Love never fails.

March 16th, 2012

The following account was written by my friend Linda Duncan, the mom who is adopting Kolina.

Remember Kolina?

Kolina, nine years old, before she spent two weeks at Tokuda Hospital~


Have you ever wondered why some people knowingly adopt a child with special needs?

What about someone who is single, past middle age, and adopting her sixteenth and seventeenth children, who have special needs just like many of her other children do?

Every adoptive parent has his or her own story, of course.  I’ve heard many now, and am fascinated by every single one of them.

But the story behind the adoptions of this exceptional and experienced mother?  I’d like you to read it for yourself.




When I was 14 years old and just entered high school in the late 1960’s the nun’s tried to get us involved in community service. They would take us in groups to the Red Cross where we would roll bandages (can you imagine!) and we would go to nursing homes and read to the elderly people. These types of activities were enjoyable to me, but I sure didn’t find those activities very compelling.

That changed the day that they took us to Fircrest. Fircrest is the State School for the Mentally Retarded. At least that’s what they called it then. Today it’s just Fircrest and the conditions I will describe, thankfully, no longer exist there.

When we first arrived I was struck by the long low buildings that I later learned were used as army barracks in the 1930’s. There seemed to be 20-30 of these buildings on the expansive grounds. As we entered the first building, the stench that hit when the door opened seemed as though it were a solid wall rather than air. It smelled of a combination of urine, feces and vomit. The second thing was the sound. Moaning, yelling, grunting, but interestingly enough, no crying. Then my eyes focused in on the children in the huge room.

Lying on the floor with blankets rolled into dividers were about 20 children of various ages probably 8 or 9 years old through 20 years old. These children were lying on the floor in between the rolled blankets. Most of them wearing just a large cloth diaper and hospital gown. Many of the children were bent in odd shapes, which later I learned they had Cerebral Palsy and their limbs were not broken as I had at first thought but contorted due to their CP. Many of the children were having seizures. The few caregivers that were there seemed oblivious to the “fits” as they called them. And some of the children seemed to have several while we were standing there.

The guide then took us to other buildings where we saw some older “children” who were obviously mentally retarded, but were able to walk and talk and they seemed very bored, but very happy to see visitors and wanted to touch our hair and clothes.

One of the buildings had the “water babies”. I thought that sounded kind of pretty and expected to find angelic little children floating in a swimming pool. What a shock to find out what a “water baby” really was. These were babies with hydrocephalus and since the shunt had not been invented yet, these were babies and children with heads with 25″ and larger diameters. Their heads were so big that it took 3 people to change their sheets because if someone moved the child without help they could snap their necks. It usually took 3 people to lift the child because their heads were so heavy. Oddly enough there were a few chldren that had lived 10 years and could talk. It was very surreal. We were told that their heads would just finally “explode” from the build up of the fluid.

As we left that building I was beginning to wonder if there was a place for me, when we walked into the buiding that has forever changed my life. By that time I was getting used to the smells and the noise, so I don’t recall either when walking into the last building.

Same large room as the other buildings but this one was lined in cribs. There was a long row along each wall and a kidney shaped table and chairs in the middle of the room. In each bed was a baby with Down Syndrome. The children in this room ranged in age from birth to four. I remember walking away from the guide and the group of my friends and walking down this long row of cribs and looking at all these babies and thinking that they were the most beautiful babies I had ever seen.

There were between 20 and 30 babies in this room and what struck me was that there wasn’t one noise. The ones who could sit up were rocking back and forth and flicking their hands. The babies who weren’t sitting up were just lying there.

I listened to the guide talk about these babies who would never walk, never talk, never feed themselves and that their life expectancy was 13 years old.

And then I saw her. A little blue eyed blond baby girl sitting in her bed watching the shadows on the walls. This was Coleen.


The next seven photos are of a teenaged Linda Duncan with Coleen~

I asked if I could hold her and they said sure. There were so many cribs and no space between them that they had to move several down in order for me to get beside her crib to let the side down.

From that moment I spent the next two years coming to Fircrest as many weekends as I could convince someone to drive me the 20 miles from my home. My parents could not understand why I was drawn to these babies.

My parents were foster parents and from the time I was 10 until I turned 19 my parents always had a healthy newborn in our home. Until I had that first day at Fircrest I was always pushing my parents to adopt one of the baby girls so I could have a sister. (I had 4 brothers.)

