Category: Abandoned Children

Leviathan Flees

For six weeks, Spring had been bringing fresh, mild days to New York but my body was hunched in the chair, my arms wrapped tightly around me as if to ward off a winter that refused to relinquish it’s hold; the warm sun had not penetrated the thick, chill fog that hung about me. My eyes had been red and swollen for several days… Ever since I’d written the letter to God… Ever since the words had spilled from my pen: ‘They lied to me.’

best woman crying sad sketchThe letter ended there. Its preamble had merely been an ineffective delaying tactic. And before the ink seeped into the paper, misery unleashed its power, left me with little except wet, salt-stung cheeks and eyes gritty with sand. Warmth fled. Laughter was unthinkable. Only fog remained. It penetrated to my depths, filled every empty space; I was a heavy blob of tears.

“How are you?” my therapist inquired after my hand reached for a wad of tissues to dab at dripping eyes and nose.

My lower lip trembled. The tissues made a quick swipe at my nose. My head shook. My nose sniffed damply and loudly. “I know what it is,” I whimpered. My face screwed itself up. The stream of tears burst its banks. Two more damp quick sniffs and then, “I know what I’m so afraid of.” My throat swallowed, my chest heaved up and down. “They lied to me,” my voice was a hoarse whisper.

My therapist leaned forward, “What do you mean?”

“When they sent me away,” more swallowing, more damp sniffs. Pained composure descended for a moment. “Papa sat me on his desk. I’d drawn some maraschino cherries for him. He took the drawing, told me it was beautiful, tacked it to the cork board above his desk,” the sniffing came again in short, sharp, moist bursts. My chest heaved out clicking breaths: huhnh, huhnh, huhnh, huhnh, huhnh!. The wet, shredded tissues scrubbed at my eyes and nose.

“He told me they were sending me away.” My face scrunched up as the words left my mouth. “He said they wanted me to be safe while they found the bad man, the man who hurt me.” My hand raised itself up to wipe at the liquid running from my nose. “I told him, ‘But I will never see you again.’ Papa pulled me against him and said, ‘Of course you will. You will be home before you know it.’ I shook my head against his chest and cried. My tears soaked through his sweater. I can feel the wool against my cheek. The warm, wet, woolly scent is in my nose,” my hand stroked my cheek where it had pressed against Papa’s chest.

After another loud sniff, I continued, “I told him I needed him. That I really would never see him again. He said, ‘You must be my brave little girl. And I will be right here if you need me.’ He held me away and looked into my face, ‘If you need me, draw maraschino cherries for me and ask Siobhan to send them. I’ll come right away.’ He held me close again, ‘We must make sure you’re safe. And as soon as the bad man is found, you will come right home.'”

My body shook. My hand reached for a wad of dry tissues. My chest tried to pull air into my blocked nose. My arms hugged my body tighter as it rocked to and fro.

“But what do you mean that they lied?”

My forehead scrunched. Why didn’t he understand? I took a deep breath, “He sent me away from the danger but they stayed and the danger killed them. He knew he was staying with the danger. He knew they would be killed. But he lied and said I’d be home before I knew it. He told me to send the maraschino cherries but he was dead and there wasn’t anybody to receive them. He’d never be able to come,” my voice tried to scream through the dampening tears.

When my breath eased “And Marmar knew too. She cried when I left. I can see her there. She cried so hard, Papa was supporting her. I had told her that I would never see her again just like I told Papa. But she said, ‘Don’t worry, my Lyssa. God will take good care of you. You’ll be home soon.’ But when I left, her heart was being ripped away and she knew it.”

My chest shook out breaths in short clicks: huhnh, huhnh, huhnh, huhnh, huhnh! Except for the wet, clicking noise, the room remained silent.

Finally, my therapist asked, “Did Professor Cumberlan learn when they died?”

The tears, though suspended, waited just within my eyes to burst forth again. With a loud sniff, my nose attempted to pull a breath past the congestion, “About three weeks after they sent me away. Probably a little less. They were walking in the park near our home. Someone shot them.” My forehead scrunched itself, “It’s as if I can feel what happened to them. Papa was shot in the neck. My head wants to snap to the side the way his must have. Marmar was shot in the abdomen. I can feel a big wound in my body.” Leaking tears quickly reverted to a torrent that weighed my head down and pulled me into a deeper slump.

“Small children often have a close connection with their parents,” he told the top of my head. “It’s not unusual that you would feel your parent’s deaths. But I think you’re wrong. I don’t think they lied to you.”

My head raised itself. My eyes examined his face. Another loud, wet sniff brought in enough air to whisper, “What do you mean?” Tears spilled over leaving salt tracks on my dark cotton skirt.

