Thursday, May 10, 2012

Abrupt Goodbye

For the past two weeks, my emotions have been up and down. There was news coming from the adoption agency in the U.S. that I might be pulled out due to safety and financial issues. I was hoping it would be resolved like every other issue that has came up throughout this past year in Haiti. My heart felt like it was beating a million beats per second every time I had internet to open my email box. I waited and waited for the decision. The final decision came about a week ago and BOOM…..they have decided to pull me out of Haiti and the extern position will be closed for now. What does this mean? It means that I will have to leave earlier than expected, 2 months earlier to be exact, and no one will be coming to replace me as the orphanage extern.

Everything came at once and I had to excuse myself from the office. I ran to my room and closed the door. I grabbed my pillow on the bed and I screamed and screamed and screamed into the pillow. I sobbed so hard that my whole body shook. I wasn’t prepared for this news. I still had hope that it wasn’t true, but now….now it was final. I couldn’t even fathom the idea of leaving the orphanage. What are the children going to say ? How are they going to react ? How in the world am I going to explain this sudden decision to leave? I broke down completely in my room. No one can hear my cries because I am situated right next to the the generator. Between the crying babies and the loud motor of the generator, I sank to a very dark place.

Life is not fair. I know that very well, but it is still very hard to take this breaking news. I thought about the children and I felt so guilty that I had to leave. Even when it is not my own decision, but it still hurt so bad. The worst out of all of this was the fact that there was going to be no one to replace me when I leave. The position has been terminated for who knows how long. Yes the world is having a financial crisis, but I just felt so bad for the children. It is so unfair this situation. The children always suffers in the end. When I think about how I am going to tell everyone the horrific news, my whole body just goes limp. I had no energy at all. I was drained completely, emotionally. After about 30 minutes of weakness, I got myself back together and wiped off my tears. I took a deep breath and got back to the office. It was time to face the truth. This was a real lesson of letting go!

I spoke with the staff members at the orphanage at first. Most of them were super sad and some even walked away in disbelief. They all asked who was going to come after me, and was appalled to know that there was going to be no one. I was super sad, but I held it together for them. They all knew how much I loved the children and the Haitian population. They said that they were sad to see me go. I am going to miss everyone so very much. The hardest part came at night time, when I had to break the news to the children. I sat all the older children together outside and simply told them that due to reasons outside of my control, I had to leave next week. The adolescents were all so shocked and many grabbed onto me and started crying. I was heart broken inside. I comforted them and told them that I will always be with them in spirit and will never forget them. We all passed the night under the moon light singing our sorrows away. We sang and sang and sang until our eye lids were so heavy that we had to go to bed. I hugged and kissed each one of them good night and told them that I loved them so much.

I, at least, got to say goodbye to all the staff and children at Lamardelle, but for Kenscoff, I had to do it over the phone. I heard so many screams and cries in the background on the phone. People were in disbelief of this shocking news and refused to believe it. I asked them to kiss and hug all the children for me and that for sure this will not be a final goodbye. I will for sure come back to visit them again.

I had so much to do and finish up before my flight back to France. I wanted to really finish all of the May reports for the adoptive parents and also to do a finalized developmental chart for each child. I wanted there to at least be an organized and final document for the children here. It was the least that I can do for them and their adoptive parents. I was working like a mad woman, day and night. I don’t think I had more than one hour of sleep each night the last two weeks. I tried to spend as much time as possible with the children and to take a lot of pictures to keep for memory.

Yesterday, to my surprise, the staff and children threw me a huge surprise party. During the day, the staff member gave me a huge party with all traditional Haitian dishes. There was only one meat dish, because they said they were going to eat less meat and more veggies in honor of me. I was so touched by their gesture ! We sang and danced together. They gave me a beautiful painting of a Haitian child, and they all agreed that it was exactly like the Haitian inner child of me. I couldn’t agree more. There was an instant connection between the painting and me. At night time, all the children were dressed in their best clothes and had all their hair done. We all had sodas and chips together to celebrate my time with them this past year in Haiti. I was so touched and so grateful for their love and kindness. All of the the children made something special for me to take home. I received little letters, cute drawings, and special love cards from each child. It was so sweet of them to do that for me. The children sang me a goodbye song and told me that they will always love me. Forever and always.

