In my mom’s final weeks of her life, she made me a promise. She told me that when she got to heaven, she would ask God, if she could send me a “love letter”. We were in her room. She was sitting up in her wheelchair, a prayer shawl wrapped around her small frame. I was kneeling in front of her, holding her hands. She always had such pretty hands. Her skin was so soft and warm. I rubbed my cheek across her palms. Laying my head in her lap, I wept. “Please send me a love letter” I whispered.
I didn’t know it at the time, but The Lord was already working on a love note for my mom to send. As I prepared to say goodbye to the only mother I’d ever known. Christ, was preparing my heart, to say hello to the mother who knew me nine months longer than anyone else.
I had always wondered about my biological mom, for as long as I can remember. In kindergarten my teacher, Mrs. Vos, had us write a letter to Jesus. In mine, I asked him what my biological mom looked like and if I would see her in heaven. I still have that letter.
As a young adult, I began to seriously think about looking for my biological family. Imagining all types of scenarios in my mind. How would it go? What would it look like? But the timing was never quite right. I just wasn’t ready.
I don’t know what changed for me…no scratch that. I know exactly what changed. In the blink of an eye, I was 36 with children of my own. My mother was dying. My own health at risk. I needed answers. I needed to know if my children could get sick. Did cancer run in my family? Who did I take after? Could “they” love me? Could I be a part of “their” family? I needed that final puzzle piece that had been missing from my life. How it would go. What it would look like. The timing was now. I was ready.
So, in the spring of 2016, shortly after my cancer diagnosis, I began my search. It started slowly. Poking around the internet for clues. Pausing for doctors’ appointments and surgery. Picking up again, during my recovery. Joining 23 and me, a genetic service. Because who knows, maybe I’d find a DNA match. Stopping yet again to care for my ailing mother. In June I stopped twiddling my thumbs, and contacted Bethany Christian services (the private agency used for my adoption) directly.
In June I spoke with the Post Adoption Center at Bethany and was matched with their post adoption specialist, Suzanne. Perfect at her job, Suzanne walked me through the process of opening my closed adoption. Over the next six months, paperwork would be submitted, emails were exchanged, phone calls were answered and questions fielded. A relatively easy process, the hardest part was the waiting.
On August 9, 2016, my mom lost her battel with cancer. My family and I laid her to rest and I returned home, trying to piece back a life that had been shattered by her death. By November life was starting to feel a little more “normal”. My kids were back in school and are daily routines were in full swing. On the morning of November seventh, I was enjoying the quiet and my second cup of coffee, while my kids were at school, when my phone rang.
It was my love letter.
“I spoke to your biological mother today.” Suzanne said. “She would love to speak with you, meet you…she’s open to it all…she’s been waiting for you.” I can’t even begin to describe my emotions. To this day I still don’t think I’ve fully processed them. A life of never ever knowing, became of life of knowing it all…in an instant! But first, let’s just start with her name. Teresa.
My love letter began. “Hello Rachel, it’s mom” it said.
Suzanne made plans for Teresa and me to speak over the phone in two days. It allowed us time to gather our thoughts and process this new beginning. It was the longest two days of my life! The day arrived and I nervously made the call. She answered on the second ring. We spoke for three hours that morning. Never a lull in conversation, it was full of joy and tears. Like Mary I treasured it all up and pondered it in my heart.
Over the past seven months, my relationship with Teresa, has gone from carefully and slowly, to weekly phone calls, emails, pictures and care packages. After one particular call, I learned she didn’t have any baby pictures of me. Not a lock of hair, a baby foot print, nothing. I decided I would create a photo album for her on Shutterfly.
Bound and determined, I turned my house inside out, searching for my box of childhood photographs. After squeezing my not so small body, into our very small crawl space, I found what I was looking for! I happily lifted the lid, and the first thing I saw were some folded pieces of yellow notebook paper. I opened it up and immediately recognized my mother’s handwriting.
It began. “A letter to Rachel’s birth mom – Today – Rachel’s sixteenth birthday I am filled with pride and joy.” It was a letter! An actual letter, written for Teresa, by my mom, on my 16th birthday. A perfect gift to add to the photo album. I slowly read it aloud. Tracing each word with my finger. Straining to read the crossed out lines. I held the crinkled papers to my chest. No tears came, just joy.
My love letter continued. “I love you Rachel. Jesus loves you. I’m ok now. I am with you. God is always with you.”
In a few weeks my family and I will be traveling to the east coast to meet Teresa in person.
My love letter goes on. I don’t know what it has to say yet. I will keep you posted.
at September 08, 2019