"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, July 18, 2011


For twenty-four years on this summer morning I awoke not seeing the unfolding day. My vision turned inward as I wondered: What does she look like? Who is she with? Is she happy?

Did she miss me? Did she wonder where I was, what I looked like, if I was happy? Could she feel my love and longing from whatever distance separated us?

Happy Birthday, my daughter, I would whisper throughout the day. And while for the rest of the year I wouldn't allow myself to dwell, on this day my heart would open as fully as possible to knowing my child was out there somewhere. Blowing out candles on a cake prepared by another mom.

I imagined her at one: chubby legs, gleeful smile, reaching arms. A darker-skinned, curly-haired version of myself at that age. I imagined her at five, starting kindergarten: eager to learn, bravely facing a world away from home. I imagined her at sixteen: beautiful, spirited, on the cusp of an easier life than I could have given her.

On Kathleen's eighteenth birthday I imagined her beginning her search for me as she prepared for college and a career.

When she really did find me the spring before she turned twenty-five, I was certain we'd spend every birthday together from that time forward.

By July of that year she'd already begun the reaching out and withdrawing that would become the hallmark of our relationship. There was always a good reason she wasn't available to spend the day with me. One involving her children or her parents. One I couldn't argue against for the simple reason I had given up all rights to her and could only accept what she was willing to give. There were always promises of next year.

For her twenty-fifth birthday, our first in each other's lives, I bought her a ring. A ruby. Her birthstone. I wanted her to have something she could wear every day that would remind her how much I loved her. How much I'd always loved her. When she cancelled our plans at the last minute, I put the ring away, thinking I'd give it to her the next year. It sat in a drawer for a number of years before I finally mailed it to her. Still hoping that next year would be different.

Sixteen years of hoping. Sixteen years in which I could at least picture her clearly, and hear her voice or see her words.

Last year when she turned forty I wrote this and emailed her and told her I'd like her to read it. I meant it as an offering of understanding and love. A reaching out to embrace her. She saw only the acknowledgment of her mental illness and pulled even farther away.

I woke up this morning to a dawn in which I once more wonder where she is. What happens to the spirit of a young woman who feels too much pain to continue to live? As I send my heart out into the pinking sky, searching for some sign of her, I find only emptiness and sadness in the fog softened air. To have come full circle in this way leaves me spinning.

I wonder now how her daughter is, and her other mother, on this day. Her two sons. Her ex-husband. I wonder if she can, wherever she is, finally feel how loved she is. If she sees how much she's missed. If she knows peace.


Desiree said...

This is so sad, Deb! You have endured a lifetime of longing, hoping and wondering. How tragic that your daughter was unable to accept your reaching out to her in love and not to have spent at least one of those sixteen birthdays with you. I assume then, you were never afforded the opportunity of meeting her children, either? That again seems to be such a tragedy, as I know you would have so much love to offer them. I do hope that in time you will be able to let this go, to reach a state of comfortable acceptance knowing that whatever transpired, was out of your control. For whatever reason, it was not meant to be. I do hope you no longer carry any guilt or regret for your part in having given her up for adoption. For whatever reason, at the time the decision was made, it would have seemed to have been for the best. Hindsight always allows for other options, but at the time, that was the one that made the most sense according to the circumstances prevailing then. What happened thereafter, in the years in which she became a wife and a Mother herself, was not within your reach. Sending you loving hugs! XOXO

Sandi said...

Oh Deb, my heart aches for you this morning. I so know what you're feeling, at least from my viewpoint of child loss. "I wonder if she can, wherever she is, finally feel how loved she is. If she sees how much she's missed. If she knows peace." I wonder all those same things.
The letter you wrote to her was eloquent and loving; her inner demons kept her from acknowledging that, but didn't change the outpouring of love you gave her when you gave her life, and loved her throughout her life.
Living this life, and loving our way through it, is sometimes excruciatingly painful. But, it's important that we don't lose sight of "wondering" as that is what keeps us connected to life, and living in the fullest way possible.
I love you so much, and hope that it works out that I can give you a hug in person this afternoon.

Wanda said...

Love and prayers for all of you.

I wish for you...Peace.

She Writes said...

I just read what you sent Kathleen. Somehow I missed it when you published it here.
I read this as a daughter who was adopted to an abusive family. I read this as a mother who has an adopted daughter who will face the fact, as I once did, her mother didn't keep her.

I read this as a human being, trying to imagine the weight and pain of 18 year old you making the decision you did. Read it as a mature woman open to love however it can be given and taken.

I am filled with respect, humility, and sadness. I am sad for your daughter who lives as she does and loses a very precious relationship that could have brought depth and richness to her life--Yours. You. I am sad for you and the lack of understanding and compassion our society still holds for women who choose to give their children something more than they had to offer in life. At the end of the day, we are left with our tender humanity. And we are left with that of those we love as well.

She Writes said...

PS Sending you hugs and wishing healing always.

Linda Myers said...

Thinking of you today, Deb. And also of the birthmothers of my grown sons. Wondering whether they will reach out sometime and look for the babies they gave up out of love.

Barb said...

On this special day of her birth, I think you'll always wonder, Deb. Sometimes there are questions with no answers. Thinking of you.

Pam said...

