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A life book-ended by pain, suffering

POSTED: April 24, 2014 5:48 p.m.

(Charles Hodges ‑ born Nov. 13, 1985, died April 20, 2014)

Charles lived a life book-ended by pain and suffering. He began life as a child abused by his mother, broken bones, broken spirit and a shadow of what a 6-week-old baby should look like. His life ended after a weeks-long battle with cancer that took his life on Easter Sunday morning, at his sister’s home. Cheryl, his sister with whom he lived, saw some signification in the fact that his life ended on Easter morning.

But between those few awful weeks in the beginning and at the end, he found love, care and a home that made sacrifices for him. This was made possible by a foster home (Wendell and Sharon Hodges) in Effingham County. He came to us from another county, but with the love and support of his foster family, he overcame behavior issues. After several years of their care, he was able to go to school and do what children do. He graduated from South Effingham High School and entered the work force.

As a baby of 2 weeks he suffered severe abuse at the hands of his mother. The abuse was of all things a person is: his body, his psyche, his spirit.  His appearance could best be described as the look of children we have seen in pictures of war orphans who had not had the food and care they needed. When he arrived at our office for placement in a foster home, we wondered if we could really help him. In fact, it is the foster parents who grew the miracle with support from the agency.

On that day in 1986, his life was changed. He had a new family, one who lavished the care and love on him that his body, soul and spirit needed. Without having first-hand knowledge of what the family of Wendell and Sharon Hodges did for Charles, you would find it hard to believe.

They restructured their home life and made the physical changes in Charles’ room to prevent him from hurting himself. There were many, many trips to the doctors. Progress was slow. But with the Hodges’ love and care, Charles began to make his way into the world we live in daily. There were so many advances in his behavior, he became a young man who could go to school, graduate and begin a life of work in the world with gainful employment.

Charles showed a measure of response to love and good care that would not even been dreamed of in 1986 when he came to Effingham and the Hodges’ home. They found in him the deep willingness to overcome the trials and tribulations that beset him from severe abuse at age 2 weeks. The resolve and the belief he could was instilled in him by his foster family, who became his adopted family.

As the family realized that Charles, at about age 6, would always need a family close to him, they asked to adopt him. That was a struggle when all of the agency bureaucrats got involved. But with the perseverance of local attorney Warren Ratchford and months of continued pursuit of the legal issues, the adoption was granted.

At this time, we all ask why? Had he not already paid a heavy price in the struggles of his life? We don’t have the answer for such a question. But we do know that the Hodges family gave him many happy days that made his life more meaningful. He spent his last days living with Cheryl Hodges Hartzog and her family, as Sharon and Wendell now have health issues of their own.

While his life was book-ended by pain and suffering, he at least had 28 years in between that were filled with joy, learning and knowing that he had a family that loved and cared for him and would do him no harm.

(Writer’s note: I feel that it is important for our community to know that they have folks, such as the Hodges, and many others who provide those loving homes not only in Effingham but in many other places. Foster care is not the worst thing that can happen to a child. Sometimes it may save his life. And we, in the community, owe a great debt of gratitude to the Hodges family, mother, father and children, for giving of themselves to show a child happiness in this world.)

Ruth Lee is a retired director of the Department of Family and Children Services.

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