Back in communication

Published 7:38 pm Monday, January 31, 2011

As the nation prepares to commemorate what would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday on Feb. 6, my family and I are celebrating getting in touch with a lost loved one we last saw in 2004 — a situation that has an eerie connection to Reagan’s death.

My aunt and uncle, who live in North Carolina, began taking in foster children when I was in middle school. Soon after they were approved for the program, they received a call in the middle of the night asking if they would take two sisters, “Iris” and “Elizabeth.”

The two girls had suffered a string of unspeakable tragedies before they were moved to foster care, the most horrifying of which happened earlier that evening and was the impetus for the move to foster care. Suffice it to say that the details of this event aren’t fit for publication here.


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Elizabeth, who was a teenager at the time, didn’t last very long in the first disciplined environment of her life. She was soon moved to another foster home. However, 4-year-old Iris stayed about eight years with my aunt and uncle. She connected with them and the rest of our family, blossomed, got good grades in school and was loved by everyone as if she were our blood relative. I remember, on visits to my grandparents’ house, pushing her on the swing, helping her learn how to use a computer and standing with her at the altar of my grandparents’ church as we took one last look at my grandfather.

A protracted court process ended with my aunt and uncle being awarded permanent custody and even being permitted to change her last name. However, in 2004, she decided she wanted to live with her mother again. My aunt and uncle, wanting her to be happy, chose not to force the issue — but her exit from our lives left a void.

The last time I saw Iris was the weekend of Reagan’s funeral. She and I, along with my mother and grandmother, visited some other relatives that weekend, and I remember the funeral procession being on television. While the rest of the nation was mourning a former president, I was busy mourning that Iris was leaving our family.

She kept in minimal contact for about a year, then seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. She didn’t call, her phone number had been disconnected, and my numerous searches on Facebook and MySpace were fruitless.

All the while, school photos and snapshots of her still hung in our family members’ houses. We still asked each other occasionally if anybody had heard from her. The answer was always no. I haven’t been able to hear Reagan’s name without thinking of her.

However, last month, as the preparations for the commemoration of Reagan’s 100th birthday were gearing up, Iris suddenly appeared back in our lives.

She showed up on my aunt and uncle’s doorstep, having been dropped off by a friend who was headed to the area. Incredibly, both my aunt and uncle and all four of their children, who were also there when Iris left, were all at home at the time. Tears were shed, photos were taken, and now we’re all in contact on Facebook.

As a friend said to me when I told him the story, the Lord works in mysterious ways.