We try so hard to understand things, don't we Deb. There's that blessing about the "peace that passes all understanding".
Let us hope that as you and others grapple with trying to understand huge losses in their lives, that peace is a profound victor, a peace beyond our present comprehension.
The hardest part is not seeing, not knowing, but perhaps we just could not comprehend the majesty of this profound peace of which your daughter must surely be a part.
I can only understand what you can understand - we can only offer to each other our excrutiating pains and joys, the experience of life as we know it, but I hope the ultimate reward for all of us is a peace that surpasses all we know it to be.
As I think more on this beautiful word Deb, which is at the forefront of my mind in this post about you and your daughter, I wish it with all my heart for those who suffer.
You did your best and the rest is now out of your hands.
Love, with its tenderness and open vulnerability will always survive and thrive where peace lets it settle.
Inner turmoil, by it's very nature, throws up contrasts and issues. Peace is the final resting place - the place of answered questions, the reward for resolve and forgivness, and really what we wish for those we love. It is our final benediction is it not- to rest there?
...and while our understanding is so limited, how could it be otherwise. We can only offer each other love in our limitations, and I send you mine, and tears of compassion too. Big hug.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Peace be with you, today.

DJan said...

I've been gone all day, out hiking with my friends. I'm trying to catch up with all the blogs written by my friends, and this one, I couldn't let it pass without telling you how much your pain and suffering touches me, too. It had to have been a terribly hard thing to do as a young woman, and now... My heart aches for you and wish that some day the two of you will reach a peaceful place together. You so deserve it.

Richard said...

I have no words to express my empathy for you.

kario said...

She knows.

Out of My Mind said...

I don't know what to say.

Just know that I feel your pain and pray that you find the peace you are searching for. kt

Retired English Teacher said...

I wonder too. I wonder these same thoughts of where my daughter is also. I wonder if they both are at peace. I pray they are.

I read somewhere that after our loved one takes his or her life, we are left to wonder for a lifetime. There are no answers. That is the hard part. I am trying to come to terms with this.

Anonymous said...

Feelings written down can help a little and even though Kathleen 'pulled away' I am sure that in the corners of her mind she felt the warmth and the love you sent her.

How brave of you to give birth at eighteen, unmarried and afraid. Finding myself pregnant at 19, 35 years ago, I was persuaded that a termination was the only answer. I was not brave enough to fight for anything else. I will always wonder who that lost child would have been, despite having had five beautiful children since.

It was a selfless thing you did Deb and I hope you find peace as time goes on.

Jessica Nelson said...

I truly hope she does feel peace now, and I'm sorry for the limbo you've been in (sounds torturous) :-(
My mom buys my adopted niece (someone else adopted her) a pearl for each birthday so when she's grown she'll have a necklace.
I hope maybe you can forge a special relationship with your grandchildren. Hugs to you, Deb. I think you're a beautiful person.

Lavi said...

After reading the other post you were referring to, I can see that you didn't get the chance to be close to either your mother or your daughter.
Life is never fair and some steps are too hard to take. I hope you will be able to tell your daughter "happy birthday" in person one day.

Teresa aka Journaling Woman said...

The heart cannot lie. She knew your heart since the first time you met and maybe even before even if words had never been spoken. And, she may not have been able to tell you, but she knew your heart and sent the same back to you.


Amber said...

...I have only love to offer you.

((((your heart))))

ox Am

Dee said...

Dear Deb,
The only comfort I can offer you who have suffered so much for so long is that all of us are united in Oneness. Those who have gone before us. Those who live with us now. Those who will be coming into this world. All Creation is One. And in that Presence, you and your daughter are One also. I pray that you can forgive yourself and live in Oneness. Peace.

Wanda..... said...

The sadness of the unchangable past will always be with you, especially on such anniversaries, but today is what matters most.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Leo F. Buscaglia

Deb Cushman said...

I can only offer you the love of a dear friend who cares about you and wants you to feel peace.

patricia said...

This post makes me ache for you. I am so sorry I have been a vacant friend these past few weeks, so embroiled in my own mess. I love you! I can't wait to see you on Thursday.

Rita said...

I have a daughter I gave up 40 years ago this fall. I know how heart-wrenchng it is to put the welfare of the child above your own. In Minnesota I could look for her after she turned 19. She has a half-brother who was never expected to live and I had always hoped they could meet each other, too. Long story, but I did find her in another part of the state through an agency (letters) and she told me she had no desire to meet me, just wanted to know the facts. I wrote her a long letter and left the door open.

She changed her mind three years later out of the blue and wanted to see me like the next day. I met her, hugged her, talked for hours! Within a month or so she had come back and met my son and I--asked us up to meet her parents--talked about us getting to know each other--my heart soared. She moved and disappeared for a couple years. Didn't contact me to tell me she'd moved, my letters still went to the old place with her old roommate, and she never answered.

She has never had any interest in her brother whatsoever--never contacted him--never asked how he was. Me--she'd tell me now she wanted us to be close and have a relationship and then disappear--and made sure I didn't know how to contact her. I wrote to her for over eight years and would only hear from her every 1 1/2 to 3 years. She has "changed her mind" and wanted a relationship with me--very briefly--for a single letter, or a phone call, or the one additional visit many years later--and then disappear again for years. And she knew she was tearing my heart out, because I told her how I felt and what she meant to me for those eight years I kept writing. I wanted to keep the door open.

The last time I heard from her I got a note telling me I was going to be a grandmother and how I could be part of the child's life. But then she immediately cut off contact---again.

Sadly, it is like some kind of sick revenge game with her. I don't think she has ever forgiven me for giving her up. If her game was to test me to see if I would still love her--well, I may love her, but I don't like her. After 21 years of crying wolf every few years, I don't believe a word she says anymore. If she wanted revenge, she got it. She broke my heart over and over and over--until if she really ever did sincerely want a relationship with me I would probably never believe she meant it. We have had no contact for several years--and frankly, I hope I never hear from her. Every time is like a knife in the chest. I don't think I could open that door again. Of course, I say that every time.

Reading the story of you and your daughter...the reaching out and withdrawing...I felt the impact in my very soul. I wish you much better luck than I have had. Bless you!