Lover of Lost Causes

I think it’s so odd that most of us would agree that the sacrificed life – a life lived for helping others – is the best way to live.

Only few of us ever decide to live that way.

Sure, there are those few foster parents like our friends Stacey and Mike who take in children, let themselves fall in love with them, knowing all along they may be ripped from their home and given back to parents who rarely are rehabilitated.

We admire people like them, but choose to live our own lives in a “prevent defense” posture. We see needs around us and know Jesus said whomever tries to save his life will surely lose it.

So we nod with approval, and pull the straps around our heart just a little tighter. We’re not about to invest our love in a losing bet.

However, if you’re one of those few who truly believe that this world is just the entrance exam for the next, you’ll wind up putting all your chips on the things everyone else avoids. 

You’ll risk it all on the bets that are sure to tear your heart apart.

One person who’s done that is Cori Salchert, a former parental bereavement nurse with eight biological kids of her own. Her job meant she cared for infants who are terminally ill, with zero chance of survival. That in itself sounds like enough of a sacrificial job.

But Cori noticed that many of the families of these babies would simply walk away after receiving the terminal diagnosis. After their joyful expectations at birth, the mothers simply couldn’t take the thought of watching their baby die.

So they did the unthinkable – they abandoned them at the hospital.

I can only imagine the mixture of emotions Cori felt as she tried to do her job. Surely there was anger at these parents who could leave their own children to die alone, along with the grief of watching the babies struggle on with no one holding them but her.

Emmalynn was one such baby. Since birth she’d been in a vegetative state, unable to see or hear. The one thing she could do was feel, but most of those feeling were the physical pain brought on by her condition. At the hospital, she would have been left in a blanket on her feeding pump and put aside to die. But in that hopeless situation, Cori saw an opportunity to love irrationally.

That’s when Cori made a sacrifice some might think pointless. In 2012, Cori adopted Emmalynn into her own family.

Now this little girl was no longer alone, and the youngest of 9 siblings. Each of the Salchert children would take turns holding her throughout the day. They would kiss her repeatedly, and the family took her everywhere they went.

After about 50 days of life, Cori could tell Emmalynn was fading. They gathered the family together, who each took one last turn holding and kissing her.

Finally, Cori snuggled with Emmalynn, holding her close while singing “Jesus Loves Me” gently over her. After a few minutes, Cori realized Emmalynn hadn’t breathed for several minutes…

She was gone now, but she was never ever alone.

I wonder if any of the nurses at that hospital remember little Emmalynn. I know that after a while, even the most tender-hearted nurses working there have taught themselves to forget and move on.

But I believe there is a God who knows Emmalynn by name. He saw her pain and felt it as any father would for his own child. He takes her pain personally.

And so when any of us show love to even the most hopeless case, He notices and smiles on us as well. Maybe that’s because we were hopeless once too, until He adopted us.

I know that our good works don’t get us into heaven, but if I were Cori Salchert, I wouldn’t be too worried about taking my last breath and those first steps into the next life. She has made an investment, through Emmalynn and all the other children she has gone on to adopt and love in their final days of life.

So it’s not too hard for me to imagine the scene when she walks into heaven’s throne room. One by one, I see little children walking – no, running up to meet her, the last loving touch they felt on earth.

I see their little hands, now healthy and whole, reaching up to hers.

As they gather around Cori, they walk her triumphantly into the throne room of God. And this God, this Father of the fatherless who promised to bless those who help “the least of these”, will look up at her and smile widely:

“Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Blessed are those who love the lost causes. Because in the next life, the hopeless ones to whom you showed love on this earth may be the very ones who greet and usher you into heaven’s door…

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