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Post Halloween festivities, I sit and reminisce on my children’s preoccupation with pumpkins, ghosts & spirits. There is something about the fall season that inevitably brings thoughts of those children who will never know the fun of knocking door-to-door shouting out “Trick or Treat,” thrusting a bag under the nose of whomever answers, with comments like, “well who have we got here … a beautiful Princess and Spiderman…?” as they turn smiling to gather goodies to donate to the “party.” The fall also brings thoughts of tender moments, as partied-out children are tucked into a warm bed and kissed goodnight. Safe. With a Family. Although these thoughts of happy children are constant images this time of year also brings me thoughts of the children who died without the caress of a parents hand, without being tucked in at night or without the love of a family.
Some of the little ones that cross my mind, I had the privilege to hold, if only for brief moments. Others worked their way into my heart through the screen on my laptop. All of them precious. All alone.
One little girl in particular, who stands out in my mind, she to me, represents all those who are now angels. This is the story of how we briefly met:
We were working late in the orphanage preparing a physiotherapy-style playroom for the children when we were quickly alerted by co-volunteers that help was needed to help feed 13 babies in the “newly-admitted” isolation room. Four of us rushed to assist. The one staff care-giver there was on auto drive immediately helping those she could, but her depleted soul could not be hurried by the three or four who still had the will to cry. Time had made her shield her heart and still her emotions. This was the only way for her to stay at this work.
We each picked up an infant and helped feed them. Well, to be exact my baby did not seem to need help – she would not let go to come up for air. Drinking too fast, an intermittent choking cough did not make the child I was holding release her grip. She wanted that formula with all her little might and was going to do anything to get it. I became aware that my friends were also having difficulties feeding their little ones. One in particular called out for help as her baby was choking, or rather not swallowing at all. This little girl had challenging medical needs, which forced the Mom with experience in caring for children with cleft lip/palate to swiftly do her best. Drop by single drop she managed to feed this baby a couple of ounces. Less than an hour later, emotionally drained, we departed. That night was one we truly will never forget.
We returned home, each to our home country, to be nurtured by the warmth of our families. But we could not forget that little baby with feeding trouble from that night in the orphanage – how was she doing?
Sadly we learned she had died. Died without a family to hold her close or whisper her name as she left this world. The thought of this weighs an ache in my heart. Every time I reach out to comfort my children, or look into their frightened eyes to reassure or kiss their bumped or bruised limb, I am so thankful I can share those moments and calm their fears. But as I wrap my arms around them I ache just a little bit more knowing many will never, and have never, known this comfort. Many have left this world alone and unnamed.
Our group of volunteers could not hold that little girl as she departed our world but together we named her, Allanah Hope (baby of Hope) Shan Koukkari. I light a candle today, as I do each year at this time and think of you…and the many other children who have passed alone. You are remembered by me. Your light shines bright in me.
Julie Flynn Coleman
Today, many of us will sit around with our family and give thanks. Thousands of children will not. Be the answer for Allanah Hope and other children who do not have this luxary. Write a small thank you note (or show your appreciation in another way) to a social worker, judge, or anyone else who has had a positive impact in your adoption or somebody else’s adoption process.