When Crystal met Robert, she wasn’t so impressed.
He, however, walked away from their date knowing she would one day be his wife.
God had sent Robert the message letting him know she was the one. It took Crystal a lot more convincing.
Robert also knew he would have a son named Solomon one day, though, he didn’t know how since his cystic fibrosis left him unable to have children biologically.
Crystal admits their love story is far from perfect.
“I know God has given me this story for a reason, and I need to share it,” said Crystal Farris Locke, a native of Murray County who now splits her time between Chatsworth and Woodstock. “It wouldn’t be a true love story if we didn’t have some bumps and bruises.”
While engaged to Robert, Crystal married another man. Three times Robert went to her. Three times she left the other man to be with Robert. It’s a story that is similar to the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea, a parallel not lost on Crystal.
On Dec. 21, 2002, Robert Locke, a native of Whitfield County, and Crystal Farris Locke began their lives together as husband and wife. They moved to Woodstock to be nearer his doctors in Atlanta.
Despite the rocky start, Crystal never looked back or regretted agreeing to be his wife, even when he died unexpectedly earlier this year, leaving her to raise their two adopted sons — Solomon and Jeffson — as a single mom.
Now the family braces for their first Christmas without their husband and father.
“Sometimes God’s plan sucks,” Crystal said. “I don’t always trust the plan, but I always trust the planner.”
Finding the boys
Shortly after their marriage, Robert underwent a lung transplant.
“We lived life,” Crystal said. “You wouldn’t know he was sick. He had a good spirit.”
Robert worked as an electrical engineer. He had several bouts of illness that left him in the hospital.
They didn’t let the chronic disease, which affects the lungs and digestive system, change their plans of having children one day.
Crystal and Robert tried in vitro fertilization, but after one experience, they knew that wasn’t the right path to have children. Still, God’s message to Robert that he would have a son left the couple hopeful.
“I always wanted to be a mother,” Crystal said. “We knew we would have kids somehow, someway. ... He said, ‘We’ll do anything, but we’re not doing this again.’ I said, ‘You are so black and white about everything.’ And he said, ‘Everything is 50 shades of gray in your world.’ I’m a complete feeler. He is a complete thinker. Only God could have put us together. It’s typical of cystic fibrosis males to not be able to have children. He knew from the time he was 16 he wasn’t going to have kids.”
The couple was open to adoption and began researching options.
Solomon and Jeffson, now 10 and 8 respectively, were living in Haiti in incredibly impoverished conditions. Their father died, and their mother was incapable of caring for them. So they entered a orphanage in Les Cayes, Haiti, where they suffered from physical abuse.
“Solomon had a lot of anger,” Crystal said. “In Haiti he suffered every type of abuse imaginable. Solomon took a lot of abuse for his brother.”
It’s “awesome” to live in America, Solomon says.
“Because we don’t get beat every day for no reason,” Jeffson answers.
The boys share limited memories from their days in Haiti. Solomon’s Haitian name was Rodriguez, but he didn’t want to keep it because he wanted to disassociate from the country that brought him so much pain. Jeffson kept his Haitian name.
“It’s hard to judge what people do in Haiti because that’s what happened to them or worse,” Crystal said. “It’s a different culture. What we see as abuse here is not abuse to them. Like, they would get hit with a belt buckle.”
She adds that she knows it’s not like that for everyone in Haiti, but that it’s more common and more accepted culturally there than in America.
At first Robert and Crystal thought they would be adopting a 3-year-old girl and newborn twins from Guatemala. But she said adoptions between Guatemala and the United States closed just as they were scheduled to sign papers to finalize the adoption.
“Both of us had done mission work in Central America and wanted to adopt from there,” Crystal said. “We looked at different countries.”
She found a website for an orphanage in Haiti.
“We were really wide open,” Crystal said. “We just knew we wanted two. They showed us the picture of the boys. They were 3 and 5. Rob was in the hospital and he said, ‘These are supposed to be our sons.’ They have so many traits just like us. Jeffson is so much like me. He looks at everything differently. I think God gives them a little of our DNA.”
The adoption process began in 2008. Even after they had legally become the Lockes’ children, they had to continue living at the orphanage while their paperwork to enter America was complete.
The couple visited the boys often, but there was still a language barrier to overcome. The boys spoke Creole.
The Lockes didn’t understand conditions at the orphanage were so horrendous. They didn’t realize their sons were being beaten daily.
“We thought they were being taken care of,” Crystal said.