Once I met Coleen I began pushing my parents to adopt her. Her parents had given her up at birth and I had talked to the administration and was told that yes, it was unheard of , but she could be adopted if someone wanted to.

My parents told me that people put children like her in institutions for a reason. You don’t bring them home. I wasn’t convinced.

When I started visiting Coleen, she wouldn’t look at me, couldn’t stand, couldn’t talk of course, and actually I didn’t hear her cry.

I would sign in each week as a volunteer to work in her building, but soon it was obvious to the two women who worked weekends in her building that I was there to be with Coleen. I would help with the other kids, but as soon as all the diapers were changed or babies fed, I sat in the only rocking chair holding my girl and singing and talking to her.

The women who worked there would chuckle at me when I would stand Coleen up against the wall and try to get her to stand there alone. She would flap her hands and make a distress noise, but I persisted and it wasn’t too long until I could stand her up at the wall and move back and put my arms out to her to beckon her to come. Her little knees would lock and she would screech in protest, but she began to trust me and although it took a long time before she would take a step it didn’t take too long for her to reach her arm out for me to pick her up.

Meal time was structured for the two workers not for the kids. They were brought from their cribs and put in chairs around the kidney shaped table. One worker would bring the kids and tie them with a large cloth diaper around their waist to keep them upright in the chair. The other worker would have one bowl and one spoon and she would start at one end of the table shoving the food into one mouth after another and then go back to the first child with their second bite. The other worker would then start taking the children out of their chairs and put them back in bed and bring the next round of kids. Bottles were propped – some could hold their own.

They laughed at me when I would sit her down at the table and bring baby food from home and give her a spoon while I would guide her hand from the bowl to her mouth. “Even if you teach her, we can’t take the time to let her feed herself. She only does this when you’re here” And when I would hold her in my arms and feed her bottle, they would say the same thing, “You’re the only one that has time to do that. The rest of the time it’s propped.”

None of the children had their own clothes. They only had cloth diapers and hospital gowns. So on the weekends I would bring my doll’s clothes and dress her in them so I could take her outside. (I had a Patty Play Pal doll that wore size 3 clothes that my mom had made a small wardrobe for me for Christmas. )

By the time I had been there for two years Coleen was walking, feeding herself and she had one word. “Mama”. The workers assured me that word was reserved for me because she only said it when I came or when she was rocking herself to sleep at night.

The staff was amazed at her progress, but they said that it was easier for them before she was doing those things. Even as a teenager, I thought that was a very sad statement.

When I would get there, and she saw me coming across the room, she would sit rocking in her bed and start chanting “Mama, Mama, Mama.” Then when I would walk up to the crib she would squint her eyes, smile and reach her arms out to be picked up.

One day when I came home from school I was told that there was some very sad news. I was told that Coleen had died suddenly. I demanded to go to Fircrest to see her, I wanted to go the funeral, I wanted to know why she died. I was told that there was no funeral beause she had no family and that she was buried already.

I buried her in my heart.

Some how my life went on. I got married, had two babies of my own and as those two kids left home I started foster care. My pictures of Coleen (there are only 9 of them out of my friend, Christie’s Brownie camera) were always in my bedroom and everyone who knew me, knew the story of Coleen.

When I started foster care I asked that in my profile that they keep at the placement desk that I would really like to have a child with Down Syndrome. I did get placed with my Jacob 6 years later. He was 6 months old.

As Jacob neared his fourth birthday, which was the age that Coleen died, I had the overwhelming need to go back to Fircrest to see if I could find out why she died and if there was a grave I could go visit.

Fircrest Administration was very understanding and respectful when I shared my story, but they told me that if she died in the 60’s it was way before that information was computerized and there would probably be a paper record somewhere but all the information was archived.

When they saw my disappointment they referred me on to a kind man, Bill, who said that he would make a few phone calls to people who were around back then and see if there was anyone that remembered Coleen. I gave him her full name and birthdate and left feeling like there was little to no way I would hear any information.

Six weeks later I got a phone call from Bill. He told me that he might have located someone who remembers Coleen, but could I send a copy of the picture of her so she could be sure. I sent the pictures to Bill and waited.

Bill called a week later and said, “Call this number and ask for Linda, I think she can help you.”

So I called and started to explain to Linda who had answered the phone, “Kitsap Residences”, and suddenly she called out, “This is the woman looking for Coleen!” I said, “Excuse me?” She said, “Coleen’s here!”

