It’s hard to put into words what the last two months have been like for us. It was a horror we never, ever imagined. The morning after Jordan was found, I woke up to News vans outside of my house. Voicemails were being left and I had 400 friend requests on social media. The reporters were wanting a story from the Foster parents. More details had come to light, that he had only just reunified with his birth parents a couple months before. Most of his life was lived here and people wanted to know more. I never saw that part coming, really. I guess I should have but there was no time to. My blog and photos from facebook were being shared everywhere and we were a pretty hot topic across social media and eventually National News. It felt like I became famous for something nobody would ever wish to be famous for, on the worst week of my life. Our grieving and mourning time was hijacked, and we were scrambling to figure out how to navigate this. We are both so not “spotlight” people, so this was rather terrifying. Thankfully we have the most amazing church family and community and they came to our side in an instant. I disabled social media for the time and we had our lawyer friend give us some advice on how to handle everything being so public. It was all way too much too soon, but it put us in action mode. We decided to make one, short statement to the media, addressing what had happened. The whole thing felt surreal, I knew I wouldn’t be able to be of any use so Sam took the speaking part and I stood by his side crying on TV for all to see. I didn’t really mind, it was my hearts desire to speak the truth and not let the media make up their own story and twist things if we could help it. I also wanted to offer some photos and let people catch a glimpse of who Jordan really was and what the majority of his life was truly like. It broke my heart to see these horrible pictures of him circulating online. You could see the pain. They just weren’t him, the boy we raised full of big personality and an infectious grin.
The rest of the week was a blur of painful news articles, each one seemed to sting more than the last. The ways he was failed by everyone as soon as he left our care. Thoughts flooded my mind. Did I not advocate hard enough? What could I have done to stop this? Every fear I had after he had left was true. Thoughts were interrupted as friends came and went, helping prep for a memorial service our church held in his honor. Both our Moms flew in to help which was a huge gift, especially to our daughter. Thankfully she is too young to understand, but smart enough to know something was off. I received a crazy amount of text messages, phone calls, letters, emails and porch drop-offs. Our home looked like a flower shop, which was the only thing that brought a smile to my face in those first few days. The outpouring of love, food and gifts blew my mind. Everyone was SO incredibly kind to us and we are still very humbled by that. I started to journal a list of my favorite stories from those first few weeks because so many beautiful things happened and I never want to forget the way we saw the Lord move even in the darkest days. We could feel the tangible presence of God holding us and even though our hearts felt shattered, we were not alone.
By the second week I started to feel weak and exhausted, my whole body hurt. We hadn’t really been able to be still and just process the tragedy that had just occurred. We took a break from our phones and tried to have some quiet family time. Sam’s work was so gracious to give him time away. Things just kept piling up. We were being asked to be interviewed by so many different people all over the place. I thought the statement would make most of that go away, but it seemed to just add to everyone’s curiosity. On top of that, so much of the case and broken system were being put on display, it seemed to have the world fired up along with us. Although I appreciated support in certain areas, it began to feel like an immense burden on top of my grief. So many foster families seemed to think we had some sort of ‘golden key’ to fixing Foster care and we were given this voice, whether we wanted it or not. People from the investigation wanted to speak with us, as well as higher-ups in the system and State reps. It was obvious changes needed to be made and maybe we could help. It felt like the biggest privilege and also the biggest burden. This problem is so incredibly multi-faceted, I can’t even begin to explain. Everyone seems to have an opinion and become an expert at pointing fingers, but it’s just not helpful or productive. Some nights I wanted to scream, because I felt like I didn’t even care anymore. I wanted to crawl under a rock, not rise up for justice. My baby was just murdered and nothing will reverse that, it was a sickening reality.
After some time passed however, it was hard to ignore all that God was doing. We live in a broken, sinful world and I don’t blame God, nor do I think He caused it, but I do believe he is the great Redeemer, the Healer. I’m still processing a lot, but I can recognize the beauty in the midst of pain. Jordan’s death seemed to have a ripple effect I never expected. In fact, I expected the far opposite. I remember thinking ‘nobody will ever want to foster or hear my heart after they see this story’. But to my surprise we had the biggest Orientation that same weekend after his service, and more sign-ups for Guardian ad litem and foster parents they’ve seen in a very long time. People were rising up asking what they could do and how to get involved. I’ve sobbed as I received so many letters expressing how our story has changed them and made them want to make a difference as well. I’ve been able to share the Lord with hurting people in ways I would have never guessed. There are many days I don’t want any type of platform, but I’m trying to use this moment the best I can, even if we are still in the middle of trial and hurt.
We have been marked, this is our story now whether we want it or not. It’s been freeing for me to know God can handle all of my raw and ugly emotions. He lets me weep and have waves of righteous anger, but he doesn’t want me to stay there. Grief is a journey, but we know the Healer. He will take us by the hand and lead us forward, eyes puffy and knees shaking. I’m praying for the strength to speak truth where it is needed and be obedient to the places He is calling us to next. I know we are not done.