I didn’t know who to talk to. Who could possibly understand the devastating grief and responsibility I felt after my 7-year-old daughter Ruth, who had severe cerebral palsy and was deaf, unexpectedly died in her sleep?
Family and friends did their best to comfort my husband, Dana, and me by telling us what a wonderful life Ruth had. How much she was loved. Yet our love wasn’t enough. Or why would our daughter, who we’d adopted from an orphanage in Uganda six years before, have died?
I blamed myself, knowing that Ruth relied on Dana and me for everything from eating and drinking to understanding what she wanted. Because our daughter was unable to talk or use her hands to sign, we signed, spoke, and pointed to communicate. And although Ruth had come down with a minor cold the week before, she’d fully recovered before the terrible morning we woke up and found she wasn’t breathing.
“Sometimes with CP,” the doctor in the emergency room said. “These things just happen.”
Several weeks after Ruth’s memorial service, I remained overwhelmed by unanswered questions. Not just why Ruth had died, but why God had allowed it when we’d worked so hard to adopt her and loved her so much. We also needed to figure out what to do with our daughter’s two wheelchairs, one of which was only a few months old.
Over the years of driving Ruth to school, I’d often heard Joni Eareckson Tada on our local Christian radio station. I’d seen the movie about her life as a child and eagerly listened to the good work she was doing for people with disabilities around the globe.
One day after losing Ruth, sitting at my home in Maine, I typed her name on my computer. The web site for Joni and Friends’ California headquarters popped up, I dialed the number. While I don’t recall the name of the woman I spoke with, I do recall the gentle compassion in her voice as she lovingly listened to our story and shared about other families who’d lost children as suddenly as we’d lost Ruth.
She also sent me a series of four books – one every three months – leading me through the difficult emotional journey ahead. Joni herself wrote me a note and sent me her book Heaven: Your Real Home, helping me to trust that God was still in control.
Several months later, Dana and I donated Ruth’s two wheelchairs to Wheels for the World. The older chair joined the stream of thousands of others to be rehabilitated before being given to a child in a developing country. Guess where Ruth’s newer chair went?
Kampala, Uganda – the very city where our daughter was born. Dana, who’d spent years fixing Ruth’s chair, even joined the Wheels for the World trip delivering it and helped give it to another precious girl with cerebral palsy.
More than three years later, our family continues to be blessed by Joni and Friends monthly newsletters, which are filled with stories about children like our daughter. We hope to continue supporting this wonderful ministry that has so wonderfully supported us. Thank you for sharing God’s love for people with disabilities throughout the world.
To help more kids like Ruth, click here.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God,” II Corinthians 1:3-4.