This weekend was a crazy jumble of intense emotions, as we moved Glen into his college dorm.
Saturday, we went with a couple from my ward (Bro. & Sis. C.) on a grand bike hike from our South Minneapolis neighborhood to downtown Stillwater, MN, on the Wisconsin border. We biked a total of about 60 miles in one day, and it gave us all a great sense of achievement. Maybe a metaphor of the journey we've gone as a foster family, literally with its ups and downs, struggle, sweat, fun and laughter. The day as a whole was relaxing and pleasant, and a great diversion from the impending move.
But then came the next day. The move was painful. Göran and I did not do so well emotionally. One of the emotions that surprised me was anger. Göran wanted more time. He wanted so desperately to jam a life time of family-ness into these three all-too-short years. He didn't want Glen to be all grown up now and leaving our home already.
Even though we moved everything in, Glen spent last night here at home... Tonight is the first night when it will be just me and Göran in the house by ourselves again. I know it's not forever. I peeked in Glen's room. His Harry Potter and other books are still there, half his clothes still hanging in his closet, lots of stuff still sitting on his shelves and on his desk. It's still his room. He'll be spending the night here from time to time, for holidays and what not. Still, I've been weeping on and off all day, every time I hug him. This was harder than I thought it would be.
Göran wrote him a beautiful letter early this morning. After Glen had read it, I hugged him and the tears were flowing freely. He said, "I'll be a part of your family until the day I die."
"And beyond," I replied.
That assurance came from somewhere very deep. I know it's true.
But here's the thing... I was just reminded by one of my periodic fans that my relationships will "end when I die." Odd how the revelations the prophet Joseph received that have given hope to so many millions of Latter-day Saints that families can be "forever" would be turned by a person supposedly of faith into this form of denial.
But how would I love my foster son or my spouse any differently assuming our relationships ended at death? Should I love them less? Should I be like the mother that Carol Lynn Pearson describes in her book No More Goodbyes, who says of her gay son that it doesn't really pay to invest in her relationship with him any more because he won't be part of their family in the next life? Really? Is that how I should treat people?
No, I act as if every relationship is eternal. I act knowing that any given person I'm interacting with is an eternal being, with eternal potential. I honor them, and I cherish our relationship as a gift that is not to be squandered, because its value is eternal.
I've struggled with my family. I've struggled to teach, to love, to provide. We have wept often together. Today, our social worker remarked that she rarely had seen even in biological families such a tenacious commitment as what she had witnessed in me and Göran to work through the difficulties, to be hard-working, conscientious parents. She said, "Some families, if they had had the struggles you've had, would step back, give up, and distance themselves. But you never did that."
There's a reason for that. It's that I have treated every day of our life together as if it were one more day in a relationship that is eternal. When problems come along, when there's pain and struggle, I'm committed to work through it, even if it takes a life-time, because I know that there's more around the bend. I'm working to build something for beyond this life. They say, "Live every day as if it were your last." But I would add, treat every relationship as if it were eternal.
From that tenacious love, we've reaped rewards that are very much with me even as I write this. I don't have to wait till the next life to know the blessedness of having loved this boy as if he were our own flesh and blood, as if he were sealed to us under the most solemn rites in the world's most sacred place. Right now, that love is a warmth that fills every corner of my soul. And I know it will warm me till the day I die.