She loved her kids!

She loved her kids!

It has been an emotionally exhausting week for me, so I haven't posted in a while.  I had been praying about how to continue sharing my birth mom's story, but the answer I received was not what I expected... or wanted.

Last Tuesday at 5:30 in the morning, my husband woke me up to tell me I needed to look at a text message that came in at 3 am from this mom's oldest daughter.  The message read, "I lost my mom tonight she is gone in heaven she died at midnight."  This was such a shock to see!  No one saw it coming.  No one knew what to do.  Five kids living with a single mom all lost the one who was their caregiver.  These little ones (2, 4, 7, 10, and 20) who have endured the trauma of foster care not once, but twice, now are orphaned.  All I could think about was that I wanted just one more conversation with this mom before she died.  

That day was a blur of activity.  I called two friends to watch all 8 kids for me, so I could be available for the family if they needed me.  I wasn't even sure if they would want me to come, but I just prayed for God to use me in whatever way He chose.  At about noon as I was driving away from having dropped off the kids, I received a text from the oldest daughter again, asking me if I would let the youngest boys, their dad, and his mom (who was watching them at the time) know what had happened to her mom.  I was shocked!  They didn't know?!  

My prayer for being available for God to use was being answered in a way I never, ever wanted it to be- and quickly.  I immediately called the grandma after getting her number and asked her for her address, so that I could share the news in person.  Then, I prayed.  And asked for prayer.  And took some deep breaths.  I had 20 minutes to prepare.  

When I arrived at the grandma's house, I was greeted at the door with searching eyes.  She knew it was bad news.  I hugged her weak body as I let her know the awful truth and helped her to a seat.  Then, one by one her three sons (whom she had called came home when I told her I was coming over) came into the house.  Each took the news in his own way, crumbling under the pressure of the grief.  The last to enter was the boys' dad.  He came in, looked directly into my eyes and asked me to tell him that she was ok.  I couldn't.  I had to tell him she was gone.  We all cried and hugged and the 2 year-old started wailing.    

There are so many questions they asked me as they tried to process.  How will they explain it to the kids when they start asking where their mom is?  Who will get to take the kids?  Will I fight for the boys to stay with them?  Will CPS get involved again and remove the kids?  I didn't have all the answers, but I did let them know I would do all I could to make sure the kids were in homes where they would be loved and cared for, and that I would help them in any way that I could.  

After four hours of helping them process, interacting with the boys, and then bringing the dad to and from the mom's house to pick up the boys stuff and look for birth certificates and social security cards (unsuccessfully for the boys at least), I headed back to pick up my own crew.  I remember telling the kids as they all piled into our big old van that I was so grateful that I had had the opportunity- through foster care- to tell this mom about Jesus.  It occurred to me then, that I was the ONLY one who ever shared the gospel of Jesus with her in a way she could understand.  She had been to church and read some of the Bible in the past, but she had told me last year that she never understood the messages or what the Bible said until I took the time to share it with her.  We prayed then and there, thanking God as a family for allowing us to be a part of her life for the past four years.  We had no regrets...and that felt GOOD.

Before last week, I was going to write a few posts about how our relationship grew over the years.  Now, it doesn't feel appropriate anymore, so I will just share the important details. It really began when we had invited this mom and dad to church with us, so that they could get extra visitation hours.  At the time, I thought it was a shot in the dark, but they eagerly took us up on it.  They came and kept on coming while we had their son in our care.  After he went back home, the mom and I kept in contact and started meeting for Bible studies intermittently.  Over the years, she asked for parenting advice, help with managing her household, and how to implement what the Bible says into her everyday life. It was all such a gradual process with two steps forward- one step back, but each time we met, I tried to share a little more of why I cared for her so much and how Jesus love is greater. 

You see, I have been forgiven by this wonderful man who I don't deserve to call my Savior.  I cannot get away from this body full of sin.  It is continually before me, and I deserved punishment for my selfishness, my bad attitudes, my hurtful words and actions, my rebellion.  It separates me from our holy and perfect God.  However, God loved me so much (I don't know why) that He sent Jesus to pay the horrible price- the punishment- for my sin on the cross.  He took the punishment and sin on his own body, so that all who put their hope in Him can be saved from God's wrath.  All of God's anger at sin came down on His own Son instead of me- and anyone else who will humble themselves, repent of their sin, and believe in His forgiveness.  This is such good news that I had to share it with my foster kids' mom.  She loved it and it gave her hope and strength.  Now, it gives me hope and strength knowing that Just Like That...She's Gone, but one day, I believe, I will see her again in heaven!


Katie O'Neil