Adoption is a life-changing decision for every member of the family. Yesterday, in Part 1 of a series about adopting children with terminal illnesses, you met Hector and Sue Badeau. They have 2 birth children, 20 adopted children (that is not a typo), and 3 of those children had terminal diagnoses before adoption. One of those children, Wayne, is pictured above.
Today, Sue focuses on the adoption of their three children with terminal special needs. Tomorrow in Part 3, the final installment in the series, she shares lessons learned during their grief journey.
Adopting Terminally Ill Children: One Family’s Story, Pt. 2
We already had 16 children and a very active, full life when a friend in adoption called one day to tell us about a 3 year old Chinese little boy with a rare terminal illness called Sanfilippo syndrome that needed an adoptive home. Of course we had never heard of this condition, and so we began to learn about it so we could maybe help find a family for him. We learned that the life expectancy was from 8 to 13 years. The more we learned, the more we realized how challenging children with this syndrome can be for many families. And, as our friend quickly pointed out, “Wouldn’t he do great in a large family?”
Breaking our Rule to Not Adopt Terminally Ill Children
It didn’t take a lot of phone calls to convince us – Wayne was our son. He was in some very real preordained way, already our son, so now all we had to do was bring him home. Wayne was such a delightful child and we were so glad that we broke our rule about not adopting a child with a terminal illness that within the next 3 years, we added two more terminally ill children to our family – Adam, who had the same disease as Wayne but was also plagued with fetal alcohol syndrome, lead poisoning and an early life history involving trauma; and Dylan, a shaken baby.
Terminally Ill but Living with Gusto
Wayne lived every day with sheer joy and gusto. When he was still able to walk, he didn’t. Walk, that is. He ran – everywhere. He was the hardest of the little kids to keep track of – always on the go. As we looked through pictures there are several of one of the kids or another – George in one, Jose in another, SueAnn here, Chelsea there – all holding him tightly for a photo – if you didn’t corral him, he’d escape. Even in the photos where he is just sitting in a chair, you can see the glint in his eye that says, “just you wait” and you can hear his little laugh, as he prepares to break out. Once, when we lived in Vermont, he escaped in the middle of the night and the milkman came knocking at our door to bring him home at 4 in the morning!
Our Terminally Ill Sons Taught Us True Joy
Adam was the first to die, in 1999, followed by Dylan in 2010. In April of this year, Wayne, the last of our “3 Musketeers” completed his earthly journey. Each of our children is unique and enriches our life in their own ways with their individual strengths, gifts, personality quirks, talents and spirit. Wayne, more than any other, taught us the true meaning of joy. As we reminisced about Wayne in the days following his death, the most common words used were smiles, clapping his hands, that laugh, mischievous, wild, always on the go, and always up to something.
Losing a child is an unspeakably devastating experience. No matter how prepared you think you are, and no matter how deep the roots of your faith, when the moment of death arrives, and the days and weeks of grieving that follow, the pain seems almost bottomless. No one should ever have to bury a child. It never feels right. I know Jesus understood this, which is why he showed such compassion toward parents of children with illnesses or special needs, and one of his early-recorded miracles is restoring the daughter of Jairus’ to life and health.
Life Lessons Learned through Adopting Terminally Ill Children
My husband and I grieved individually and together as a couple. We grieved as a family and each of our children also grieved in their own way. Since most of them had also experienced many losses and traumatic experiences in their younger years, the grief of losing these 3 brothers also triggered painful memories of past losses.
This grief, along with the joy and challenges we have experienced raising our children with special needs has profoundly changed us. We have learned many important life lessons along the way. Tomorrow, I’ll summarize a few of them.
What Have You Learned from Your Children?
In today’s post, Sue mentioned lessons her family learned from their sons with terminal diagnoses. But we all learn lessons from our children, be they typical, special needs, or terminally ill. If you like, leave a comment about lessons your children have taught you. Or tell about something you’ve learned from Sue’s story thus far. Come back tomorrow for the final installment in this series about adopting children with terminal illnesses. You read more about the Badeau family at their website at www.badeaufamily.com.