Well, of course, I thought it was impossible. I thought it was a very cruel joke, but Linda insisted that they were very sure this was the same person.

The decision came from that phone conversation that I needed to go the 60 miles to Port Orchard, WA to see if this person they insisted was Coleen, was truely MY Coleen.

The first visit with Coleen – May 9, 2005

For the few days leading up to my visit the staff at the agency that cares for Coleen would call me with things that I needed to be “prepared” about.

For example they said she might not tolerate more that two minutes. She hasn’t had any visitors for at least the 15 years that she has been connected with this agency. No friends, no relatives have come to find out what happened to her.

They told me that since she is non-verbal she might just walk into her room and shut the door – visit over
She might walk me to the door – visit over
She might spit in my face – visit over
She might slap me – visit over

And then there was the picture that came that was meant to “prepare me” for what I would see. This picture was the best one they could get of her and it was dreadful. She was mostly bald with a few wisps of hair, but that wasn’t the worst part. Her eyes, her face were the saddest I’ve ever seen, and I’m a person used to sad faces on all the foster children who’ve come to my home over the years.

But the exciting news was that it was my Coleen! No doubt in my mind.

Over the next few days, including Mother’s Day on the day before my visit with her, I had lots of preparation from my family. My younger twin brothers and their families were at my house for Mother’s Day and they told stories of me begging my mom and Dad after Mass on Sundays to take me to Fircrest. I even told them I’d walk home, but of course they would come and get me.

Monday was agonizing – waiting for the time the babysitter would arrive so I could leave. I walked across the Bremerton ferry and took the foot ferry to Port Orchard where Debbie met me. Debbie has worked at the agency for 7 years and was chosen as my chaperone to visit Coleen because they felt she knows her best on a day-to-day basis. Debbie worked for 5 years – 40 hours a week with Coleen and now Debbie is the supervisor of the building that Coleen’s apartment is in.

But, apparently there was more preparing me to be done, because the 20 minutes ride from the ferry dock to Coleen’s apartment was spent telling me what to expect. Things like – “In all the year’s I’ve known Coleen, I can count on one hand how many times she has hugged me or someone else that works with her. “ And “ In all those years we haven’t been able to get her to sit still for a picture or catch her smiling”. I believed that one already because of the picture they had sent me. And she reminded me that she is non-verbal.

She also glanced at the photo album of the 11 pictures I had of Coleen and me from the 60’s and told me that Coleen doesn’t look at books. She doesn’t look at pictures. I told her that was ok because all I wanted was for her to have these eleven pictures of her childhood. That one day back in the 1960’s of my friend, Christie Brown, taking pictures of Coleen and I together are the only pictures Coleen has of her childhood. I had blown up the eleven pictures to 8 ½ x 11 and put them into an album with some extra blank pages that I hoped would be filled over time with more pictures of her. I had brought my Polaroid camera in hopes that I could leave that day with one of her and me together again.

I told Debbie that I would take her lead and if she thought Coleen had had enough of a visit that I would go.

By the time I walked into the apartment I was “prepared enough” to only hope for a glimpse of Coleen and then be whisked back to the ferry.

When I walked in, Coleen was in her room sitting on the bed, legs straight out rocking back and forth. She had a wad of clean socks clutched to her chest and she was looking at the wall.

Debbie said, “Coleen, I brought you a visitor.”

Coleen didn’t look up she just rocked faster. I walked into the room and stood near the bed. I could barely find my voice to say, “Hi Coleen”.

I started just talking softly about the pink tennis shoes she was wearing and then started telling her that I knew her when she was a little girl and that I brought some pictures for her to look at.

I opened the photo album to the first page. I said, “Coleen, look at you! This is when you were just a little baby girl.” Her eyes darted just barely noticeably and then, away again. “Look this is when you were a little girl and now you’re a big girl, and this is me when I was a little girl and now I’m bigger too.” Her eyes turned towards the book, though her face was still towards the wall. “Look, weren’t you a beautiful baby?!” She stopped rocking and turned to look at the picture for just a few seconds. Debbie gasped! Coleen tried to turn the page, but she couldn’t she started getting anxious.

“I’ll help you,” I said and turned another page. Coleen bent over the picture looked up at me, then at Debbie and smiled. The same little crooked smile she had 38 years ago.
Then as quickly as it appeared it disappeared and she started to rock.

