Sunday, September 13, 2015

The hard side of life

The last couple of posts have been all about the bike:  how to train for an epic race, a race recap from a season with the pros. I'm grateful for the bike and the adventures it continually affords me.

But sometimes the priority and luxury of "bike" fades to the background with the rest of the things of the world. Sometimes the wrestle with "life" is so encompassing, so real, that the bike is all but forgotten. Sometimes life is, well, hard.

About six weeks after I wrapped up a lengthy spring of XC racing, I traveled to Haiti with my older sister, Katie, and her sister-in-law, Judy. It was my second trip to see my adopted niece and nephew.  It was my sister's 7th trip.

Katie and her husband and their two biological children have been in a lengthy process of adopting Marlee and Jett. The struggle to bring their Haitian kids home has been incredibly difficult. Early in the journey, a betrayal by a fraudulent orphanage left them emotionally reeling. But it led them to being re-matched to two true orphans, Marlee and Jett.

Marlee managed to pull all the little braids out of her hair.
For almost three years, as the struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds has deepened the angst of the physical chasm between Texas and Haiti, the collective heart of my sister's family has deepened in its closeness to their beloved son and daughter, their baby brother and sister.
Zeke holds his little brother.

Only four weeks after Katie, Judy, and I returned home, a phone call came from Haiti. It wasn't the good news aching hearts were yearning for, but rather a painful carving of the soul- the kind of carving that brings you to your knees, that brings sobs so loud they have no sound. It was the kind of carving that scars deep and changes a person forever.

Jett had passed away.

Three days later, I was back in Haiti at Jett's funeral. I sat next to my family on the gym floor of the orphanage. The director led an emotional eulogy for the little four year old. We were surrounded by several dozen children and nannies and young Haitian men and women who dearly loved Jett. 

The five days I was at the orphanage with Katie, Mark, Mati, Zeke, and Marlee, I often thought about how only one month before, Jett was smiling and blowing bubbles and being a good big brother to his spunky sister. I remembered the lighthearted conversation Judy and I had when we proposed what kind of profession the quiet, industrious, little caretaker might have one day. I remembered one year ago when Mati and Zeke got to meet Marlee and Jett for the first time ever.

I cannot write everything from those five days as we mourned Jett's passing, but I can say that even though every minute was overwhelmingly hard, somehow there was also good. I know this sounds impossible. Maybe that is what I mean by "I cannot write everything." Sometimes faith and God's presence and how good can come from something so tragic is hard to explain.

Jett spent his last days on earth knowing he was a beloved son. He spent his last days knowing he had a family. He is now with a perfect father in a perfect place with all the other precious orphans who never found an earthly home. I can't wait to see them.

I imagine Jett is laughing with stickers on his face and blowing bubbles. Maybe Granny, in her new youth, is sharing a piece of her Hershey bar with him. Maybe Matt, who is skipping alongside, is teaching him a funny joke.

Actually, I have no clue what heaven is like. But I know it is good. I know it will be every bit worth our struggle. And so our scarred hearts can be comforted.

In the meantime, I will join my big sister, along with my huge family of brothers and sisters, in fighting the good fight. We will keep loving and laughing and learning from friends of all cultures. We will keep praying Marlee and the children have daily provision. We will keep on keeping on together, and we will never forget the moments we had with Jett.

Jett loved riding bikes. None of the rickety bikes at the orphanage worked properly, and he would try to tinker with them and figure out how to make them go.

                                            In loving memory of Jett. We will see you soon.

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