“You’re looking at it from a child’s perspective. You were afraid you’d never see them again. Somehow, you may have had a strong sense that you would never see them again. But they didn’t know. Three weeks isn’t a very long time. If your father knew they were in danger, he would have left just as he left South America.” My therapist took a breath and shaped each word clearly and precisely, “Your father loved you. He wanted you to be safe.” My mouth shaped itself into a small O as my head nodded slightly in agreement; the tears had subsided once again. “He didn’t set you up to be disappointed. He did what I would have done. He made sure you were safe and that you had a way to contact him.” My mouth widened itself to a pained pout. “He didn’t know. Neither did your mother. They believed you were in danger. But there was no reason for them to believe that they were also in danger.”

A hoarse squeak left my mouth, “Really?”

He leaned forward and looked directly in my eyes, “Do you believe your father deliberately set you up?”

Several moist sniffs pulled in air and pushed back tears. “No,” it came out in an almost voiceless whisper. My eyes widened. A pout pulled my lips out. Another sniff came. A few tears tumbled down. My voice sounded high and breathy, “But… I thought… I thought they lied.”

“You were wrong,” my therapist told me.

My mouth twisted itself into a confusion. Tears brimmed my lower lids.

“You were wrong,” he repeated.

My eyes narrowed, my neck twisted my head to one side as if my ears had caught a sound that was nearly, but not quite, audible. The almost sound coursed into my heart. “I was wrong,” I whispered. My barely audible voice released more tears, different tears, tears that washed long-caked debris from my heart.

After repairing my skirt and rinsing my face in the bathroom, I stepped out into the warmth of the Spring afternoon. There was a delicious, green scent in the air. The growing leaves seemed newly cut — laser cut — sharp, clear, in shades of green richer than I had seen before. The late afternoon sky had been washed with clear, soft blueness. Puffy white clouds, tinged with pinks lounged about. My body wanted to float alongside them. My legs, longing to dance, rejoiced in the swishing fabric of my long cotton skirt. My feet raise my ballet black flats in little sweeping kicks. “Is it always this beautiful?” I softly asked my Friend. “Why have I never seen it before?” I breathed in another draught of the sweet air. Hailing a taxi, I settled myself in the back and pressed my forehead against the cracked the window. The taxi’s wheels against the asphalt sang to me with each revolution, They didn’t lie.

* Image source.

The Drop Box: Loving Abandoned Children

I was an abandoned child. The minister did not err in taking me into his home. He erred in claiming me as his property. But there are those who care for abandoned children and while doing so, love them and respect their dignity as unique beings, made in God’s image. The Drop Box is the story of one such man. I look forward to seeing it.

Preview From Chapter 4: Getting My Life Together

“You should become a lawyer,” one of the associates told me as I turned to leave her office. I blinked once. Blinked again, “Um…” I swallowed. A slightly shrill note entered my voice, “I don’t really want to be a lawyer.” “How old are you?” I swallowed again, “Twenty-one,” the slight shrillness remained in my voice, my shoulders had tensed. “And you just graduated?” she asked. “Yes. In May,” I swallowed again. “I would have graduated last year but I took a year off to become an independent student.” Why do I always explain? I demanded of my Friend. “Twenty-one is still younger than most grads,” she smiled. “With your mind and education, you could get into any law school you want,” she stood there, a slim, grey-suited figure. “It’s important that you set a course for your life,” her face was serious. “I’ll think about it,” I told her. “Do that,” she looked down at the files I had brought. My shoulders relaxed. I let out a long breath. Huh? I asked my Friend.

“Have you considered a career?” my advisor asked across her cluttered desk. “I thought of publishing,” I responded. “But I’ve been working as a paralegal since I was a sophomore; they needed someone who isn’t afraid of math.” “Law is an excellent career,” a wide smile broke across her face. The light reflecting off her glasses obscured her eyes; my shoulders tensed. “I don’t really want to be an attorney,’ I told her. “Well,” she looked down at a page on her desk, “you’ve got an excellent mind.” She looked up, “You do need a career.” I put my hand up to scratch my head and then quickly returned it to my lap. “I wanna dance an’ sing,” I mumbled. “New York is filled with people who want to dance and sing. Most fail.” I swallowed and looked down at my hands. Suddenly, I lifted my head, my eyes wide. “I love fashion,” it was almost a question. “Why don’t you consider an MBA?” she suggested. One corner of my lip curled up. I quickly relaxed my face, “I’ll think about it.”

Dear God, What is this? Everyone is so concerned about my future. They want me to be an attorney. I hate law! Cool people go to law school and come out brain damaged. And an MBA?! Why would I want an MBA?! I want to sing and dance and write. And I do love fashion. Do I need to “set a course for my life”?

