Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ten year anniversary of a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day.

Today is the 10 year anniversary of the day we lost Camille.

Three months and ten years ago we welcomed a little 3 yr old foster girl into our home. We did so with the understanding that we would eventually adopt her.

Her brief history was that she was born weighing 3 pounds 15 ounces and addicted to speed which her birth mother had abused during the whole pregnancy. Camille was placed in a medically fragile foster family who nursed her through her drug withdrawls and back to a healthy 9 month old baby. A judge in all his wisdom gave this little girl back to her birth parents. These parents proceeded to neglect her for the next two years. They did things like make a cage out of her crib with chicken wire so that their little girl would be contained while they were in their drugged out stupors.
They also let her have soda in her bottle which rotted out her front teeth. She was rarely bathed and minimally cared for during this time. Finally CPS stepped in again and removed her, placing her back in the same original foster family. By then, that family had two other very seriously sick children and Camille was doing remarkably well. She was too healthy for this family.

She then went to stay with a friend of the birth family as a foster child. The problem was that the foster mom had a sixteen year old son and no husband. CPS did not want Camille in that situation, but they did not have another choice.

This is when they approached LDS family services to see if they had a family who would take this little girl. We happened to be on their list of families waiting for a special needs adoption.

When they first approached us, I was thrilled beyond measure to think of having a little girl. She was just 18 months younger than Jared and would fit in with us perfectly.

We met her and took her to the beach for the afternoon. That meeting went very well and we decided that we would take her.

She came to stay with us on August 6th. Marion started working in Las Vegas just two weeks later. We were living in Southern California at the time. He would leave each Sunday night and come home on Friday night. It was only a three hour drive.

In the mean time I was trying to keep a perfectly clean, immaculate house so it would sell and adjust to having another child. I was thrilled at a the opportunity, but it was incredibly hard at the same time.

She and Jared were either best buds getting into mischief or fighting with each other. It was incredibly stressful. She and Jared did things like draw on walls or spill fingernail polish when I wasn't looking. All just normal kid stuff but extremely exasperating when you are trying to make a house sell, that just didn't seem to want to sell.
Still it was so fun to have a little girl. Finally I could browse in the girl sections of stores. Some one wanted me to curl their hair and wear frilly things. It was all I had hoped it would be.

Finally we gave up on selling the house and thanks to a loan from my parents, went ahead and found a house in Vegas. We were set to move in the month of October. The move in date was October 31st. Finally we would be a family again.

We knew we were moving to Vegas when Camille came to live with us. We were very upfront with the county about it. They said that it would not be a problem as long as we would bring her back for her visits with her parents, which were suppose to be terminated soon.
But the week before we were set to move, the court ordered a hearing to determine if we could take her out of the state.

We went to court on October 28th only to hear the judge say that the birth parents were making progress on their plan. This meant that she would most likely be returned to them eventually and we could not take her from the state.

Twenty four hours after the hearing, the foster mother who had her before us came and picked her up. It was a crazy surreal day of packing and crying. She came to us with two boxes of stuff and left with four. At least mercifully, Camille loved her other foster mother and was glad to go with her. I don't know how I would have survived someone ripping her from me kicking and screaming.

Instead it was just me doing the kicking and screaming, at least on the inside.

Once she was gone, we continued the packing for the move two days later. It is the strangest thing when horrible things happen and then you just have to go on living. I had to take the cable box back to the cable company and I had a great cry all the way there and all the way back while I was alone. That night we went out to eat and there was Camille's car seat still in the car. It felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart with a butcher knife as we removed the seat we no longer needed.

The next day I attended a preschool Halloween party at Jared's preschool. As I watched all the little girl princesses in the parade, tears flowed unwillingly down my cheeks for the lost little girl who I would never be able to watch in a Halloween parade.

That night we attended our ward trunk or treat. I cried through most of that as well. It was comforting to have others in my ward be as outraged and sad as I was about the injustice of the situation.

That night I cried myself to sleep. I cried until no more tears would come and then I just lay there grieving like I never had before in my 33 years of life.

