Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An act of kindness, please...

"A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me." - Jody Landers

One year ago today a woman who loved her son so much she named him "Gift from God" passed away from this world. There is only one photograph that exists of her. Her grave is unmarked. I don't know if anyone in her family will think of her today and remember her, because life just doesn't move in specific dates and times like it does here.

Today is the one year anniversary of Wynray's birth mom's passing.

Today I have been grieving for Wynray's birth mother. It has been an emotional day to say the least. I've been thinking about her last few days in this world and what she endured. I imagine how terrified she must have been, leaving her precious boy behind. Of course, Wynray has no real understanding of today (that I'm aware of. just keep reading), but it doesn't lessen the importance of what today means for this family. A year ago today, life switched tracks for Wynray. Today I am aware that a family's tragic loss gave me the most precious gift imaginable. The conflict and confusion of that statement leaves me breathless.

I have been dreading this day for months. Perhaps it is because Wynray is unaware of today's significance that the last few months have been so hard for me. Yes, I can hear the selfishness in that statement. Today shouldn't be about me, but up until just a few hours ago it was. It was about my guilt, my helplessness, my sadness and it was immobilizing. We'll get back to that realization in a minute.

Today I started the day, bearing the burden of grief alone, cloaked in sadness for a woman I've never met. Despite having never met her, I see her smile everyday on the little boy who is our son. Today I have felt the unfairness of my white privilege. Today I have been aware of how much I take for granted having access to medical care, food, shelter and water. Today I have been aware of heartbreaking injustice, poverty, and loss.

Today I felt a desperate need to remember Wynray's precious birth mother and honor her until he is able. Until this morning, I felt I needed to be grieving for both of us. Today, like most days, I feel unworthy of the gift of mothering Wynray, and I feel the need to be extra present, extra patient, extra kind. On the days when I'm not extra present, extra patient and extra kind (most days) I feel extra guilty. Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in guilt because let's be honest, most days there's not enough time and energy to be extra anything.

Speaking of mothers, Wynray has been holding out on calling me mama. The fact that he can say "more banana" but not "mama" has not been lost on me. To me it is a word of honor, and I knew he would call me Mama when he was ready. So this morning, my goofy-happy son came running down the hall yelling what I thought was "Mama! Mama!" and my heart began to soar, and then I remembered the significance of today and then my heart stopped. It just felt WRONG that he'd start calling me Mama today of all days. To my momentary relief he actually had been saying "more food, Dada."

Then later this morning he climbed into my lap, got uncharacteristically still, gave me a kiss and said the word I've been longing to hear since the day I met him.
He called me Mama.
Holy inappropriateness, Wynray! Of course then I wept, but not for the reasons I had imagined. I wept with crippling guilt, unworthiness, and sadness. I felt myself slipping down a spiral of despair and it felt bottomless.

And then that smiling boy just kept calling me Mama. And smiling, and kissing me. And it's hard to be sad when Wynray smiles or gives you a slobbery kiss. It reminded me of what we know about his birth mother. His birth father revealed to us that she had a beautiful smile and a great sense of humor. He said he missed her smile most of all. Wynray's birth mother's humor and the light she gave others lives on in our son. Wynray's smile, her smile, started chipping away at my sadness, and that's when I realized perhaps I've been approaching this grief all wrong. While it IS my job to gather as much information as I can about his family and culture, and hold that information dear in my heart, it isn't my job to grieve for Wynray. I will help share the burden when the appropriate time comes, and I will walk with him through it, but it should be his privilege to grieve his birth mother as he chooses.

Maybe Wynray finally calling me Mama today was a gift from her. Maybe it was the signal I needed to know that it's okay to feel joy, and be joyful. From what I know about her, she would want that. While I will always try to be mindful of how Wynray became a part of our family, I need to let go of the crippling guilt. It's hard to parent from a place of sadness much less initiate positive change. And I want to initiate positive change.

So here is where your help comes in. I had originally planned to observe today in private and then Wynray had to go and call me Mama, and get up in my face with that dazzling smile of his, and it changed everything. Rather than feeling helpless, sad and guilty I realized the simple act of a smile changed everything for me. I accomplish nothing to honor his birth mother's memory by crying alone in my home, feeling guilty for the privilege of being Wynray's mom, but I CAN honor her memory by asking something very small of you all.

I would like to request one act of kindness from each and every one of you in honor of Wynray's birth mom. Hug someone, tell a joke, hold a door, give someone a dazzling and beautiful smile...no kind gesture is too small, because we all know kindness is infectious. It grows and expands and it changes the world. Just like Wynray sitting and smiling in my lap today changed my entire perception of how to honor his birth mother, your smile could change a life...even if just for a second. Wynray's smile has changed mine.

Help me remember the precious woman who gave Wynray life, and his beaming smile. Shine your light. Go be kind.

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