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Orphaned Child Knew Mom's Love

Dear Debbie White,

You are my pick for brave mom of the year. There are lots of foster parents and adoptive parents, but not many whose hearts are ample enough to accept a sickly child.

Largely by faith, you, your mate Nancy Brown, and Grandma Doris Brown gave Jeffrey the most fitting of birth gifts-as normal a childhood as possible for an orphaned infant with no hope of growing up.

The triad of you three women posed a formidable front to bouts of coughing, fever, oxygen masks, and sleepless nights.

As you and he expected, Jeffrey missed out on big-boy goals, like Cub Scouts and ABCs, a job at Taco Bell, and a license to drive Herbie the Volkswagen.

He focused on attainable kid things-banana pudding, Bart Simpson, his multicolored afghan, and "Jesus Loves Me."

All things considered, he succeeded in cramming five years of living into what days he was allotted, even the ones when his energy sagged and his body craved hugging and rocking.

I came to your son's funeral to honor his passing and to note some facts for a column.
As I talked with your vast support group from the Metropolitan Community Church, I stopped writing and just listened.

The stories were a mix of humor and wistfulness. Everyone had a favorite moment out of Jeffrey's five years.

The parting hymn had us all humming "Precious Memories," a worthy tribute to your little one.

The Rev. Lynn Guerra summed up compelling reminiscences-Jeffrey riding his tricycle down the church aisle and serving his nursery school a share of plastic foods on tea set plates.

That generous communion was his strength. He offered you and Nancy and Doris the same-whatever he had to give, however frail and childlike.

I'm glad that there was nothing frail about the bond that held your family through pneumonia and trips to Duke Medical Center and the final journey to Houck's Chapel and Jeffrey's graveside.

I watched your face as mourners' hands released crayon-bright balloons into the spring breeze and the tender green arms of willow oaks.

Your hand was never more than inches from the small white casket, your face a study of motherly affection pained with parting.

As though testing your loss, you massaged the crook of your left arm, the place where Jeffrey nestled on his last day, the morning you abandoned hospitals and medicine and shared a picnic.

I am glad that the last face Jeffrey's eyes could see was the mom who had diapered, sung, and doctored, the one who offered unconditional acceptance. As you phrased your commitment, "Jeffrey was my little boy. There won't be another."

Jeffrey's spirit knows grace and rest in the universe, a safe place where little boys grow strong.

I wish blessings on you and Nancy and Doris this Mother's Day and peace to your hearts

Charlotte Observer
"Catawba Valley Neighbors,"
May 9, 1993




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Mary Ellen Snodgrass Tel/Fax: (828) 324-0155