One of Russ’ students gave him an orange bracelet for Kalkidan’s birthday that says, “FIGHT like a GIRL.”
Kalkidan was a fighter. First she fought out of fear. Later she fought for healing.
One of my few memories from the accident is Russ’ voice as he, and a nurse who stopped to help, did CPR on Kalkidan. Their voices, counting compressions, came to me in a moment of foggy consciousness. I heard Russ calling out to God, and then I heard him say, “Come on, Kalkidan, you’re a fighter. I need you to fight harder than you’ve ever fought before. I love you.”
Children who experience severe trauma and neglect seem to have fear running through their veins. Their brains and bodies are affected, so that even when they are in a safe and loving family, they live in a state of high-alert.
Some children fight, others run, others freeze – flight, fight, or freeze.
I have children who run to escape when they are frightened or under stress, but not Kalkidan. She was a fighter.
For many years, Kalkidan fought us. Despite incredible effort, she viewed her family as a threat. Parents aren’t safe -they die and abandon you, or they hurt you. Siblings aren’t safe – there is never enough to go around; they are competition for food, clothes, and even attention.
She always had her guard up. Most people wouldn’t have recognized it; they would have seen a lively girl with a great big smile. That was her protection; being cute and getting attention helped her feel safer in a world she could not control. In the orphanage, it was literally a survival skill.
Through many years of therapy, Kalkidan began to trust us. Although it was terrifying, she began to believe us when we told her she was loved, and she was safe. She decided that being a Qualls just might be a good thing, and she began to work – hard.
Kalkidan committed herself to the work of therapy and to using the tools she was given. At the age of 12 she began to use her words to express herself, not only her actions. She wrote me notes sharing the things that were too hard for her to say. I have one tucked in my Bible where she told me that I hurt her feelings with something I said – I wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t told me.
It took tremendous courage for her to push past her fear. With the help of many professionals, pastors, friends and family who surrounded us, she fought for healing. And we all fought with her.
We are thankful beyond words for the healing Kalkidan and our family experienced. I wish we could have had years to enjoy her and grow with her; I don’t understand why God took her when he did.
Nevertheless, our loss is deeper and sweeter because of the gift of healing. We miss Kalkidan, and I’ve come to realize just how much I admire her for being a fighter.
Kalkidan – you fought like a girl, and you won.
You moms of fighters, hold on. I know how incredibly hard and terrifying it is; don’t lose heart. Pray for the day when your child will fight with you, not against you.
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