“You gave notice,” the young associate stood in the door of my office. “Yes,” I looked up at her. “I’m taking six weeks to get my life together.” “So you’ll be studying for the LCAT’s?” a big smile stretched across her face. “No,” my voice held a small, shrill note. “I’d rather work in fashion.” Her smile disappeared, “You’d make a great lawyer.” I shook my head gently, “I don’t like law.” The shrillness had lessened but was still not totally absent. “But you’re so good at it,” she pressed. “I’m good at a lot of things,” I told her, the shrillness increasing. One corner of her mouth raised, “Well good luck. But don’t forget, you’d make a great attorney.” Two weeks later, I rode a mid-afternoon train to East Hampton.

Dear God, Six weeks away. Thank you! I’ll plan my life. I could be a fashion consultant. Or a designer: I know how to draft patterns now. We’ll see.

Thank You for the Sacks. This is perfect! Babysitting a five and a seven year-old on the weekends and making dinner – piece of cake!

Please, help me get my life in order.

“There’s a bicycle you can ride,” Mrs. Sacks told me as we toured. “And your room is above the garage. You’ll have complete privacy.” “It’s okay that I don’t want to spend the day at the beach?” I asked, my voice held a rising note. “That’s fine,” she smiled. “The kids and I love the beach. Summer is my chance to be with them. Dinner and babysitting when my husband is here at the weekend is plenty.” We walked through a living room filled with old, slip-covered furniture, “There’s no TV in your room but feel free to watch down here.”

“God loves you!” a blonde woman with a Scottish accent pointed at me from the television screen. “I know,” I told her and changed the channel. Later, I biked into town. A large sign above the ice cream shop read, “God Loves You!” “I know,” I told the sign. After buying an ice cream, I rode through the area past estates behind tall, black, wrought iron fences. I came upon a stone building that stretched out wide arms across the property. I stopped. Three multi-paned windows were set above a wide entranceway. Shrubbery grew up against the outer walls. I burst into tears. My heart was filled with a throbbing ache. “What’s wrong with me?” I asked my Friend. I brushed the tears away angrily and rode on. My shoulders shook. Tears flowed down wetting my t-shirt.

Again, she was saying, “God loves you!” “I know!” I impatiently told the Scottish woman and changed the channel. A white haired man preached about God’s “immense love.” “What is this?” I asked my Friend. “Why do You keep telling me You love me? I know!” I went to my room and opened a fashion magazine, then shut it and tossed it away. I opened one of my career notebooks. “What do I need to do when I’m back in New York?” I asked my Friend. Silence. After several minutes I sighed, shut the notebook and went out for a bike ride. The sign above the ice cream shop announced, “God loves you!” “Sure,” I told it.

On Sunday, I walked to the Episcopal church for Morning Prayer and Eucharist. The priest assured us, “God loves you.” I passed the ice cream shop without looking up. Then, at the last minute, I turned and saw it, “God loves you!” “Are You trying to tell me something?” I asked my Friend. I felt a gentle tingle across my back. “Fine,” I retorted. “What is it?” Another gentle tingle. The next day, I went to the book shop and bought Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place. On Tuesday, I returned to the shop and bought Henri Nouwen’s, With Open Hands. On Wednesday, I bought Robert Shuller’s, Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do. I watched the 700 Club before I went biking. Sheila Walsh and Pat Robertson continued to point at me and tell me, “God loves you!” In the evening, when I had finished that day’s book, I began rereading read the Gospel of John. Pat Robertson and Sheila Walsh had suggested it.

“I’m spending all my money on books,” I told my Friend on Thursday. “Maybe I should go to the library. But I don’t want the Sacks to know what I’m reading.” I went to the library and checked out five books by Christian writers. “Do you have any books to return?” Mrs Sacks called up to me on Friday morning. “No,” I told her as I came down the steps. “Mine aren’t due until Thursday.” “Just leave them on the hall table,” she smiled at me. “I’ll take them back. It’s near the beach.” I smiled in return, I’ll take them myself. I rode out to the estate that made me cry, lingered and returned to the house with red eyes and a puffy face. I made dinner, took a plate to my room and read. I just don’t feel like being around anyone, I told my Friend.

After the Gospel of John, I turned to Isaiah. The second verse of the first chapter began, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken ‘Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.’” My heart began to pound, “Are You angry with me?” The gentle tingle answered me. I turned to chapter forty: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” Blinking back tears, I shut my Bible and began reading another book from the library.

