A Gift From Afar – (A Mother’s love and loss)

Non-Fiction – International Adoption.

Author’s Note: This is a non-fiction article I wrote in 2008, after visiting my friend and her newly adopted daughter, a little girl (3 years old) from China. My friends lost their son, Stephen to injuries sustained in combat in Iraq a year-and-a-half before this was written. Mara is now a beautiful teenage girl with a wonderful smile.

“Come on in! I’ll make some coffee,” my friend, Joan said.

“Thanks,” I said. Stepping inside, I stooped to remove my shoes and looked up to see a little girl watching me. 

“Jan, meet Mara,” Joan said. “She takes a while to warm up to strangers, but give her time.”

With both of our lives being busy, I don’t see Joan very often, but I knew they’d recently flown to China to adopt an orphaned three-year-old girl. 

Born in Shaanxi Province, China, in March 2005, Mara’s cleft-palate left her poverty-stricken parents no choice but to leave her at a state-run orphanage.

I smiled at her. “Hello, sweetheart. How are you doing?”

To my delight, Mara climbed into my arms and gave me a hug. 

Joan was amazed. “When we picked her up at the orphanage, she didn’t trust anyone. She was so confused and upset.”

Indeed. Can you imagine being transported without warning to a place where you didn’t understand a word being spoken?

Mara’s future would have been bleak if she’d stayed in China. A rudimentary repair of her cleft palate had been performed, but further surgeries are needed.

Mara might not know many words of English yet, but she certainly knows how to make herself understood. Grabbing my hand, she led me to her bedroom to show me her toys and clothes.  When we returned, she pointed to Joan and said, “Mama.”

“Yes, that’s your Mama, isn’t it?” I replied. 

Grinning, she ran over and hugged Joan before going into her bedroom to play.

As Joan and I sipped our coffee, we talked about children, life, and how their family was coping with the loss of their soldier son, Stephen, who was killed in Iraq, not quite two years ago.
Ten years ago, this family adopted a baby boy from a different country to join their four biological children. They are wonderful, loving parents. Yet, as she described going to China to adopt Mara, Joan expressed her fear people would think they were trying to ‘replace’ Stephen by adopting another child. 

“That’s silly,” I said. “You can’t replace one child with another.”

Our eyes met in that mothers’ moment.  I’ll never forget the day I learned they’d lost Stephen. I thought my heart would break in two. I wrote the article, ‘America’s Son,’ expressing some of the agonies that every military family lives with when a loved one is deployed to a hostile environment and the immense grief of losing one of our own.

Do you know how people get over the loss of a child? The answer is simple: They don’t. 

They just keep breathing and in time, learn how to live with the pain. A pain that never goes away, not ever.

A mother in China gave up her baby daughter, knowing she couldn’t provide her with the medical care necessary, no doubt agonizing over the grim future her daughter faced. I wish she could see the smile on Mara’s face as she dances around the living room of her adoptive home, but I doubt it would remove her pain.

When it was time for me to leave, Joan picked her up, and they both gave me a hug. Mara kissed me and pointed to her own cheek. I kissed her sweet face once more, and she waved goodbye.

Joan vowed Mara will be told of her heritage and encouraged to learn of her birthplace and people.

Somewhere in China, a mother’s heart beats on, as she grieves for her lost daughter.

Here in the United States, a mother’s heart beats on, as she grieves for her lost son.

Without ever meeting, these two mothers have a bond that spans the oceans. 

What a gift they have each given to each other.

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