“Keep talking to her, she’s listening”. Debbie barely whispered.

So I spoke on about the pictures and that day. How we went outside for a walk and how she was so little that her legs got tired and I picked her up and carried her. And how we used to play and how baby Coleen used to hug me. I showed her a picture of us with her head on my shoulder and her little hand hanging onto the lapel of my coat. She looked at that picture and studied it. Then she looked up and smiled. “That makes me smile too, I said. – Suddenly the hand came up and she slapped me in the face and she started rocking violently again.

“I think that’s enough pictures for now. “ I said

Debbie suggested that she make some coffee and see if we could get her out of her bedroom and into the dining room. Coleen wouldn’t come out so after a few minutes I went back in to talk to her. This time I stood at the foot of her bed and her feet were pointing off the side. I had my hands on the footboard while I spoke to her.

I started talking again about when she was a little girl and how I used to love to play with her. She kept rocking but her hand left the wad of socks for a fleeting second and came to rest on my hand. Then she pulled back quickly. I kept talking. A second time she put her hand on mine this time for a few seconds longer. I could hear Debbie shifting in the doorway to Coleen’s room trying to get a better look. I put my hand out, palm out and said, “Will you hold my hand, Coleen.” Several seconds later the little hand came up and rested on mine. I felt like I had a handful of gold! Debbie let out a little gasp and Coleen spit at Debbie and then at me.

I backed off and told her, it was ok, and I’ll go check on the coffee. I walked out to the dining room with Debbie and she asked me how I was doing. Although I was emotionally exhausted I was more interested in what she thought about Coleen’s advances toward me and the smiles we had seen.

“I don’t know what she remembers, but it’s obvious she’s remembering something about you, or the pictures, or that time. Keep talking to her; I think it might be your voice. She seems to recognize your voice and she’s really listening.”

I walked back in again alone and walked to the side of the bed. I asked Coleen if I could sit down, and since she didn’t spit at me, I took that for a yes. I sat on the edge with her legs stretched out beside me. She was rocking again and seemed calm so I started talking to her.

“Coleen, I have loved you for a very long time. I loved you when you were a baby, and I love you now that you are a big girl.”

“There was a very long time when I was very sad. A long time ago I lost you.” (Her rocking slowed) “I couldn’t find you. I looked everywhere to try to find you. I’ll bet you were very sad too.” (She stopped rocking and looked at me out of the side of her eyes with her head still bent toward the wall)

“But I kept looking for you and then I found you and now I’m very happy!” At that moment she turned her head toward me with a big smile and threw both hands up in the air like she was saying ‘What a great ending to the story!’

But just as quickly the hand came up again and hit me and then the spitting started. I rose slowly off the bed but stayed right next to the bed.

Debbie who had been standing in the doorway watching came into the room and told Coleen that spitting on Linda wasn’t very nice. Coleen’s rocking slowed back into her comfort speed.

I sat down on the bed again and laid my hand on Coleen’s ankle and put another hand on her back. I told Debbie, “I have a dilemma about something. Coleen didn’t know me as Linda, she called me “Mama”.”

Coleen stopped mid-rock and bent over to my face and studied it and then she said, “Bama”! Then she started rocking and chanting, “Bama, Bama, Bama, Bama” She smiled, she paused long enough for me to say, “That’s right Coleen, Mama” She started chanting again, and I started chanting with her. It went on for several minutes.

Debbie’s lower jaw hit the floor. When she could speak she said, “I’ve heard her do this before. But we didn’t think it meant anything! I used to work swing shift and help her to bed. That’s what she says when she’s going to sleep! I’ll bet after you stopped coming that became her way to comfort herself!”

Within a few minutes, Coleen had stopped chanting and was rocking steadily and more slowly again. I walked into the kitchen with Debbie to regroup. I looked at the clock and it was almost time for me to leave to catch the ferry as I still had a three-hour journey home and I needed to be there to put Jacob down for the night.

I asked Debbie about the Polaroid Camera. I was really hoping to just get a shot of Coleen and myself next to each other for her photo book. Debbie thought it was worth a try but reminded me about the difficulty of getting her to hold still and catching a smile was probably too much to hope for.

