That’s the word that’s been rattling around my head.
Yesterday in the chaos of the “tent raising" at kid washing (I had taken CDA volunteers to experience that ministry at a downtown plaza), I felt more than heard my phone ringing in my pocket. Denise told me, with lots of apologies knowing what a rough afternoon/evening I had on Friday mourning anew the loss of our two babies, that a 6 month old baby had passed away on the street. [I found out later that on Monday, some "street workers" were going to start the process of taking this baby away from her extremely abusive, irresponsible mother. But tomorrow is much too late and now she will never live with us.]
It was 4:57pm on a Saturday, and our friend Amy was facing dealing with it alone. Burying a baby here is not a one man job, and Amy’s parents are visiting her. I called her immediately and she sounded a little lost, not knowing how to go about getting the body out and how to do the paperwork. Terribly, I’ve “been there done that” twice this year. So I took a deep breath, told the volunteers they would probably be busing home, and set off, shoving my still raw emotions down so that I could be strong and do what needed to be done. In our cases at the Baby Home, I knew more or less what was going on through my grief, but the staff took care of the bulk of the paperwork side of a burial. Now I needed to do it.
Amy and I met up and began piecing together what needed to be done and trying to be a support to the distraught parents. And basically, that’s what I did for the next 22 hours. I didn’t even really sleep last night. I talked to my Mom from almost midnight to almost 1am. At 2am I was still checking the clock and slept lightly, worrying about getting a call from CDA II (my 5 ½ year old A. has a bad virus or flu), then got up early to continue getting the right paper to be able to bury today because 1) a lot of street people together (sniffing, smoking, drinking) can become dangerous and 2) Amy’s parents are here and they were all planning to travel Monday morning.
I went into the morgue full of bodies multiple times, saw the baby after the police-ordered autopsy, went to the funeral store three times, a lawyer, the cemetery twice, the wake three times (held in a public bathroom because the street kids/families were not welcome anywhere else), brought the baby in the casket from the morgue to her former “home” near a river in my car, and left my Bolivia ID card in not one but two places (one original, one a fake, ha!) because either the people I was with didn’t have one at all or not with them.
It was so unreal that I was doing this. Again. This makes 5 deaths of babies within 10 months: August (street baby), January (Gabriela), February (memorial service for good friend’s miscarriage), May (Joel), June (street baby).
And this weekend, adding in the factor of being with street people hurting even more than usual because of the grief, it was heavy. We were afraid for the mother’s life, because of so many accusing her of killing her baby (the autopsy left plenty to be desired in the way of conclusions), and there was a ton of fighting, arguing, and cussing. I was also with relatives of several of my kids, and would have been with several more except that some are in prison currently. They don’t know they live with me though, for security reasons, and I had to watch my words so as to not raise suspicion…and not act overly interested in their current babies.
Amy went overboard with gratefulness at my help, but really Amy, I was blessed more. To my surprise, I learned several things that were actually healing to me from Joel’s death just 3 weeks and 3 days ago, and it was a privilege to help and use some very difficult, hard-earned knowledge to help someone else. If it had happened on a weekday I might not have been as available, same as on weekends when I play at church, but it just so happened that because of a schedule change I wasn’t playing. I never made it to church actually…I got as close as the outside gate as I picked up volunteers to take Melissa to the airport (barely had time for that in the middle of everything, but God worked it out just right time-wise!)…but today we did “church” outside the four walls as some Bolivians helped who work with the street population and a few members of the Cochabamba International Church came to lead the service at the cemetery. They even dedicated the newborn to the Lord!
Just a few stories from this very very memorable weekend....
~Last night at the wake, while talking to the mother of two of my kids (although she doesn’t know they’re with me), she pointed out that she voluntarily abandoned her son. For some reason I asked “Why?” and her eyes bored into mine as she distinctly said “I took him in because I did not want him to be a clefero [glue addict] like me.” What a story to be able to put in his file, for his future adoptive family to tell him someday. This young but very damaged mother, on the street since childhood, let him go to a better future that she knew she could not provide.
~I didn’t go inside the cemetery for the funeral, because no one wanted to stay outside with the babies and their beliefs wouldn’t allow them to take the babies in to be near the dead. So since I was the weirdo who spoiled their plans of leaving their babies (ages newborn, 10 months, 15 months) IN MY CAR ALONE, I volunteered. After a bit the 14 year old mother of the newborn, who is related to one of my kids, came back out saying she was kicked out for wanting to sniff glue inside. She didn’t want to be alone with the babies and since she was high I agreed. At one point I left her with her sleeping newborn and took the two wiggly ones walking around by the flower sellers. That created quite the ruckus! People even wanted to give me a third baby, saying I looked so nice with two. I forget sometimes that it’s not normal to walk around with two babies at once—that’s just something we simply must do at the Baby Home. One flower seller asked me “Is that M.’s baby?” I had to say “excuse me?” because I thought I heard her correctly but I was just taken off guard. M.’s baby was the one being buried at that very moment!
~As about a dozen of them piled into my car to go to the cemetery (yep, my little car), I recognized a younger boy. I said “Hola J___!” and his face lit up and he started yelling with a big smile to those around him “She remembered my name! The senorita remembered my name!” Something so little and yet it touched him. I ended up buying him lunch after everything, even though I know it’s not good to facilitate their life in the street. I wasn’t hungry though and thought I could spend what would have been my “Sunday restaurant money” on him instead. I took the opportunity to lecture him good about moving back into a home or shelter or center somewhere, because if he didn’t want to stay on the street forever (he agreed he didn’t) he needed to study and change, and fast!
I spent the last 2 hours today before kid bedtime playing with the babies and then toddlers and just wholeheartedly enjoying them. I think I can honestly say that I have never been SO GRATEFUL for each and every one that is here and not on the street right now at winter time, and around all the toxins and violence and just...well, it's like being among the living dead. (When I got home this afternoon, I was barely seeing straight. Our friend Nate stuck his head in my car at the cemetery as we prepared to drive back to their "home" by the river, and said "You're going to be flying high as a kite by the time you get there" and boy was I! My head ached terribly and I was lightheaded. Even if they are not sniffing, they reek of it. I so admire my friends who work around that day in and day out. It's also a continual marvel to me how the kids/adults can actually INHALE it, when I am repulsed by the taste left in my mouth after just an hour or two being around them!)
So that was MY weekend..... Tomorrow morning I need to pick up my ID cards, the original baby's original birth certificate and death certificate (because today there wasn't a close by place to make copies), and will go as soon as I can to check on the baby's parents and take those documents back to them...as well as a little stuffed animal left in my car today, no doubt by one of the babies packed in there earlier.
Thank you, Lord, for each baby we are able to take into to our homes! I am so privileged to be able to live here, do this, and provide a loving home for those who have none.
Adios, Shana and Hillary - Thanks to Carla Booher for the blog! :) Wednesday night we had a "going away" party for two of our volunteers. Shana is from Texas and has been touring...
2 years ago