Gracie’s Journey Out of Darkness
by Nedra Maurine White
The process to become a foster parent is supposedly a rigorous one, with background checks and home visits and psychological profiles. One would assume that to foster a child requires a special kind of love that is kind and good. But what happens when this is not the case, and the child is thrown into a world of abuse, lies, and mental illness? In Gracie’s Journey Out of Darkness, Nedra Maurine White takes us deep within the foster care system and astounds us with her personal story of a family’s separation and a young girl’s struggle to survive sexual abuse and insanity within her foster parents’ home!
For the first seven years of her life, Nedra was known as Gracie - a young girl who was taken from her mother and separated from the majority of her brothers and sisters by the State of Michigan. Initially, she was placed in a foster home with two of her brothers and a “…teenage boy much older…who had been adopted” (White 1). Their foster mom was a kind and beautiful woman who wanted to adopt Gracie, “…but because she was in her early sixties, the State would not let her” (4). Gracie knew that her brothers and foster mother loved her, but her young life held a disturbingly dark side; because when no one was else was looking, the teenaged boy would take her “…into the shed with him…can’t count the times we were in the shed together…” (3). This act was the beginning of a pain that, for Gracie, would not seem to go away!
At seven, Gracie’s life continued to spiral out of control. Her brothers were adopted by a family that only wanted boys, and she was adopted by the woman who would ultimately change her name from Gracie to Nedra – a woman determined to destroy the body, mind, and spirit of a young girl! In the community, this woman was heralded as an ideal foster parent, the “…sweetest person you would ever want to meet” (12). But Nedra’s experiences inside that house were anything but ideal! The atrocious and vile treatment that she endured at the hands of this woman is too much to mention – one can only imagine being strong enough to live through such horror!
At twelve, Nedra finally had enough! Even if this meant living at a psychiatric hospital for children, because her adoptive mother “…must have told them also that [she] was crazy” (24), Nedra was determined to never return to that house! And she didn’t! It was also during this time that Nedra began to mature into adulthood – and develop a strong and profound faith in God! She didn’t stay at the Center for long - moving on to have children, get her own place, work, and pay bills. But Nedra’s depression was a constant reminder of her haunted past and her uncertain future! She longed to reconnect with her family and to be rid of the demons that led her “…down a path of destruction…” (61)!
I could go on about the pains that Nedra suffered during her lifetime. They are heart-wrenching, and it blows my mind to know that people do exist that could treat a child so cruelly. But through my tears, I soon realized that the beauty of her full story - the thing that is so astounding – is that despite being separated from her family, despite the horror of sexual abuse, and despite being thrown into adulthood while still a child, Nedra never gave up! She never gave up on being free from her adoptive mother! She never gave up on the belief that, one day, she would be reunited with her family! And she certainly never gave up on trusting that God would deliver her from her physical addictions and mental anguish!
Reading Gracie’s Journey Out of Darkness not only left me with a profound sadness about the sufferings of a child, but it also inspired a renewed gladness in me once it became clear that - regardless of whatever pain and torment is present in our lives - the human spirit and God’s grace and mercy is powerful enough to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds! I leave you, reader, with Nedra’s own advice to anyone who is in pain or struggling with the weight of this world, as she is one who has come close to hell and been brought back: “With the help of God and his Merciful Love… continue to move forward and pray…I say to you, Never give up because anything is possible…” (124).