I was seven years old when my foster sister, Patty Lou, came to live with us. My younger brother and sister and I were anxious for this new baby. Mom and Dad said that she needed a new family. We knew about foster children—they were newborn babies our neighbors brought home until a good family adopted them. We were excited to be a foster family, too.
But the baby our parents brought home was not what we expected. For one thing, this baby was nine months old, a lot bigger than a newborn. She had brown hair and big, dark eyes, but she never smiled. And even though she was old enough to sit up and crawl, she couldn’t do either one—she could only lie there and stare at us.
We three kids stared at her, too. Patty had a large red birthmark on her face that covered half of her cheek, nose, and lip. I had a birthmark on my leg, a light brown one, but Patty’s was different and it was hard not to stare at it.
Mom explained, “Even though Patty is still a baby, she has had a rough start already. We don’t know why, but her family neglected her and left her alone in her crib for many hours every day. They didn’t play with her or hold her or love her. As long as she lives with us, we are going to take care of her and show her lots and lots of love. I think that’s what she needs, don’t you?”
Overnight, our lives changed. The old crib that was gathering dust in the garage was put up in my brother’s bedroom, and suddenly there were bottles and diapers and baby toys all over the house.
At first, Patty just watched us with her pretty dark eyes, but it wasn’t long before she smiled for the first time. She started to coo and kick her legs, and soon she could sit up, propped up by piles of pillows and one of us sitting close enough to catch her if she toppled over.
I loved to entertain her in sacrament meeting with little toys and games. Other times, my brother and sister and I made funny faces to make her laugh. We were quickly learning to love our little foster baby.
I soon noticed how people stared at Patty in stores or restaurants. I didn’t like it, especially when someone was mean to her. I had learned in Primary that we should love everybody, no matter what they looked like on the outside. I had angry feelings inside, but my Primary teacher told us a story about Jesus and some people who had a disease called leprosy. Even though other people were mean to the lepers and called them names, Jesus loved them and blessed them. I knew that He loved Patty, too, and I tried to be kinder to everyone.
One day, I saw my parents looking at the newspaper and talking about Patty. They showed me that there was a picture of Patty in the paper, along with a little story that told about Patty’s need to be adopted. I read, “Patty is looking for a real family who will love her and take care of her.”
I noticed that Dad was very quiet and Mom had tears in her eyes. Patty had lived with us for almost a year, and it was hard to think of her going to live with anyone else.
Not long after that day, Mom dressed Patty in her prettiest outfit and put a ribbon in her brown hair. She told us, “There is a young couple who want to come and see Patty and take her on an outing to the zoo. They might want to adopt her, so I want everyone on their best behavior.”
I felt hot tears sting my eyes, and I ran to the bedroom I shared with my sister. I didn’t want to see the people who might take Patty away. I couldn’t pretend that I was happy that she might be adopted. I cried long and hard. By the time I came out of my room, Patty was on her way to the zoo.
Our family seemed to walk on tiptoe in the days that followed. We knew the adoption agency would call to let us know what this young couple had decided, and we jumped every time the phone rang. Finally one night the call came. The look of relief on my father’s face was clear—Patty was staying.
I bundled Patty up and put her in the stroller. While she waved her hands at all the neighbors, I pushed her happily around the block. I didn’t even mind when a group of kids pointed their fingers at her birthmark and started to laugh. I stopped the stroller and gave her a big hug. I was so happy, I thought I would burst!
Patty was our one and only foster baby. We put in our own application to adopt her, and she soon became an official part of our family. We changed her name to Patricia Lin and waited for the day we could go to the temple as a family to be sealed to her forever.
I remember waiting in the children’s room that wonderful day in the St. George Utah Temple, all four of us dressed in sparkling white. A temple worker came to take us to the sealing room at the top of a long staircase. As we entered the beautiful room and saw our parents and grandparents gathered around the sacred altar, little Patty called out, “Hi, Grandpa!” I remember how the Spirit flooded our hearts and made us all cry tears of joy. Patty was now part of our eternal family, just as if she had been born to our parents. We were a “real” family at last!
“With the Lord, families are essential. He created the earth that we could gain physical bodies and form families. (See D&C 2:1–3; D&C 49:16.) He established His Church to exalt families. He provides temples so that families can be together forever.” (See D&C 138:47–48.)
Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
(Ensign, November 2001, page 69.)