* * * * *

I packed like a maniac last night. It wasn’t so much that I was packing for me, but more so for the children. I organized everything that I was leaving behind (medication, clothing, shoes, hygiene supplies, etc.) for the children into boxes and bags. I labelled them all and gave them to the oldest adolescent to distribute after I leave Haiti. I also wrote cards for each of the adolescents and print out photos of them and I together over the months here in Lamardelle. When they saw all the things that I was giving them and also the pretty gifts, they were all super excited and squealed in joy. But shortly after all that excitement, many of them came and hugged me and said that they would trade anything to just have me here longer. We all hugged and cried together. I reminded them to keep studying hard in school and to never give up on their dreams. That they were intelligent and anything was possible. Do not under-estimate oneself, because we all have unlimited potential. I left their rooms for the very last time last night….the feeling was quite heavy on my heart.

I walked all over the orphanage to kiss each and everyone of the children goodbye. Looking at their sleeping faces, all the memories of these past 10 months flashed before my eyes. I could hear their giggles in the back ground. Their cries when they fell or wasn’t feeling well. I could hear them calling out « Lori, Lori, Lori. » I am going to miss them so much ! I am going to miss their hugs and kisses every morning. I am going to miss holding them every night after a stressful day of work. I am going to miss each and every one of their bright little faces looking back at me with unconditional love. I went back to my room, the empty white walls haunted me. The room that I called home now only consists of three luggage bags and a back pack. I sat on the bed and looked out toward the moon light. It was so beautiful. The moonlight shining on the tall coconut trees. I can’t believe that I am leaving Haiti and leaving the orphanage in less than 5 hours. I couldn’t fall asleep. All the memories and laughter of children kept on replaying in my mind….I closed my eyes…praying for courage and strength in dealing with my departure….

Haiti, thank you for showing me what being strong and resilient is all about. Thank you for giving me your unconditional love and care. The people of Haiti will always have a special place in my heart. The children, no matter where you are and what struggles you are going through, please think of me, think of all the good times we had together. I have done all that I could to the best of my knowledge these past 10 months at the orphanage. I am so grateful for this experience and so grateful to all the people that have supported me from the beginning to the end. Thank you to all the smiles, hugs, and kisses of each child that came my way. I have learned so much about myself and how to better myself through the innocent daily interactions between a child. Each child is unique in his own way and he brings with him a precious lesson for humanity. People always say that I offered so much of myself to the children of Haiti, but to me, it is actually the reverse. The children of Haiti has given me so much in return. More than I can ever dream of. Thank you for helping me find myself and thank you for helping me sustain my inner peace. I’ve learned that true happiness cannot be bought, it is actually shared in real time when you help others. Just like Master Cheng Yen has taught me, « The more you give, the more you receive in return. » This was absolutely true in Haiti. I’ve grown as a person over the 10 months at the orphanage and not just physically and mentally, but my wisdom has grown, as well. The love was overflown both ways and as a result, a difference was made.

This is not a final goodbye Haiti. You have become another home for me. I cannot physically be there all the time, but spiritually, I will always have a part there. A connection was made for life. The seeds of love have been planted all over and I can’t wait to see them blossom over the future. Everything happens for a reason. Every person you meet and every event that takes place is a true blessing.

I looked out the window from the airplane…tears rolled down my face…this emotional roller coaster must be the same feelings a child goes through when his adoption is finalized. Just one day, all of a sudden, you find yourself with your bags packed and heading toward a foreign country. The abrupt goodbyes and uncertainty. I love you Haiti. We shall meet again one day ! This I promise you !

Me and Brunette Charles (Social Services Manager) with the painting of the Haitian child. 

 The children made special cards for me to take home. The whole orphanage had a surprise going away party for me. All the children dressed their best and had their hair all made up. All the children didn’t want me to go. They kept on saying « Lori stay please. We will be good. Please stay with us. » We were all dancing and singing and taking photos at the same time.  

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