Remember how Mary Poppins flew into the Banks family’s life on the changing wind and then, when her work was done, she flew out again? Well, six years ago I flew in to a family’s life, a family I didn’t know well at the time, with a phone call asking if our home could be their younger daughter’s second home while their older daughter was undergoing cancer treatments. I had offered to help and I was thrilled to be able to provide this type of stability in their lives. So, for almost a year, the younger daughter lived with us for several days at a time every second or third week while her older sister was hospitalized and sometimes, in emergencies, for a few days in between. A phone call stating, “We’re on our way in. Can you meet us at Emanuel?” became pretty common. I became “Mommy Debbie," a title I didn't ask for, though I was thrilled with the honor (I did point out that it should have been Grandma Debbie since there was already a Mommy in the family and I was old enough to be the girls’ grandma).
Over the years, since the cancer treatments ended, we’ve been in touch with this family – taking care of the two girls for a weekend a couple of times so Mommy and Daddy could have some time away, attending birthday parties, offering help when they had a house fire, meeting at hospitals to take care of one or both of the girls while Mommy and Daddy met with doctors. Then, two and one-half years ago we learned that Mommy had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Offering a little help here and there, I was again back in touch with the family on a more regular basis.
Fast-forward to last summer – Mommy decides that after almost a year of being bedridden and dependent on a ventilator to keep her alive, it is time to turn off the machine. After all this family had been through, saying, “Goodbye” to Mommy had to be the hardest.
Now, fast-forward to yesterday – Daddy has, miraculously, fallen in love with a beautiful woman with two lovely daughters of her own. It truly seems to be a match made in Heaven. Yesterday, the two wed and concurrently completed adoption paperwork to make this new family one solid whole. And yesterday, for the first time in six years, two little girls did not come running into my arms with a squeal of, “Mommy Debbie!” And that’s okay. After six years of cancer treatments, medical appointments, a house fire and the ravages of ALS, these little girls once again have a whole, healthy family (including a new Mommy and two new sisters) and they don’t need me to be there as a substitute mommy. It was a bittersweet realization and, while I don’t intend to disappear from their lives, like Mary Poppins, I took note of the change in the wind and, even though I’m so happy for this family, I did let a few tears fall as I said, “Goodbye.”