Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

One Last Good-Bye

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Part I

For most of us, the goal of our lives is to limit our own suffering. We avoid going to the places we know it to be. When it crosses our line of sight, we close our eyes until it passes. We live in self-fabricated protection from the harsh realities others are face on a daily basis.

Sometimes we even distract ourselves by engaging a silly conflict between a rich television station and a rich old man with a long beard.

Maybe our blindness would be okay, if everyone possessed the resources to avoid the hardness as well. But for some, it is unavoidable.

As Virginia Woolf put it in her novel, To the Lighthouse (affiliate link): 

How could any Lord have made this world? she asked. With her mind she had always seized the fact that there is no reason, order, justice: but suffering, death, the poor. There was no treachery too base for the world to commit; she knew that. No happiness lasted, she knew that.

On Thursday, I stepped into the suffering. It wasn’t much. Like a walk along the beach with bare feet, I hardly felt the coldness of the water before the waves receded. I certainly didn’t touch the bottom of the sea. I can’t begin to fathom its depths.

I was only in the suffering but a second, but I will never forget it.

Part II

On Thursday we had the privilege of visiting the orphanage. We saw the good people are doing for children whose needs are great. We saw children learning to read and write. We saw children, who had been abandoned, being held and loved.

Every time we bumped into one of the workers, their eyes opened wide with delight when they saw our son, Sean. Women screamed with delight. They covered him with hugs, swallowing him with the love of their arms. He always grinned sheepishly, like 13 year old boys do. Perhaps embarrassed in front of his new mother and father and brother.

At the end, we were able to visit Sean’s foster mother. It was evident by her reaction that she never expected to see him again. No doubt she had said her good-byes on Monday, when he was brought to meet us. I can only imagine how many tears she has shed this week. Her Christmas day was spent in loss.

And then we saw her cry ourselves. We saw her heart break again. We watched her embrace him. I am certain she wished she could be his forever mother. But again, the hardness of life prevent this.

We sat on Sean’s old bed, already given to his little foster brother. We drank tea. We took pictures. We wiped away tears. We walked to Sean’s old school and watched children play in the yard.

The temperature outside was 18 degrees, but I hardly noticed. I could feel nothing but the joy and sorrow.

Part III

And then we walked back to the van. I kept watching her. I wished I had the ability to tell her how much we appreciate her in her own language. With my own lips. I wanted the moment to last as long as possible knowing I will probably never see this woman again. I wanted our lives to intersect again.

I looked back one more time, and she had disappeared. Perhaps the moment was too much for her. Perhaps she had gone inside to avoid having to say one last good-bye.

Just before we climbed into the van, she came running around the corner of the building carrying a bag of bread. She had apparently stopped to buy it from a street vendor on our walk back.

This woman who gives and gives and gives, wanted to give one more time to her son.

Part IV

There are few things I know to be good in this life. There are few things I am absolutely certain about. But entering into the sadness, reaching out with a helping hand, giving more, I am certain this is good.

I understand Woolf’s cynicism in the quote above. I feel it often. But maybe the Lord has allowed the suffering and the death and the poor so that we could know what is truly good.

Maybe the darkness allows us understand why the light is so beautiful.

And maybe, the Lord allows the darkness, the suffering, the poor, so we can choose it, much like he did for us. Maybe this is how we begin to understand his love for us.

Maybe the suffering is there, so we can step into it. And maybe, just maybe, this is how the kingdom comes. In the hearts of foster moms and orphans. And in you and me.

Part V

I want to be more like this woman. I want to live with my eyes and my arms and my heart wide open. I want to hurt so bad that I stop to buy bread along the side of the road.

The greatest tragedy of our lives right now isn’t what Phil Robertson said. Nor is it how A&E responded.

The greatest tragedy of our lives is that we choose to ignore the suffering. We choose to ignore the poor. We choose to ignore the orphan. We choose to not love like this woman loves.

Sitting here in the dark, in the cold and the silence of the early morning in far western China, this is blowing me away.

To give Sean a permanent home. To give him a family. To give him food and clothes. To smile when he is happy. To hug him when he is sad. This is the least I can do for him. This is the least i can do for his birth parents. This is the least I can do for his foster mother.

Here are a few pictures from our day.

The entrance to the main orphanage in Urumqi.


This is a new building for the orphanage. We were very impressed by the facilities.


The orphanage grounds. As always, a cold winter day.


A physical therapy room in the orphanage.


Just a few of the people that have known Sean since he was a little baby. Just a few of the people who love him.


This is the home he has lived in for the last 5 years. To Noah’s right are his foster brother and his foster mother.


Sean’s school until Monday.


Sean with his families. His two foster brothers, his foster mother, his adoptive mother, brother, and father.


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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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10 Replies

  1. DDF

    The Stattons are leading us all into 2014 by asking the most important question. “What do you want me to do, Lord?” … Or to ask it with Jeremy’s words: “What is ‘the least’ I can do Lord?” … And the Stattons are showing us how to answer that question by showing up each day, by crying out to God “Help, Lord!” and by being willing to ask, “What are you and I going to do today, Lord?” … Blessings to the Stattons and upon all who are willing to have ears to hear.

  2. Janet

    This touched me. Thanks for sharing this difficult but joyful story. It reminded me of a quote I’d heard somewhere. I looked it up:

    “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome” by Anne Bradstreet

  3. Sabine

    Oh woaw! May we always open our eyes to see the pain, and open our heart to hear the appropriate answer the Lord wants us to give… Wish you many blessings for this new year: it will certainly be a year of novelty and adventure to give your family a new shape! Enjoy it!

  4. Christina Quist

    Beautiful and inspiring.

  5. Many blessings to you too.

  6. Thank you for sharing the quote.

  7. Blessings to you too. We will be ringing in the new year 13 hours ahead of you tonight.

  8. Janet

    This is one of many quotes that I had on my bulletin board at work. I needed the reminder. See – several years ago my 15 y/o died in an accident. I collected all the quotes that helped me get through that time. Well – that helped me cope. I’ve never gotten through it or over it.. Never will.

    Another great tragedy is that we often choose to ignore suffering that occurs amongst our friends, church family, and family. I’ve never felt so alone or isolated as the years following our son’s death. It’s as if he never lived. Granted, part of it is that those of us who struggle do not seek out people. We withdraw.

    We, as a people, do not know how to confront suffering when we know it is happening. So we turn and ignore it – because it makes us too uncomfortable.

    Loved your post. God bless you in your endeavor. There is so much suffering everywhere. Even here in America. I see it every day at work as a nurse.

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