It was Coleen’s dinnertime and she was called to the table. She sat down in her chair and grabbed her spoon with the palmer grasp of a 12 month old, bent her head to her plate and shoveled in a mouthful. Her chewing was practically non-existent as she mushed the food between her tongue and her palate.

When she was about half way through, Debbie said, “Coleen, let’s get a picture of you and Linda.” No response, she just continued eating. Debbie and I joked about her priorities being straight – food first, pictures later.

Debbie glanced at the clock and said “If we’re going to do this, we better do it now”

At the risk of getting cooked carrots spit in my face, I knelt down next to Coleen’s chair and said, “Just go ahead, as long as we’re together. I just want both of us in the frame together.”

“Coleen, let’s take a picture of you and Mama.” Debbie said. Coleen put down the spoon, put her cheek right next to mine and Debbie shot the picture. “Take more,” I said between clenched teeth…Debbie got two more pictures before Coleen pulled her plate back in front of her and resumed eating.

Debbie and I glanced at the clock and Debbie said, “Coleen, we have to go now.” Coleen threw the spoon across the room and stomped her foot. Then she dropped her head to her chest in a typical two-year-old pout.

I knelt down beside her and she slapped me. I grabbed her hand as gently as I could and said; “I told you that I was so sad until I found you. I’m going home now, but I promise I’ll be back. I’m not going to lose you again.” She smiled, stuck her hands into the food and started eating again.

Finding Coleen again has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. Since that first visit, she has spent weekends at my house, has spent Christmas with us and even took her very first vacation ever with us.

She still has only one verbal word, “Mama’ which she uses alot, and when I disappear from sight she grabs my 12 year old’s hand and pulls her down the hallway chanting, “Mama, Mama”.

Coleen during her first overnight visit to Linda Duncan’s home~

…what she has done for my life is give me the drive to save at least one little girl from having the life that Coleen had. I couldn’t save her, but I can find one little girl with Down Syndrome and pull her from a life in an institution and give her a family that loves her.

Kolina after Tokuda Hospital~




“I don’t mind begging for the children.”  ~another mom who is passionate about adoption

When we were adopting Katie, people came to us and poured money into our laps.  We didn’t have to ask anyone to give to our adoption expenses.  Many of you were the givers.  You gave generously and told us that you were the ones who were blessed to be able to help bring our Katie-bird home!

Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever directly asked anyone other than Joe to give money to anything for any reason.  Let’s just say I would make a rotten salesperson…

Rob and Julia Nalle are the same way!

I have a lot of respect for this couple, and love and admire them for their tenacious and compelling compassion for the Lost Boys.  Their precious son Aaron used to be one of the Lost Boys, until he was found.

Rob and Julia have been compelled to go waaaaaaay outside their comfort zone and make what felt to them like an ambitiously risky move.  They started out to do a giveaway to raise funds for many orphans whom they love, including little Kolina and several other children who are being adopted from the dark place called Pleven.

Well, donated items OVERWHELMINGLY POURED IN to Rob and Julia’s giveaway, until they had over 80 items to offer!

I cannot stress strongly enough how essential it is to help the families who are in the process of adopting from Pleven.  They have been called to a battlefield.  The enemy is continuously doing his best to discourage them and get them to give up.  Joe and I know what they are going through!  But they are not alone!  We can help them fight back by praying them through and giving to help them bring their child or children home.

The best way to help the Pleven families right now?

I am now going to depart from my normal practice and *gasp* unashamedly beg you to please go visit the Nalle’s blog, Micah Six Eight, find out the rules of their Mulligan Stew Giveaway, and participate!  

Then pass the word along!!

And pray that God will bless this endeavor!!!





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42 Responses to “Love never fails.”

  1. Jamie says:

    Susanna, what a lovely and heartbreaking story!  It’s such a testiment to true love, this is such an encouragement to me today.  I needed to hear this today!  Thank you!  I have donated (a gift and money) to Julia’s fundraiser and i’m so excited to see how much they can raise for all these kids!

  2. Allison Kelly says:

    What a beautiful story…I cried through it!  So glad they found one another!

  3. Kara says:

    Total tears of joy. This is amazing. I’ve already participated in the giveaway, and I can’t wait to see her home. 

  4. Lynn says:

    I couldn’t keep it together any more after I read the part about the doll’s clothes. 

