Author Meadow Rue Merrill shares experience of adopting a daughter with cerebral palsy
That was the prayer of writer and author Meadow Rue Merrill and her husband Dana one night. Meadow had been thinking of adopting a child, but as the parents of two young boys and a girl, Dana wasn’t sure this was the right time. But that all changed one summer evening.
During a “Christopher Closeup” interview (podcast below) about her Christopher Award-winning memoir “Redeeming Ruth,” Meadow said, “We walked into a friend’s church where our children were going to vacation Bible school, and my friend Theresa welcomed me to sit with her in the pew. She asked me, ‘Would you like to meet Ruth?’ It took me a minute to remember that she and her husband were hosting an abandoned baby with disabilities from a Ugandan orphanage. I said, ‘Sure,’ and her husband brought this beautiful little child over to us. She was one and a half years old, but she had the physical abilities of an infant. He laid Ruth in Dana’s arms, and without one moment of hesitation, Dana looked at me and said, ‘So, do you want to adopt her?’”
Over the years, Meadow had frequently asked herself the question, “What is my responsibility for the suffering in the world?”
The question stemmed from seeing children in the news who were fleeing their homes due to war, natural disaster, or some humanitarian tragedy. Meadow loved her own children deeply and saw how vulnerable they were, so she couldn’t come to grips with the fact that other children in the world “didn’t have a place to sleep safely or didn’t have enough to eat. It just didn’t seem right that we did, without doing something for the people who didn’t.”
Meadow was open to the idea of adoption, but she wasn’t sure she could handle a child like Ruth, who had severe cerebral palsy.
Meadow recalled, “She was not able to speak, use her hands in any relevant way, feed herself, play, sit up, or walk. But when we looked at Ruth, she had such joy! Not only joy, but a wildly delicious sense of humor. For not being able to speak, her laugh would light up a room. We just responded to that. It was something that we thought, ‘How could we say no to this child?’”
The Merrills’ other children also came to love and embrace Ruth, so they proceeded with the adoption plans. They happily discovered that contrary to a doctor’s prognosis that Ruth would never advance beyond a two-month-old intellectually, the girl’s mind was completely normal. She understood everything that was going on around her.
While life had its occasional challenges, Ruth became a beloved member of the Merrill family for the next several years. Unfortunately, her health problems led to an unexpected tragedy in 2011.
Ruth was in the first grade, making friends and thriving. But one night, the Merrills discovered she had stopped breathing in her sleep. Despite efforts to revive her, Ruth was gone.
Meadow found her faith tested, and asked God why He would allow this to happen. She still doesn’t have an answer to that particular question, but she has found comfort in a different perspective, which reflects why she made the full title of her book “Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores.”
Meadow concludes, “As the Lord began to work in my heart, I had this assurance that there was nothing we could lose of value here that would not be restored in heaven. And even though our love wasn’t enough to redeem Ruth in the long-lived way we hoped, I knew that God’s love was enough to redeem her, and ultimately, that she will experience a life with Him in a completely restored body forever – and that I will get to see her some day again.”
(To listen to my full interview with Meadow Rue Merrill, click on the podcast link):
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?