.
How are you my darling?
I cannot imagine the things that you will never do
Because you are no longer by our side
No more calling “Dere Dere” in that sweet and affectionate voice.
No more insisting on “Mum Mum” as you look around the room for food.
No more resting your head against your Mummy, and closing your eyes in such a loving and peaceful manner.

From today it will be a new day.
And we really cannot tell what the future will hold.
An empty canvas
And nothing to tell us whether you’re happy or not.
So we can only rest on the promises of the past.
The promises of the One who has never changed
Since the beginning of the world.

He has seen many children as they wake and as they sleep.
And His heart has been broken so many times.
Just like how ours has been.

From today it will be a new day.
And we will continue to hope in Christ.
For He has been our past and our present.
And He will be our future.
Just as how He will be there for her as well.

Dawn.

If we were to look to the past for answers we would only find hurt and pain. So we need to look to the future; to keep our eyes on God, and to seek out the hope that is in Jesus.

Three days after.

Back to my favourite book of the Bible as I attempt to make sense of all that’s been going on.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

-Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For if we have never been born, how can we ever die?
And if we have never wept nor mourned, how would we know what it means to truly laugh and dance?
Now is the time to deal with the wars within my heart; the internal conflicts within my soul.

Now is the time for peace.

This was the view as I read God’s Word three days after she left us. And the breaking of dawn was a metaphor for the hope of something I had not yet seen, but would experience one day.

One month after.  

I really cannot imagine that it has been one month since our little girl left us. For most days it has been life as usual, living as though the child had never entered our lives. We conduct training workshops as usual, attend to counselling clients as usual, do the housework as usual, school the boys as usual; the list goes on. Yet there are tangible reminders of that one year in our lives – from the empty cot in our bedroom, to the high chair and feeding table, to the numerous baby toys and clothes that still remain. 

And there are the emotional reminders, the mental images that remain etched in our memories – her insatiable love for food, her jubilant laughter, her constant seeking out of her older brothers… It’s almost as though a part of her remains in every room of our house and everywhere we go – from the beach, to the coffee shops, to our favourite holiday places in Malaysia. The memory of her life with us is very much imprinted in our minds and in our hearts.

We often went to the beach with little R. Today it was different. Everything is different.


All of us miss her deeply; and we have cried on numerous occasions, for different reasons, and during various situations. Grief is like an onion and the many layers are peeled off one by one – but yet it seems the grief is still there, and it is no less intense than the day it first began.

Do we regret fostering? Do we regret investing so much of our time and our emotions into a little girl who has left us and will probably not remember us should we meet her years down the road? This is something that people have asked us; with a number of them citing the pain of the departure as the reason why they have not gone into fostering. 

But our answer is clear. There is no moment when we regret fostering. The pain, the hurts and the grief are very real; and our family is still deep in the throes of sadness. But our hearts and our minds are clear. We chose to foster as this is something on the heart of God, and should we get another opportunity, we would not hesitate to foster again. Even if the entire cycle of love and hurt and grief and pain is repeated. There is nothing better we can do for a vulnerable child than to provide him or her with a home where there is love and acceptance. There is nothing better we can do for a vulnerable child than to show him or her the love of God; the love that was modelled for us by our Heavenly Father.

Our boys miss their little sister dearly. But they tell us they will continue to share the love of Jesus to anyone who enters our home. 


I was deeply moved when I read the Book of Ecclesiastes during my time of sadness. What I learnt is that if we had never been born, how can we ever die? And if we have never wept or mourned, how would we ever know what it means to truly laugh and dance? Life is lived by experiencing the full range of emotions – happiness, joy, hope, and also sadness, hurt and pain. 

I still do not know how long more will I continue to grief at the loss of our child. But I am comforted that our Heavenly Father grieves along with us. He is there in our sorrow and pain; and He will be there in our hope and our joy. We will press on in the race marked out for us; since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses – faithful ones who have gone before us. 

 For we walk by faith and not by sight.

We do not know about tomorrow. But we can rest secure that everything is in the hands of God.


 
:(Th

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