The next morning, October 31, 1998, we moved to Las Vegas. I think I associate and blame Las Vegas in some way for the loss of the little girl I always wanted. As I drove into town I was nearly sideswiped by a huge truck. I was numb. There was so much to do, and all I wanted to do was lie in a corner and die.

That night I took the boys to the trunk or treat in our new ward. It was ridiculous to be around so many people having such a good time and none of them knowing that my world had ended.

In the next months I tried to cope with my loss. But each time I saw a little girl, or a Teletubby, or Barney, it felt like the butcher knife to the heart once again. You never knew when some memory would take your breath away. The little girl across the street with the same roller skates. The time Jared wanted to play a computer game and there was Camille's name in the log in page.

It is impossible to erase someone completely from ones life and so little reminders would pop up occasionally. Each time I would suffer again and relive the pain of losing her.

It is very fortunate that I did have two boys to live for, other wise I would have crawled into that sought after corner and never come out again.

As time went on, I learned to live with the pain. Interestingly enough nine months to the day after we lost Camille, we brought Diana home from the adoption agency. The story of Diana's birth is certainly a miracle. But today is about grieving.
Through the years, the pain has lessened. Never has it left completely. Today Camille is 13 years old. After about 6 months I have never heard anything about her again. I do know that she went to live with her birth mother in a drug rehabilitation clinic. I can only hope that things have worked out for her.

After about 3 years of grieving, a wise counselor said to me that perhaps Heavenly Father needed me to be this little girl's mother for just those 3 months. There was something I gave her or taught during that time, that He needed me to do. It is part of the plan and somehow that was all she needed to be able to face what she would during the rest of her life. This gave me comfort like nothing else ever had. In fact it came terribly close to bringing me peace over the whole thing.
Still, here I am, on the ten year anniversary, reliving the whole horrible event. I can honestly say that I have never been the same. Perhaps that was part of the plan as well. Sometimes we experience things in this life that do change us. I guess the question is do we embrace the change or struggle against it. I think I have spent much of the past ten years struggling.
Perhaps it is time for the embracing to begin.


Kris said...

Pat Here is a cyber hug!! I'm sure that your councilor was right that you did have something special to give Camille that she needed to make it through her life. I'm also sure that in the next life you will get to see her again. Sorry it is a sad day

Kristina P. said...

Oh, Pat. I am so sorry. I was a caseworker for DCFS for 3 years, and the adoption cases were extremely difficult for me. I actually left over one that was sort of similar to yours.

Sending a cyber hug your way!

Emily said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I have known about Camille, and I am grateful for the story/details you shared today. I know that this will not lessen your pain, but hearing your story helps me to be a better mother, as I am sure it has for you. To appreciate the little things so much more. But none the less, it doesn't make this day any easier, and I am so sorry for your loss, the pain, and hurt your having to go through.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

I am so mad that you made me cry today. And I am also so mad the Kristina P beat me in line AGAIN!

I haven't had that experience but I have! I know exactly what you're talking about.

Sending out a cyber hug, not for all the losses in the world, but for all the little reminders of the losses.

Hey, that was a good ghost story.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

That was incredibly sad and I really feel for you. I can't imagine overcoming something like that.

Pat said...

Thanks everyone, you know I woke up this morning wondering how to get throug the day, but somehow just writing this all down and looking at old pictures has made me feel a lot better.

I am sure that all these cyber hugs can't be hurting either.

Thanks again.

Allison Barnes said...

I didn't know that... I am so sad. I can't imagine what that must have been like to go through. I am sure you were an angel for Camille when she needed one and I bet she still thinks about you.

hugs and love you!

Smart Helm said...

Thinking of you today.

Debbie said...

This is just the most touching and sad story. I am so sorry for your loss and pain but I am so happy that darling little girl had you to love her. I'm praying with you that she is enjoying a wonderful life and that you will continue to heal.

Eliza said...

Pat, I think that you are amazing and this just shows me once again what a wonderful mother you are. My thoughts are with you today.

Shawna said...

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Lord Tennyson's

My friend Fred said it best. Take some time for yourself today and cry if you need to.

SEBishop said...

