"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gone



It strikes me as odd now that I didn't expect the news I received when I returned her call. Her voice on the message was neutral, and since I'd only heard it one time before, I didn't have a frame of reference for reading anything into her tone. I've wondered if some part of me already knew, and was protecting me.

"This is Shirley, Kathleen's adoptive mom. Would you call me as soon as you get this?"

I remember thinking that it was interesting for her to be calling the Monday before Christmas. Maybe she wanted me to be a part of a surprise of some kind for Kathleen. Or maybe Kathleen had ended up back in the hospital and wanted me by her side badly enough to ask her mom to call me. Maybe even one of Kathleen's children was ready for contact, and Shirley was the messenger.

I called back right away, my voice cheerfully friendly as I said, "What's up?" still thinking it both odd and cool that Shirley was reaching out to me. Shirley, the adoptive mother of my daughter, Kathleen. Shirley, the woman I love, fear and owe an unpayable debt to.

"Kathleen took her life on Friday. I thought you'd want to know."

The human body is an amazing entity. I could feel mine flood with feeling that was quickly surrounded by a blessed blankness.  Questions flooded that space. The ones you would expect, and many more I've been holding all these years of watching my daughter reach toward me and pull back before my reaching toward her could complete the connection.

I asked as many as I thought I could and still respect the great loss of the woman who had spent the last forty years trying to keep our daughter safe from herself and (in Shirley's words) the profound and insidious illness that she had battled for many years.

It was hard to stay with the conversation even though I wanted to know everything. My mind kept bouncing away from our words to another phone call. The first one from Kathleen sixteen years before - the call I'd been hoping for for twenty-four years. The miracle of hearing the voice of the woman I'd relinquished at birth and had been told it would be as though I'd never had her. She was no longer mine, but from that point forward, someone else's daughter.

Except she was always my daughter, too. Every birthday I saw her at that age in other children and wondered about her life. Every milestone I saw in my students, my nieces, characters in movies, I wondered about hers. I looked for her in every chocolate-skinned, curly-haired smiling girl who crossed my path.

And even after I met her and fell in love with the reality of her, as wounded as she was, and she could not deliver what we both so desperately wanted, I waited and hoped and prayed for her healing and the possibility of a real relationship with her. I stood with open arms and a mother's heart and a fierce desire to somehow lighten her burden.

My daughter is gone. Just turned forty in July. The mother of three children she loved. A woman much loved by many. Beautiful. Bright. Kind. Funny. Haunted. Mentally ill.

She left me without goodbye, without ever allowing the relationship she initiated reunion to have with me, without ever really feeling how deeply I love her.

I'm surprised at the depth and strength of this loss. I can't imagine how her other mother is managing, except she has Kathleen's children, both to be strong for and to turn her love toward. I have what I've always had: love and sadness. It's just magnified and without possibility of being anything else. What I also have is a family and friends who accept that I am a mother who has lost her child - for the second and last time - and who hold me gently in my grieving.

I am so sorry there was no way any of us could give Kathleen the power to feel that very same unjudging and embracing love, to feel her value, to feel anything that would have allowed her to stay.

35 comments:

Teresa aka JW said...

Saying I'm sorry for your loss seems incredibly inadequate, but I am sorry.

I know you have to grieve. My prayer is you won't blame...yourself in some way.

I am so glad she found you and that you both got to study each other's face and to hear each other's voice. This matters. So many of your experiences with her will matter.

Prayers,
Teresa

LauraX said...

Deb, my dear, I am so, so sorry. I cannot come close to imagining the depth of your loss right now. Please know that I am here if you want to talk at some point...or if you want to connect with me privately via email. I send you my love from afar...hold it close around your heart my friend. It took tremendous courage to share your story here with us...I hope the sharing will bring some relief to you.

gentle, gentle steps,
Laura

Niki said...

There are no words...except to pray for you, for your comfort, for your peace, for your heart and the pain you're in...and to tell you that I care....

Niki

Carrie Link said...

Oh, Deb. I am so, so sorry for your incredible loss...

Stacy Crawford said...

Deb, I am sorry for your loss. You will be in my prayers tonight.

Lilith said...

I'm so sorry Deb. Sending a hug.

Wanda said...

Oh, Deb...I am so sorry.

Linda Myers said...

So sorry for your loss. I have two grown children adopted as infants. They have not searched for their birthparents yet. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to meet her.

Retired English Teacher said...

Deb, I wish I could reach through this computer screen and tell you personally how deeply and profoundly sorry I am for your losses. I wish I could also somehow comfort her adoptive mother.

I, even after suffering the same loss in the same way, have no words that will suffice in filling the void that has been created in such an incomprehensible way. The "profound" and insidious effects of the disease which has robbed the world of another bright, beautiful, complex, and tormented young woman causes me deep grief for all whose lives she touched.

Her life was a gift to many. I hope you can continue to find comfort in that. Please know for sure that you are not to be blamed for any aspect of her life.

My heart is truly aching for you and all of her family. You are in my prayers.

Barb said...

Such sadness and loss felt by all those who loved her. Hugs to you Deb.

Loren said...