  5. Jill says:

    What a wonderful story to show the love that one person can change the life of another.  My mom used to tell me that I could not save the world, but I had to try, right???  Then I heard the story about the starfish with the little girl tossing them back into the water.  At times I feel like that girl, working against time and energy, but I have to try to make a difference.  I volunteered all thru high school and became a “big sister.”  My “little sister” has aged out, but we are still in contact.  It has been enriching for my life and hers.  Thanks for sharing this and I pray that it reaches many more people! 
    Blessings,  Jill

  6. RK says:

    Thank you for sharing Linda’s story.  I am blown away. Beautiful.

  7. Rachel M says:

    Tears, breaks my heart. God didn’t forget! I am so happy they are together again! Praise the Lord He is allowing Kolina to go to this loving home!!

  8. Laura F. says:

    I have tears for so many reasons but mostly I have tears that Coleen again knows love, again knows that she is valued, again has a smile.  I have so much to say but cannot gather my thoughts.  Thank you for sharing this, Susanna!   

  9. Nikki Esquivel says:

    I read this entry with my beautiful adopted 4 year old son who happens to have DS right beside me. I think I woke him up with my failed attempts to muffle my crying. This is a BEAUTIFUL portrait of the value of life. I “know” Linda from RR and always found her posts uplifting and real. Thank you for reposting this! Amazing!

  10. Felicity says:

    A beautiful story, but I’m curious to know why Linda was told that Coleen had died??  

  11. Susan Wiker says:

    Some how you need a “tissue” warning on these kinds of post.  What a wonderful and sad story.  Linda made a difference in Coleen’s life!  May God  continue to use people to reach the “least of these”.  Blessings!

  12. sabrina says:

    Wow. I cried through the whole story. 

    Kolina looks so much better! She is so pretty! 

  13. Holly F. says:

    OH MY GOSH.  I haven’t weeped this hard in a long time.  Beautiful but so heartbreaking. 

    Kolina looks wonderful!  She has a spark in her eyes finally.     And for Linda and Coleen, I’m so sorry for the time inbetween where they did not have each other.  That just breaks my heart.  But I’m so happy they are together again.  Ugh, ok, I’ve got to go shower because Trent has a speech appointment…..If I can stop crying long enough.

  14. Very touching and difficult story to read in that I kept thinking of how Colleen must have felt not knowing why she was suddenly without the warm visits. Just another reminder of how precious every life is. Also, what was shocking to me … I live in Port Orchard. (Kitsap County)

  15. Brooke says:

    Crying…oh so hard. So much reminds me of the story of my Kayla, and how I wish I had not been at her funeral and closed her pink coffin so I could believe a story like this would be possible for me too. I miss my girl oh so much. If your reading these comments Linda – hug Coleen extra tight for me will you?

    I donated $50 to your adoption fund in honor of my Kayla girl – may God bless you every step of your journey. 


  16. Sherry says:

    Thank you for sharing this amazing story. As I said when I shared it on Facebook just now, I think it should be published and made into a movie. I have 3 little girls w/Ds  adopted from an orphanage in Ukraine and this touches my heart on so many levels. No child should have to grow up warehoused and unloved. But it has happened _and is happening-  to thousands upon thousands. I pray many more hearts will be moved to adoption and to helping others adopt these beautiful, worthy children. When I read about Coleen unable to walk, protestng and locking her knees as Linda stood her against the wall…I see my own 2 y/o daughter Amelia. Who would have helped her in that orphanage? They were all too busy just getting through their shift with too many kids to care for. Children need Mamas! So thankful to Reeces Rainbow for getting our children’s faces out there so we could find them!

  17. Theresa Forge says:

    As I sit here weeping, I am so happy that you 2 were able to reconnect after all these years. This is so touching and wonderful, and God certainly had a big hand in this, as he did in bringing Kolina to you! Cant wait till shes home with you.

  18. Anna T says:

    Wow, so sad and happy at the same time…these stories must not be forgotten (perhaps compiled in a book?).  What **must** change in other countries that changed in the US not that long ago?  Crying out to Jesus… Thanks for sharing this deeply personal and moving story Linda Duncan.  I especially LOVED the pictures.  ((Hugs)) and prayers…   

  19. Katie says:

    Tears welled in my eyes the whole time I read.  Linda and Coleen’s story itself is poignant enough, but, I had my own little girl, whose one word was “Mama” and who only said it when I was around.  It breaks my heart to use the word ‘had’ there… I’ve never talked about her in the past tense before… but I think I may have lost her for good.  She’s almost nine now, and thanks to the programs available in present-day America, in second grade.  It was found that she likely never had any special need other than ADHD and possible attachment issues – but that she was neglected.  And she was my baby… no, she is my baby.  She always will be, even if the state thinks it right to leave her in the hands of her abusers.  

