Five years ago, this month, my family lost our 7-year-old daughter, Ruth. We had adopted her about six years before from a children’s home in Uganda. Ruth had severe cerebral palsy and was profoundly deaf, but she sure could smile.

Despite being unable to walk or talk, Ruth was as bright and funny and as full of joy as any child I have ever met. Maybe more so. I often thought that God had packed Ruth full of extra joy to make up for all the things life had taken away. So, shortly before her eighth birthday, when our beloved daughter unexpectedly died in her sleep from complications related to cerebral palsy, we were devastated.

For years, I’ve struggled with self-blame, sure that we should have been able to save her — despite knowing several families who have lost children with CP in heartbreakingly similar, and unpredictable, ways. I’ve also struggled with the question of whether it really mattered — the love we poured out, and the comforts we gave up, and the difficulties we faced to make Ruth part of our family. Was it for nothing?

Deep down, I know it wasn’t. Not only did Ruth bring us more joy and happiness than seems possible for someone who was totally depended for her care. But I know that, had we not adopted her, Ruth would have missed having brothers and sisters who loved her and the chance to learn and go to school and to undergo the life-changing surgery that allowed her to hear.

Yet, despite this, the heartache of losing Ruth is compounded by the thought that all the good we worked for and hoped to see bear fruit in her, had come to such an abrupt end. That’s why I was startled this week to receive a letter from the Oregon Department of Human Services. In it, was a letter of reference for Ruth’s former caregiver, Christina, who was applying to become a licensed Foster Care parent.

When we met Christina, she was a shy, 17-year-old student from Brunswick with a big heart. For years, Christina babysat Ruth, and our other children, when others were uncomfortable doing so. She read books, took Ruth for walks in her wheelchair and fed and changed and loved her as every child deserves to be loved.

After Ruth died, we stayed in touch — even after Christina moved from Maine to the East Coast. What I didn’t realize, until opening the letter, was that the same love Christina shared for Ruth — and the skills and experience she gained in caring for her — will now benefit other vulnerable children, this time through Foster Care.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God,” scripture says in I John 4:7.

Despite my haunting doubts, I know such love can never be lost. When all seems hopeless, God’s love keeps giving and growing through us, if we let him.

MEADOW RUE MERRILL is a Mid-coast Maine writer who shares about God in her everyday life through “Faith Notes.” For more, go to where you can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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