Little Renato came to the orphanage having been abandoned at our clinic. We took him in and he was instantly a part of the Tytoo family. It’s weird how quickly our lives can be interrupted in Haiti. You wake up thinking it will be just another ordinary day and then there’s a little guy who is just abandoned into your care and then your world shifts and your heart broken for the reality of what you’re living in.
I can remember clearly the day he came into in our lives, just as well as I can remember the days I met AnneMelissa, Lopez, Sophie, Lovena, Marvens, Chedline and even my Wishla for the first time. It is part traumatic, part amazing. To think about the trauma the kids go through before coming to the orphanage, many of them coming from severe neglect, malnourishment, or abuse. To think about the abandonment and being thrown into the care of people they don’t even know. To think about their little brains and their ability to somehow cope and thrive through all that they’ve been through. And, then to think we have the honor to love and serve them. Yet, the heaviness in knowing the responsibility that all that carries, because they are precious, fragile, little lives and who said we were qualified to know what’s best for them?
And that’s why I’ll always fight for family preservation, because in most all of the situations – I can think of some where this isn’t true – the mamas know what’s best, but they don’t have the resources to recognize that. That’s for another day; today is about Renato.
It had been a long week at the orphanage, a couple of the other kids had been sick plus another little guy who had been a part of our ministry’s work had passed away, so we were all just feeling the heaviness of life. Saturday night came and Webert and I had gone out to dinner with a few friends. When we got back into Simonette, we stopped by Tytoo to find our friend Lindsay in the clinic with Renato. He hadn’t been feeling well and our Haitian nurse had come down to check on him and give him some fluids. I had asked Lindsay if she wanted me to come back and be around to help take care of him, but his vitals were looking good and she had said she’d be okay.
None of us will ever know what happened, but in a matter of a couple hours, Renato went from sitting up to seizing to eventually going home to be with Jesus. Webert and I were awoken in the middle of the night by my mom, telling us the news. Ben and Lindsay had taken him to the hospital, but it was too late by the time they had gotten there. Since it was in the middle of the night, there was no ambulance available to take them home.
(It’s the law in Haiti for dead bodies to only be transported in ambulances, which can be a very unfortunate thing as I’ve also witnessed dead bodies left on the road for hours or days because it will take that long for the hospitals to send an ambulance.)
So, like an out of body experience, Webert and I paid off a police officer in the middle of the night to escort us to the hospital so we could help get everyone home. We decided to take his little body to my house, because we didn’t want the kids at the orphanage waking up and seeing his body without it being in a casket. We closed him behind the bedroom door that I was preparing to be Rubie’s nursery – I was about five months pregnant at the time. My dad and Webert went and built him a small, handmade casket while I went and found trusted friends who could bleach and clean the clinic. We honestly didn’t know what took his little life and we were afraid it could have been something contagious, so that entire morning was us just running off adrenaline. At some point in the morning, we were told the body still may be contagious and we were advised to bury him as quickly as we could. It wasn’t ideal because we were wanting to have a more formal funeral for everyone at Tytoo later in the day, but saw it was best to bury him immediately. Somehow, my dad and Webert had the courage to do that.
We somehow pulled off putting on our Sunday best and Webert led an entire church service. We got to the end of the service and he then broke the news to all the children, staff and congregation about the passing of our sweet Renato. I’ll never forget the way the kids wept and the way the mommies held them. The next day we wrote letters and colored pictures to bury next to Renato. The kids sang a worship song beside his grave as we released lanterns into the sky.
As I typed out this story, I kept asking God, what else do you want me to say about this? It still feels so unfair. You took him so quickly. You let him pass in the arms of someone I care so deeply for. You made me take his body into my own home. You made us bury him so quickly. All of this reminiscing doesn’t feel healing, like You said it would. So, I did a quick search and went back to the original blog I wrote about Renato, click here to read my original words.
The last paragraph just hit home, because it’s what I still crave and desire to cultivate today:
“I ended yesterday by having dinner at a friend’s house. I sat around a table with four other beautiful women as we debriefed the day’s events. We talked real about life but still managed to laugh about SpongeBob Square Pants. I felt so safe and so loved around that dinner table and my prayer for this new day is that I can continue to create a home where people can come and feel that way around my table. Continue to be a part of an authentic community where people can feel safe to call on me in the midst of tragedy. I hope I can have the strength to continue to overcome tragedy with grace and love. Continue creating a world where people feel loved, surrounded and a part of something beautiful.
And as my little Wishla has now made her way onto my lap with her sippy cup of apple juice and I feel flutters of life in my stomach, I can’t help but fight for all of the above. Because that’s the kind of world I want my own children to know and to live in. It’s the kind of home I want them to abide in. The kind of community I want them to grow and learn in. The kind of world I want them to know.
How beautiful the body of Christ is. How I pray and anticipate and wait for the return of Jesus.
Renato came to us abandoned, forsaken and alone in the world. But, if we did anything right at all, by the grace of God, we let him leave the world surrounded, loved and a part of something beautiful: a family.”
Satan has been so good at blinding me to only see all the loss and trauma Haiti has given me. So, here’s to pulling off those blinders and allowing myself to see all the amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to love, serve and do life with. My experiences have made me stronger and given me a lot of good stories to tell. I mean, who else can say they paid off a police officer in the middle of the night to escort them to and from a hospital, to only have the police officer run out of gas on the way home?