    Linda, if you are reading this, let me tell you that right now my heart is… there is no word… it’s so full – because of you.  Full to the point it might burst.  It’s broken and then healed all over again because of the wonderful ending to what could have been a tragedy unnoticed by anyone.  Then it breaks all over again for Kolina and the children who aren’t home yet, who don’t know what ‘home’ means.  For my baby girl, who wants to come ‘home’ – to the only stable home she’s ever known – so badly that she cries… but is at the mercy of a broken system.  How you must have felt to hear that “news” about her, to never have had a chance to say goodbye.  Every time I say goodbye to my A, it’s in the back of my mind that it could be the last time.  I’ve thought three times now that I’d certainly never see her again.  By the grace of God I did.  But every time, oh, how I cried.  Every night, I cried.  A song came on the radio, I cried.  I’m at peace now only because I know God did not bring her into my life for no reason… He must have a plan for us, and if I have to wait, I will.  My heart sang when I read that you’d found your dear Coleen again – what a blessing, what a miracle.  If things go badly for us now, I hope and pray that someday, down the line, we’ll have that kind of ending too.  I know you’re not a blogger (your last blog post says so).  But please, through Susanna, or somehow… Susanna has my e-mail and it’s on my blog… let us know how you are, you and Coleen, and the children, and little Kolina (and her sister whose name escapes me – from another orphanage, right?).  Your story touched my heart in a big way, and it gave me something I was running desperately low on in our particular situation – hope.  I’m on my way to give again to the giveaway because of you.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.

  20. Mommaofmany says:

    What a beautiful and touching story.  One of my (many) thoughts about it is the hope! America was institutionalizing our disabled in the same was EE does now.  Perhaps in fifty years, the people of EE will have discovered how to love their children who are born with disabilities as so many here have.  Praying that those precious lives everywhere who are diagnosed in utero are protected from the new way to make them invisible (abortion).

  21. Jane says:

    Julia and Rob’s blog is such a blessing to the world and in my week.  I am so grateful that they continue to take this task and keep running with it in such innovative ways.  Thanks Susanna for such a beautiful post and for reminding all of us about these children…

  22. Eve says:

    This story is a touching tribute to love. It seems so callous to lie and say Coleen had died. I cannot imagine what would have motivated someone to be so cruel to a young woman and small child clearly acting in love. The commitment she made over two years to cherish and train Colleen merited more than such a horrible lie!

  23. sabrina says:

    I’m wondering if Colleen got transferred either to another facility or a another ward where Linda may not have been permitted. The room Colleen was in was for babies 1-4. When they got past 4 maybe they sent them somewhere else? Perhaps the staff thought it would be kinder or easier to just lie and say she had died?

  24. TUC says:

    What an amazing story… of heartbreak and of love.

  25. Christina says:

    What an amazing story! So sad, heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time! I’m so glad Linda found Coleen again. And Kolina! She looks so much better! I adore that girl!

  26. Cole says:

    Tears…thank goodness they found each other again. Passing on the story…

  27. cassie says:

    So so so touching and heartbreaking. Makes me wish I could invent the time machine just to go back and cuddle these little ones!!!

  28. Missy says:

    The institutions of the 1960’s were so like the ones in EE now. When my cousin was born in the 70’s there were family members who thought he should go to our state “home”. It takes time but change will happen. The more we talk and publicize the needs of the children and adults, the faster the change. Pray, pray, pray.

  29. Katherine Lauer says:

    I am weeping. Thank you for sharing this amazing story of love. Such true love. Such God-driven love planted in this woman’s heart.

  30. Vicky Theroux says:

    Linda’s story highlights a cold fact, yet also a point of hope.  America did the same thing not so very long ago to people with developmental disabilities.  My first job out of high-school in 1988 was to work in such an institution … yes 19 EIGHTY-EIGHT…. a little over TWENTY years ago, not fifty.  So far we have come in twenty years… and so to, can other parts of the world. 