A few days later, I stopped at the Episcopal church for a weekday Eucharist. An old, stained, dog-eared Guideposts magazine had been left in the “free books” rack in the narthex. I took it. That night, I read a Corrie Ten Boom interview:

“For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ …

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’”

“No!” I cried out and tossed the magazine across the room. “Why would she?!” I demanded. “Why?!” I sniffed loudly. “And how could You expect her to forgive?! How?!” My breath came out a raspy, He-huh! He-huh! He-huh! Tears coursed down my cheeks, I wiped my draining nose with a sodden tissue. Because she also has free will, a soft voice spoke in my heart. “No!” I cried out again. “I don’t want it!” my lower lip pushed out. I saw myself choosing peach ice cream that afternoon, sitting outside the shop and eating the cone backwards as I used my other hand to hold my straw hat on my head. You don’t want to choose? the voice asked. “Well…” I sniffed again. “But people do horrible things!” my fists clenched. My breath had become a rapid, Hnhh. Hnhh. Hnhh. Hnhh. “They killed everybody!” the words coughed themselves out from some unknown place inside me. “They killed them all!” He-huh! He-huh! He-huh!  “And I was left all alone,” my voice was small. Hnhh. Hnhh. Hnhh. Hnhh. “You let them,” I accused my Friend, then emitted a louder, Hnhh. Hnhh. Hnhh. Hnhh. “You let them!” everything in me screamed it: my voice, my heart, my mind.

silver handled caneYou could see me, the voice still spoke gently. I looked towards the slip-covered easy chair in the far corner. A white-haired old man sat there, stiff, upright. His veined hand clasped a silver handled, dark wood walking stick. His ice blue eyes looked out blankly. I blinked. Tell him what is in your heart, the voice invited. I swallowed, sniffed. “You let them kill everybody,” I began in a small voice which suddenly grew stronger. “They’re all dead. All of them,” my breath came out a raspy, He-huh. He-huh. He-huh. “And now You say You love me?!” still raspy but louder: He-huh! He-huh! He-huh! “How can You tell me that?!” my sobs were a quick, Hnhh! Hnhh! Hnhh! Hnhh! I sat up on the bed and pointed at the old man, “You don’t love me! It’s all a lie!” Is that all? the voice asked. “I hate You!” the words burst from the unknown place. “I hate You!” I cried out. “If I could… I’d kill you!” Go right ahead, the voice told me. Though I sat on the bed, in my heart, in my mind, I strode over to the old man, lifted him and ripped him into shreds. “He was like paper,” I said aloud, my forehead wrinkled.

Then there was light. Soft. Bright. Clear. Brilliant and beautiful. In the light a man stood. Suddenly I was a very small child running into His arms. He was my Friend, the one who had always been with me. He scooped me up and sat down with me on His lap. I nestled against His shoulder, sniffing.

“I never left you,” He told me. Tears flowed. I did not wipe them away. “But…” I sniffed in a tiny bit of air through my stuffy nose. “Where were You?” “I’ve always been with you. Always cared for you. Do you remember when the boy cut your hand with the tile?” I looked down at the small whitish scar on the back of my right hand and suddenly felt myself on Mrs. L.’s lap. “Do you remember when the boys attacked you?” I saw Mr. E. cleaning my wounds, making cocoa and driving me to the man’s and woman’s house. “Do you remember when you tried to drown yourself?” The image of Mrs. M. rushing into the bathroom, lifting me out of the tub and pounding my back to clear the water from my lungs filled the screen of my mind. Mrs. P., Dr. Robertson, Lourdes, Mr. Post, and so many other faces flooded my heart and mind.

“I’ve always been with you. Always. I’ve given you everything you need to make it to this day.” The words, “this day,” echoed through my heart and mind. “Today, you’re able to see Me with you.” The stone blew off the fathomless well within me. More tears coursed down my face. I breathed through my mouth as I rested my heart on my dear Friend’s shoulder.

Clare Short at Faith In Our Families has this wonderful piece: Popping the emotional cork off of being raised Fatherless…

“If you are a parent right now and are not involved in your child’s life you might as well call that child up tonight and tell them that because that’s what they are hearing from your actions.

‘I didn’t think, care, or love you enough to put my own personal bull aside to be a good parent to you.’

“Go ahead, say it. Own those words. Except responsibility for them. Let them sit in your mouth like hot rocks. Swallow them and let them slide down into your belly. Carry them around with you like a painful lump. Like your child does everyday. Every. Single. Day.”

There is one reason not to be there for your children, death. Death still leaves a horrible hole but, for me, knowing my parents loved me enough to protect me from the madness that had invaded our lives eventually made their loss bearable. Eventually, I was even able to understand that they have always walked with me. But the pain remains real. How much bigger it must be to be for those who are abandoned by their parents.

Abandoned children must be a subject of prayers and, when God gives a family the opportunity, the recipients of our charity. Certainly, friends created home for me and that has been immensely healing.

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