On May 23, 2015 I walked into the “playroom” at Rescue. I had been in India less then 24 hours and was completely overwhelmed and second guessing myself. As I scanned the room around me I saw lots of little kids but I found myself drawn to Balraj’s (Thomas’) bed. He was just laying there amid the chaos and as I sat with him I felt comfortable. I may not have any idea how to say anyone’s name or knew what I was supposed to be doing here but I knew what to do with Balraj. I knew how to sit him up, talk to him, and sing to him. And in that hour that I sat with him I found the first beginning of my piece of home in India. I spent many nights in my first 2 months in India on Balraj’s bed, hanging with him and his bud Valor. And when we moved up to the rooftop along with Katherine, Salim, Penny, Valor, and Julie I knew that I had found my little piece of home along with Balraj.
Over the next couple of years that piece of home grew to include more kids, a new home, and Brittany as my co-foster. And despite the growing chaos I always knew I could recenter myself with some stolen moments with Balraj. We spent afternoons on the porch, soaking in the last sunrays of the day and reading books together. Or somedays we simply sat and I sipped chai and did Balraj’s stretches in between sips. Balraj was usually content to just be and gave me the rare gift of slowing down. Balraj was an old soul we always said. He may have never spoken but he had a presence around him that held peace that drew people in.
Balraj was easy to overlook but once you got to know him you came to appreciate his side eyes that he threw frequently, especially when you tried to plop a baby or a puppy in his lap. He had a great laugh and smile that didn’t appear often but when it did there was no mistaking it. He loved to take long walks. One of the greatest things about our move to Anchor was the ability to go on walks easier. No more carrying Balraj and his wheelchair up and down stairs. Although it was much easier before he had a big growth sprout! Balraj also loved a good outing and even though it got harder as he got older we still tried to make sure he got out into the community as much as possible. Balraj saw movies, went to the zoo, went to the park, and once even went to Starbucks and had some whipped cream.
When I kissed Balraj goodbye on my last day in India I didn’t know that it would be the last day I kissed his checks on this side of heaven. My heart wasn’t prepared to let this piece of home go but God has a plan greater then my own. Balraj always struggled with his health. There were many days and nights of breathing treatments and being hooked up to monitors. This past year was one respiratory infection after another and it all finally got to be too much for his body to handle this past Saturday.
Balraj spent most of his life at SCH and although the injustice of him dying without a family is not lost on me I do feel peace that he died loved. The fact that people are mourning his death and he is not another nameless child who died is a blessing in and of itself. And although it pains me that I won’t see him again I know that his body is finally free from all the pain he has endured. Thomas was never successful by worldly standards but he taught me what unconditional love looks like. The lives he changed through his presence is the legacy he leaves behind. I wrote a blog about Balraj back in February that I was rereading and the last words still ring true to me today and everyday. “But I do know this. That in a world full of uncertainty and pain that Thomas (Balraj) shows us what it means to love and to be still and let God work through him. And that is a powerful lessons we can all learn from.”