    People wonder why Linda was told she had died, and the answer is right there in the story.  The workers said Colleen was easier to take care of before Linda started visiting her, teaching her things.  You see, when a person develops a sense of self, finds her value reflected in the faces of others, it is not easy to tamp down such a spirit EVER again!  Its so much easier to tend to people who are completely helpless and without a will whatsoever.  Extremely sad,,,, but when you show someone a piece of the larger world -THEY WANT TO BE IN IT!  Reminds me of putting a caged bird by the window :(  :(  

  31. Lisa says:

    I am undone…

  32. Wonderful story!  You were born a very special person, you were born a “Mama”. 

  33. Daniell Settles says:

    I cried tears of joy and sorrow through out your entire story! I find my self wanting more of you, and your journey…a book, a movie…anything! It would be a story I couldn’t stop reading! And, can you imagine the impact a movie could make, on so may levels? Thank you for sharing!

  34. Linda says:

    Dear Friends, and Susanna and Julia,
    Thank you for all your heart warming comments about Coleen’s story.  It is story that continues to move people who hear it and for that I am so grateful.  When I first started visiting Coleen again, after I found her when we were both grown up, the office staff of the agency she is with  said that they had wondered so many times what was the purpose of her life.  In all the years they had her and the years at the institution she had never had a visitor.  She never had a friend or relative come to see her.  And when they heard how she impacted my life and those that hear her story – they were rejoicing!  To know that because of her over 50 foster kids with special needs came through my home and 9 of them stayed and were adopted.  And then when the “state” wouldn’t give me more because I passed their capacity limits, I found Reeces Rainbow and because of Coleen I adopted 4 more and now soon, because of Coleen, Maria and Kolina will be ransomed.  I would say that Coleen’s life impacted the lives of more people directly than most of us will ever inspire!!!  Just a sweet little girl with Down Syndrome who forever changed the lives DIRECTLY of 64 Children!!  Praise God!  Think of how He has used this little angel to further the kingdom!  God bless you all.  I am blessed by every tear that fell from reading Coleen’s story.  In His name, Linda Duncan

  35. Rita from Spain says:

    OH how heartbreaking !! I was in tears reading about Colleen…thinking of that lil poor girl wondering WHERE her Mama had gone when Linda stopped going….HOw tragic for her and Linda..I am so glad they found each other though…..
    Thank you for sharing and all you do….Linda, Julie, Susanna…You are all certainly God´s favorites…Hugs…

  36. Debi Allenbaugh says:

    as I sat here at the library reading Colleens story I watched a group of teenagers from the Special Ed co-op in my area. They checked out books, taalked with their friends, laughed too loud and didn’t listen well to their teacher…..Just like any other teen-ager! I thought about Colleens early life and the Lost Boys and cried for them. I will keep them in my prayers.

  37. Valerie says:

    I think the tissue warning would be good too BUT I cry at every single post (even the ones I shouldn’t).  I give myself my own tissue warning every time I see a new blog post.  It’s hard not to cry.  I hold Katie way too dear.  If I forget my path or need a fresh reminder about what this is all about … I hop on this site.  It’s my lifeline now and forever.

  38. Monique says:

    This was amazing.  I am so glad you found her again.

  39. EG says:

    Linda, what an INCREDIBLE story.  I am truly amazed that you were reunited with her, and I’m so happy for her that she got her “Mama” back after all those years.  Did you ever hear why they told you that Coleen died?
    Kolina looks so wonderful after her time in the hospital!  I’m so happy for her and for you!

  40. Wow….  what a story!!  So happy Kolina has a family now and that Coleen was found. 

  41. Jamie Garcia says:

    Lord Jesus thank you for servants like Linda and Susanna, may we strive to be obedient and loving like they have been. God bless you guys.

  42. Jamie Garcia says:

    Love is not proud
    Love does not boast
    Love after all
    Matters the most

    Love does not run
    Love does not hide
    Love does not keep
    Locked inside

    Love is the river that flows through
    Love never fails you

    Love will sustain
    Love will provide
    Love will not cease
    At the end of time

    Love will protect
    Love always hopes
    Love still believes
    When you don’t

    Love is the arms that are holding you
    Love never fails you

    When my heart won’t make a sound
    When I can’t turn back around
    When the sky is falling down
    Nothing is greater than this
    Greater than this

    Love is right here
    Love is alive
    Love is the way
    The truth the life

    Love is the river than flows through
    Love is the arms that are holding you
    Love is the place you will fly to
    Love never fails you

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