“Call 9-1-1. It’s Ruth,” my husband, Dana, shouted, bursting into our room that dark February morning.
His words echo in my head all these years later as our three older kids scarf breakfast and dash down the porch stairs with Dana to climb in the van for school. In the silence that follows I wash dishes, our younger sons play, and I hear them still, “It’s Ruth.”
If only it was
She would be nearly eleven.
What would she say?
Eyes darting to her alphabet board, Ruth patiently watched from her wheelchair as I pointed to each letter.
Wait three seconds.
Until somewhere down the row Ruth’s tongue shot out–Yes!–to indicate the wanted letter.
Then down the row, we went again.
By now I’m sure Ruth would be writing words on her computer, which she’d named her “voice” because it spoke the words she could not.
But some words need no language.
So utterly impish and unrestrained.
How could anyone be so happy when she couldn’t even scratch her nose? Couldn’t sit unsupported or bring her hands to her mouth? Couldn’t independently sip water?
Ruth rarely cried but always if she saw someone hurting.
Always if I was angry.
The moment I raised my voice at one of her siblings in a moment of frustration or fatigue, Ruth’s fire-engine wail filled the room, “Whaa-whaa-whaa-whaa!” like trucks blazing down High Street.
“It’s okay, Ruth. It’s okay, Ruth, It’s okay.” I stroked her face and signed words she couldn’t hear to put out the fire of her fear.
Ruth’s eyes clenched so tight she couldn’t see what I was saying–the world cut off until her breathing slowed and her tears stopped, and she saw everything was really and truly okay.
When we lost her, I didn’t think anything would ever be okay again.
In some ways it’s not.
Losing Ruth will never be okay.
But when I look at her photo, grinning in Dana’s arms, braided hair tickling her shoulders, lips parted wide, cheeks taught with happiness it fills me with happiness too,
Knowing she was ours for six-and-a-half years.
Knowing Ruth will forever be ours, a Merrill, loved as dearly as any of our children
Knowing she was claimed
No longer that gasping for breath baby lying abandoned in an overcrowded maternity ward in a Ugandan hospital
But holy beloved.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love,” Jeremiah 31:3.
In honor of Ruth and to help children at her former orphanage in Uganda, Dana and I are contributing $1 to Welcome Home for every “like” on this website’s Facebook page from now until February 9th (up to $500). This will also help show publishers people care about her story. Click here to help orphans and show your support!