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TURNING TOWARD HOME

March 17, 2011

Jody Wilson, Jody's Journal

(Conclusion to column for weekend 3-12-13-2011)
Danette moved in a fog for weeks. Disbelief swallowed her. In her mind she replayed life with Rafe. How could anyone be so heartless, so cruel? What had she done to bring out such evil in him? There were millions of questions, dozens of ‘if only’ thoughts, but answers simply did not come. She could not wrap her mind around the fact that her four precious children were in an orphanage out of her reach. And Rafe had charged her with abandonment? She had never even spent half a day away from her babies since they had been born! Not until he had sent her away to rest a few days. She could not comprehend the horror of it. Surely it was a dream. She would wake up and it would not be true. But it was true.
Her neighbor had invited her to spend a few days in their spare bedroom until she could decide what to do. Danette was deeply grateful, especially when divorce papers were served on her. At least she had someone to cry with her. And she did.
There was no money for bus fare to return to her sister’s house. She had married young and had no skills to make a living. She became a dishwasher at a little café there in town. She was on her feet for fours and the pay wasn’t much. One of the waitresses gave her some training after hours. She felt so sorry for Danette she just had to help where she could. So Danette became a waitress. With practice on her part and patience on the customer’s part, she got better at it.
But her mind wasn’t on her job, it was on her children, geographically far from her, but emotionally right there in her heart. She prayed for them the best she knew how. Going to church had never been part of her life growing up or since she married. But she prayed for her babies anyway. She missed all her children, of course, but little Ray haunted her thoughts most often.
He was so young and she had never held him and hugged him nearly as much as she wanted to. He would grow up with no memory of her whatsoever. That was gut wrenching! The twins and Emily might remember her since they were older, but she would never be part of little Ray’s life at all. The thought twisted her heart and she walked with lead feet every time his little face came before her. “Oh God!” she screamed in prayer, “please let me see my children again. Let me hug little Ray one time before I die. Please, God.” It was a prayer she would pray time and again over the next few years.
Danette was right about the older children remembering her. Once they reached eighteen and were released from the orphanage the twins searched her out. The years had not been kind to her. The mother they had yearned for had become old before her time. But joy filled that little house as they lived there together and tried to piece together the time they had been separated.
One of the twins was so emotionally damaged that he spent a lot of time on the wrong side of the law. Life had beaten them up pretty badly and the scars were slow to heal. But they worked hard to survive all the pain they had been dealt.
Little Emily always followed the lead of the twins so she was quick to welcome the mother she had lost so many years ago.
They spent evenings eating popcorn and watching movies or playing dominoes. Chicken Foot was one of their favorite games.
Danette’s heart almost burst out of her chest to have her wonderful children around her again.
But every beat of her heart cried for Ray. He was much younger than the others. What if someone had adopted him and changed his name? The questions just tore Danette’s mind apart.
Her health began to break down and she was no longer able to work so she went on government assistance. The children were grown and married now so she moved closer to two of her sisters. They were a wounded little band and they huddled together protecting each other from the rest of the world.
A family gathering was scheduled or perhaps it was a funeral, the details are sketchy here. But Danette’s older sister, Nan, and her husband were planning to go. They invited Danette to ride with them. She agreed because she would have the whole backseat to herself. They laughed and talked for miles recalling funny stories and times they got into trouble. Their time together was refreshing, but the miles were making Danette weary.
They walked into the building where the event was held. Familiar faces smiled and welcoming arms reached out. Nan and Danette looked around. There were lots of faces they did not recognize. But another family member walked up to them and began sharing names they did not know. Finally he looked at Danette, “Do you know that young man in the blue polo shirt?” Danette followed his eyes. “No, can’t say that I do,” she responded. He leaned in a little closer. “Danette, that’s Ray.”
Her mouth fell open and her heart stopped. “My Ray? My baby boy? That’s him? Are you sure?” she asked in disbelief. He nodded, “Yeah, that’s him.”
Danette started walking across the room, never taking her eyes off the tall, young man. When she reached him she looked up into his hazel eyes. “You don’t know who I am, Ray. I have not seen you since you were a little baby. I am your mother, Danette.” His eyes widened, “My mother?” he stammered with a question in his eyes. “Danette nodded, “Yes, I have prayed for years that God would let me see you and hug you more time. May I hug you, Ray?” she asked.
He looked into eyes that he did not remember and nodded solemnly. Danette reached up and wrapped her arms around his muscular chest. Tears of joy coursed down her cheeks as she hugged her baby boy, so long lost to her.
Awkwardly she stepped back and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. “Thank you, Ray.” He stared at her without any words and watched her walk away.
Later on the drive home, Danette was silent, savoring the unthinkable gift she had just received. She had hugged her baby boy. She had actually touched her son!
Everyone in the car was tired so there wasn’t much conversation. At last the car pulled up in front of Danette’s apartment. Nan jumped out, unlocked the trunk and grabbed Danette’s suitcase. Opening the back door she leaned in to wake her sleeping sister. She grabbed her shoulder and shook her gently. It was only when Danette fell towards the open door that Nan knew something was wrong.
She began patting her face, “Danette, are you all right? Wake up, baby.” But Danette was unresponsive. Had she gone into a diabetic coma? Nan began to panic. She searched for a pulse, first her wrist, then her neck. Nothing. Danette was dead! She had died in the backseat the last few miles of the trip home.
But the smile on her face gave proof to the peace in her heart. God had heard her fervent request. She had seen the son she had lost and had hugged him one last time.
Dear Reader, Winston Churchill left us some powerful advice when he said, “Never, never, never give up.” Hope does not die as long as breath is in the body. And God will not walk away when you bid Him stay. His attendance record is perfect. He will walk with you through that lonesome valley of the shadow. He knows the way home.
*Names have been changed.

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