Memorial Service February 1, 2005
First of all, I want to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and kind words during this difficult week. It has meant so much to us and I know to the family also. Many people have asked me to tell them if there was anything they could do to help. But the truth is, there is only one thing I want. I want my daughter back.
I was Sirita’s foster daddy. We were new foster parents. We had done short respite care for a couple children for a week or a weekend, but Sirita was our first long term foster child. We don’t have children of our own, so we were also new parents. In many ways, Sirita was like our first born. She learned from us, but we learned from her, too. She taught me how to be a dad.
Sirita came to us, like any child, as a gift from God. She was frightened and shy, as any child would be brought into the home of complete strangers. She missed her mom. She loved her mom. With love and patience, we tried to do everything we could to make her feel welcome and secure. We introduced ourselves as Gary and Magda, and she did call me Gary, but she insisted on calling Magda, “Mommy.” Children need that, don’t they? She understood she had many mommies. We told her she was lucky to have so many people that loved her.
Every morning, when we got her from bed, we said, “Good Morning, Sunshine!” She liked that. We say that now to all our foster kids. On Saturday she would be the first one up, and she would come into our bedroom and tell us, “Good Morning, Sunshine!” I loved coming home from work in the evening, because she would yell “Gary’s home!” and come running, jump into my arms and give me a big hug. I bounced her up and down as we both said, “Yaaay-yaay-yaay-yaaaay!”
She loved to be part of anything you were doing. She liked to help Magda in the kitchen. She liked to scramble the eggs for an omelet. She liked to stir the bowl when Magda made cookies.
My wife loved to dress her up. It seemed she was always buying new outfits. Sirita was a fashion princess. She loved trying on clothes, have her hair done up with hair pretties, and then look in the mirror. She had her favorite clothes, and some very interesting, shall we say, combinations. I would hear her and Magda arguing about a something she wanted to wear that didn’t match the rest of her outfit. I said, “If either one of you was a boy, this conversation would not be taking place.” Sometimes when I was the one getting her ready I would hand her a shirt or something and she would dead-pan back to me, “that doesn’t go with anything.” I would think, was that my wife’s voice I just heard?
I called her “Boo-Boo.” She liked that. She would call me “Boo-Boo,” and I would say “no, you’re Boo-Boo.” And she would say “no, you’re Boo-Boo!” I would say “no, you are Boo-Boo, Mommy is Moo-Moo, and I am Ugu-Moo-Goo. I get the coolest name because I’m the one making them up.” And she would say “no, you’re Boo-Boo!” She only had the one argument, but she was sticking to it.
For Halloween, she wanted to be a fairy princess. I took the white robe from an angel costume and the butterfly wings and wand from a fairy costume and combined them, adding a tiara. She looked adorable. Everyone who saw her stopped and smiled. I took her to work where trick or treating the offices is a tradition. She really cleaned up collecting candy.
This was during the transition period, so afterwards I was taking her up to continue trick or treating with her brothers and sisters. I called for directions with my cell phone. Sirita asked, “Who was that?”
“That was your daddy.”
“What did he say?”
“He said they live in Lake Stevens.”
With a touch of exasperation, like she was talking to a particularly dim witted student, she replied, “Just what I told you! Lake Stevens.”
I didn’t want her to be afraid of the dark, so I took her outside at night to look at the moon and the stars. She would say, “Hello moon!” She knew she could always delay bedtime another 5 minutes by asking to see Mars; she could point it out in the southern sky. I was so proud, because I had taught her that. Some nights we would get in my car and I would let her drive - not really drive! The engine was turned off. But she could sit in the driver’s seat and turn the wheel and play with the controls while we listened to the radio and looked at the stars.
She moved around a lot in her sleep. She always kicked off all her blankets – we had to keep the house warm at night! Sometimes she had nightmares. When I heard her cry, I would go hold her for a while. Sometimes after a bad dream she would just come into our room, climb over top of me, and snuggle in between us. But like I said, she never stopped moving when she slept. I would feel her hand on my arm. That was sweet. Then she would put her hair in my face. Okay, I guess that’s still sweet. Then I would feel her foot in my back. This was no longer sweet. J It’s time for your own bed.
We took weekend trips to the zoo, the aquarium, the Olympic Game Farm, Hurricane Ridge, the Dungeness Spit, the church picnic, the company picnic, and many trips to the Edmonds beach and Silver Lake park. Towards the end, when I knew I was losing her, I took extra time off from work to be together. When it unexpectedly snowed two days before she was supposed to leave us, I took another day off so we could build a snowman and play in the snow. I treasure those moments.
She loved to dance and she loved to watch figure skating. She would run down the hallway and do a pirouette – or try to. She was also quite the gymnast, climbing up into everything. We put her in dance class, figuring it would be a good base for whatever she wanted to do later on, and she loved it.
She loved to sing and learned many songs. She could often pick them up after only hearing them once. We had many songs we sang at bedtime. She knew all three verses of “Jesus Loves Me.” Many of you probably don’t know the third verse. It goes, “I love Jesus, does He know? Have I ever told Him so? If I love Him when I die, He will take me home on high.” I had no idea when I taught her that verse that I was actually preparing her for something.
Magda taught her a song about Santa Claus in Romanian. How many three year olds can sing a song in a foreign language?
She could sing songs normally beyond the range of children, such as “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, There’s just something about that name.” That song has many half steps that children’s songs generally don’t have. She did really well. When we got to the part that goes “Master, Savior, Jesus,” she would sing, “Master, Savior, Boo-Boo” and burst out laughing. I told her “no, I call you Boo-Boo, and you can call me Boo-Boo, but we don’t call Jesus Boo-Boo.” But I couldn’t stop her. And honestly, I don’t think Jesus minded, because what she understood when I called her “Boo-Boo” was that I was really saying “I love you.” So for just this once, for her, I would like to sing that song her way. Please join me if you know it.
Song: There’s Just Something About That Name
What Sirita wanted, more than anything else, was a place to call home. She wanted to know, what is my place in this world? Where do I belong? She wanted a place where she could stay forever and ever. Her place was not in this world, but she is finally home, home now with Jesus, where she is loved forever and ever and ever. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” I believe there will be a resurrection. On that day I will see her again, and the first thing I will say is, “Good Morning, Sunshine!”
For Sirita, please join me in singing another one of her favorite songs, Jesus Loves Me.
Song: Jesus Loves Me
Good night, sweet princess. Fly to heaven with your butterfly wings. Goodbye, Boo-Boo. You are my special girl. I love you forever. Good night, and I will see you in the morning.