Deb,

I cannot even begin to imagine your grief. your pain. your sadness. But, what I do know is that God and God alone does know and Only HE can hold you and bring you HIS comfort. He knows your pain and I pray you will feel HIS Presence with you in these days ahead. You are in my prayers as well as Kathleen's family and children. I am so sorry Deb.

Anonymous said...

"There, but for the grace of God, go I." Deb, I can not tell you how sorry I am. My heart just aches for you. J

Suzy said...

Deb,

I am so sorry for your loss.

I love you.

Suzy

Suzy said...

Deb,

I am so sorry for your loss.

I love you.

Suzy

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

Sorry for your loss. I felt a lump stuck in my throat as I read your story.

May the God of love and comfort give you peace and strength during your difficult times.

Kelly H-Y said...

I am so deeply sorry for your and her entire family's unimaginable loss.

Janna Qualman said...

Oh, Deb. Oh, I'm so sorry. I feel selfish for not having reached out, and you need to know that my heart is with you. I'm so sorry.

deb said...

Deb,
I sit stunned by this.
My heart aches for you so much.

prayers

yaya said...

Deb,I have no words to express the sadness I feel after reading this post. I'm so sorry and will say a prayer for you and your daughter's adoptive Mom...

Donna said...

I started reading this post and thought immediately "this writing is gripping and should be a book. Deb has the gift of capture for a reader that makes me not want to put this down". Then I read the heart of it all, gasped and now have tremendous heartache for you. I cannot imagine how this must be for you, but wonder. Wonder about the whole story...you need to think if this is a story you can write in entirity.
Please know caring prayers are coming your way...Donna

Leslie said...

Deb, my mother gave her first child up for adoption in 1958, five years before I was born. She never told anyone, but her daughter, also named Deb, found her. My mother wants nothing to do with her, which makes me very sad, but it truly is her perogative. Anyways, Deb has severe problems with bipolar/depression issues. Your post today sent shivers down my spine.... I have never met you personally (although we share a dear friendship with Carrie), but I feel so close to your pain.

Jessica Nelson said...

Oh no! Deb, I'm so, so sorry. :-(
*hugs*

Amber said...

Oh my God, Deb. I have no words.

I am so sorry for her pain...For all the pain for you all.

You are loved, and held in Love. Just know that. I will be thinking of you with love.

Gammary said...

Deb
feeling crazy that I didn't read this before our visit these last two days. You do have the start of the book here...and the conclusion.

Healing, healing the wounds of living....isn't that the pure cycle of why we continue to breathe? Bleeding, bleeding the pain into each breath and grateful that our lungs continue to expand and contract.

I breathe with and for you, my dear friend.

Mary

Robin said...

Deb, I an so very sorry. I wish there were words. Peace.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh. oh. oh. Sweet Deb - I have chills, goosebumps.

I am sending you a big hug; I am so so so sorry... -- I don't have words - you know I just lost my half brother to this same "dis-ease" . . . *sigh* If you need anything - ...

*hugging you*

Elenka said...

Oh my God, Deb, what a sad story to read on the first day of a new year! I am so sorry to hear that you have to suffer through this unbearable sadness. My thoughts are with you.
e

Sandi said...

Oh Deb, It makes me so sad to know you are feeling the grip of this loss in the worst possible way. Know you are loved, and hugged and being offered up in prayers in an ever widening circle. God has blessed you with honesty and insight, and with Kathleen's life. Allow peace to flow in and around you, and support you today and always. I love you and I'm here for you.

#1Nana said...

Deb,
I just returned home and started reading blogs on my list backwards from the current posting and was stunned to read of your loss.

It feels like I become so familiar with my cyber-friends...and then something like this happens and I realize how little I really know about my new friends.

I am so sorry for your loss, for both the child that you knew and for the future that you have been denied. If you were my neighbor I would be trudging to your door with food. Here in cyber-world I have only words and both words and casseroles are inadequate! We, your followers, await your words and will support and encourage you as you grieve.
Jann

Ask Me Anything said...

I believe so many of us who have read your story share at least a shadow of your pain with you at this moment.

deborahjbarker said...

Such a sad story and what could have prepared you for that phone call? I am so sorry to hear your news. I hope the love and warmth of your family and friends will help you in the grief you have to bear.

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm crying here for you and all that could have been. I am helpless to find the right words for healing as I honestly am sorrowed by this news.
This is one of those times where I wished I lived nearby and could come sit with you and listen.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Oh, my.

Kathryn Grace said...

There are no words. Sending love. Asking the Grandmothers to hold you.

Wander to the Wayside said...

I've been m.i.a. for two months, so am just now catching up, and am so sorry and sad about your losses. I can't even fatham the grief over this particular one.

We've had suicide in our family and with three friends, and it never makes any sense to me. I wrote a post about my brother-in-law in March 2009(How Do You Get So Lonely), where I expressed many of the things you have here. I'm always torn between being furious and being incredibly sad, but more than anything I'm always puzzled, and wonder if it takes great strength, or great weakness, to take this route.

Wow, I'm really still a little stunned about this, Deb, as you most surely still are, especially with the other recent loss on top of it. No wonder you're waiting for that third shoe to drop with every phone call! Take care of yourself...and let others take care of you as well.