From the moment I met Marion and you at 1009 N. University Ave., I knew that you were a special couple. You were always so kind and giving to us when we had little to offer in return except wasted days on your comfortable couch!!!!!! I admired your intelligence, charm, generosity and friendship through those poor college years. Visiting you in California in student housing reaffirmed my awe of you and your commitment to higher education and family. I yearned for the news of your first adoption and sang out for joy when we heard you adopted Trent and then Jared. Christmas pictures of their sealings warmed my heart and brought back all those special memories. I think we visited you directly before you lost Camille and I didn't know how any human could recover from such a loss, but you did because your are always POSITIVE PAT! Connecting with you through this blog has reaffirmed my great admiration for you and your family. The summer months were so painful reading about your trials with Jared and knowing how much you have endured. And then the news of permanent damage to Jared's hip. Your writings inspire me everyday and I look forward to the e-mail that says Pat has posted another entry. Your humor is contagious and strength is welcoming. You inspire me to be a better person!

Marjorie said...

Pat, I am so glad that you called to talk with me today. Since I was there that day I so remember and understand. I remember what a job it was to hurry and gather up her things. I remember that it was a crisp beautiful autumn day with bright sunshine, blue sky and golden autumn leaves. But then we came back into the house after loading Camille and her stuff and it was dark and cold and empty. When you add the move on top of it, it was a pretty hard time. Thank goodness for the atonement that can make up the differences for the hurts and the pains we suffer as well as any wrongs that need fixing. As the scripture says, trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. I'm sure someday you will know that she is okay, but for now we can only pray. I send you all my hugs and kisses too.

And I am sorry I dumped my news on top of your day. Hang in there girl, you are a great mom! Take care of yourself!

Leticia said...

Oh Pat...I remember your pain and anguish...I remember meeting her...She is a sweet girl..Hugs to you...and it is so good to express your thoughts on this day...If you never remember it would be as if it never happened..but yet she was in your life and she blessed your life as much as you did hers...!!! You have so much LOVE Pat...!!! I don't know how you do it..What a great MOther, and Author you are ...You truly inspire me, and get me to Laugh at myself over ordinary Life...I appreciate you Pat...
Oh,..Do add captions in your pictures you can do that in Photobucket...Just sign's free and it's fun.
Love ya,

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

Wow...that was such a good the fact that I was enthralled with the first sentence!

What a tragic story...but you were so great at the end that I was filled with hope!

I actually had close friends that went through the same thing...

Laura said...

I can't imagine- It's hard to see the silver lining on any of this. I think it okay to be sad- but not okay to not go on living and loving.
Whenever I hear of someone losing a child (death or whatever) I just feel paralized that if it happened to me- I wouldn't be able to go on... but you do. You have to.
keeping you in my thoughts and prayers today.

Pat said...

Wow everyone, I am just overwhelmed by your love and support. I can not beleive how much it helped me to get this all out.
It is kind of like Elder Cook's talk last conference when he and his two small sons were snowed in their car overnight. When the three year old talked to his mom on the phone the next morning he said "I just want you to know we had a hard time."

It is amazing how much others can share our burdens when we let them.

This has been a hard burden to share because, well how do you meet someone and say hey, let me tell you about the most awful thing that happened.

A big hug returned to all of you and thanks for the money you saved me on the therapy bill.

Annie Valentine said...

So hard to read. Lots of love coming your way, think of great cyber waves of love crashing through the computer. That kind of love.

Susan said...

Oh man, I'm so sorry. I had no idea that you almost adopted another girl. I almost feel like I knew her too. I am sad for you and my would-be cousin.

trublubyu said...

this is such an emotional post. i am sorry you had to go through that experience. i love what was said about you having those 3 years to teach her something important. i also think that you probably also needed those years with her and she taught you something you needed to learn. thank you for sharing those tender feelings.

oh, and thanks for stopping by my blog.

Jen said...

I simply cannot imagine. I too finally got the little girl I prayed for, and everyday I am thankful she's still here.

Think how blessed that little girl was to have your love for even a short time. As hard as it must be to deal with the loss, at least you did get to give something to someone who truly needed it. That alone is a priceless thing.

Barbaloot said...

This breaks my heart! I feel so sad for you and for the little girl that could have been a part of your family!

I hope she's okay. You are amazing for opening your heart and home to others who don't get to be blessed with loving parents.