This week a young woman died and left a heartbreaking legacy.
In the following post, I have omitted as much identifying information as possible so as not to hurt anyone who might recognize any of the specifics of this story.
She was a mother in her 40s and had a 7 year-old boy, T. She had had a substance abuse problem since her 20s. She met a man with whom she had a son. At some subsequent time he died making her a single mom. She attended self-help groups to combat cocaine and alcohol habits. And it seemed to be working for a good long time.
But lately she’d had several relapses. She swore up and down that she had her life under control and that she was taking the painkillers for a painful back condition. Child and Family Services had taken her son away from her four times in the very recent past. This means he entered four different foster care homes only to be placed back with his mom only to see her relapse. It was heartbreaking–and most heartbreaking of all to her immediate family which has been on this roller coaster ride with her for a good part of her adult life. In fact, I’m not sure what they felt they could do to prevent this as they’d probably exhausted all their ideas long ago. To them, it must’ve been like a car accident happening in slow-motion. You know what the outcome’s going to be, you just don’t know when it’s going to happen.
I knew the mom, though not well. She seemed like an intelligent, decent person. I don’t know what spurred her to make the choices she made. I don’t know how she came to a life of addiction.
But I feel saddest for T. His mom was an adult and made her life choices on that basis. But what was T.’s ‘sin’? What had he done to deserve becoming an orphan? His entire life has been series of dislocations, absences, and loneliness. Even when his mom had him she most likely neglected him. Though the few times I’ve met him I haven’t seen any of this wear and tear in his behavior, I understand that he has entirely understandable emotion outbursts, demands constant attention (often not in appropriate ways) and has learning disabilities. No child deserves to suffer such a fate. To be 7 years old and go through what he has seems cruel beyond belief.
Now, her surviving sibling has to decide what to do with his nephew. He has raised children of his own. He’s less than a decade from retirement himself. He has endured life with a drug-addicted sister who has tested every member of his family with her extreme behavior. He has seen T.’s behavior warts and all. I don’t know whether he will take the boy on. In some ways, it seems the best and most logical choice in terms of the boy’s welfare. This way, he continues living in the same part of the world and continues being able to see his grandmother. But the surviving sibling is exhausted from the life she forced him to lead. I don’t know if he feels capable of becoming T.’s adoptive parent. He may. But who can blame him if he can’t? Taking on such a troubled boy is more than many of us could do in the same circumstances.
I’m delighted to know that two of my brother’s are considering providing T. a home if the mom’s brother chooses not to. It seems to me one of the greatest mitzvahs one could consider doing. I don’t know whether either one will end up becoming his parents. There are, of course, many complicated issues to discuss and work out before such an eventuality happens. But I’m overwhelmed with both their generosity in even considering adopting T.
I’m confident that once he finds a stable, loving home that some or perhaps most of T’s emotional problems will resolve themselves. But no one is fooling themselves into thinking that this boy will ever be entirely free of the hellishness which his mom’s destructive behavior subjected him to. What a tragedy.
As God is a loving God, I hope He, and the rest of us down here on earth, will look kindly on T. and give him what he needs for a second start in life.