Saturday, October 16, 2021

Remarkable Sisters Part 2

This is the second part of this story from 11-14-19 of Coastal Breeze News.

Rather than lose their shelter, the family decided to place the baby in a basket and abandon her in the woods. After ten days, they returned to give her a proper burial but found that she was still alive! On seeing her alive after so many days, they became frightened, believing she must be a demon or a spirit child, and decided it would be too dangerous to kill her. They had heard about a mission and left the baby there.

Miss Kalsbeek picks up the story. When we first uncovered the baby that was brought to us in a basket, we beheld the most pitiful sight we had ever seen. There was a note giving the baby’s lunar birth date. She was three months old and weighed less than two and a half pounds. Ruby and I called in the doctor who, upon ex-amination of the baby, said she couldn’t possibly live more than a few more hours so we need not waste our time on her. Although the doctor had worked in a famine district, she said she had never seen a case this bad.

Because she had laid in urine for so long, the baby was raw from ‘acid burn’ from her waist to her knees. She could not suck so we gave her a few drops of diluted milk from an eye dropper every little while. Her hands were like bird claws, her neck about the size of a skinny chicken. By nighttime, the baby was still alive so we fixed a bed for her. As we were carrying her through the room, we looked at her under the light. Just then, she opened her eyes and looked first at Ruby and then at me and smiled the sweetest smile we had ever seen. From that moment on, she held our hearts in her skinny little hands. For three weeks we watched over her night and day. In those early weeks, many villagers came to see our tiny baby. Each visitor invariably exclaimed, ‘She is even worse than I had heard!’

After three weeks, there was a change. At first it was gradual, then rapid. Believe it or not, that little mite of humanity developed into a lovely baby. Many folks came again to see her and called her the Miracle Child.

In 1949, at ages ten and eleven, Jean and Helen emigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Miss Ruby Liu, their Chinese foster grandmother, who they called Mother, also accompanied them and reared them along with Miss Kalbeek, who was originally from the Grand Rapids area. Soon after their arrival, they became U.S. citizens.

The girls attended a Christian elementary, high school, and college. Helen later attended the University of Michigan on a scholarship and received a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She worked in that field for almost forty years. Jean has an advanced Medical Technician degree and worked in pharmaceutical research. Jean and Helen are both married and they each have two sons.

Although they were raised by two mothers, Helen said, “I never felt like I had two mothers because we called Ruby Liu, the Chinese woman, Mother, and Miss Kalbeek, the American missionary woman, Granny, because she was older. In 1953, Granny legally adopted us because she was a United Stated citizen. Although she became our legal mother, we still always called her Granny.”

Although Helen was abandoned twice, once by her mother and again by her future mother-in-law, she never had negative feelings about her early life. “All my life, I have only felt gratitude that I was adopted. Had it not been for Granny and Mother, I would have died. When asked about my medical history, I sometimes wonder about my biological parents and what they might have been like but mostly I just feel a deep sense of gratitude for God’s miracle in my life.”

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