This year has been full of surprises and reminders. Many so sweet and wonderful. Others are reminders of very painful periods in my life.
It is interesting to confront pain that is so very old. Pain that still has the power to hurt and ache. Not that physical pain, but the soulful pain of real loss and sorrow.
I don’t know how you deal with your heartbreaks and heartaches. Depending on the source of the pain, you may squash it down, or roll around in it or allow it to overwhelm you to the point of breaking you.
I have struggled with so many types of sorrow through the years. Probably one of the longest running painful things was seeing my daughter going through her own pain and grief as the consequence of misplaced hope and trust. Defiance that led her to a very dark period in her life, that defiance could do nothing less than envelope my husband and me, as well.
Lessons learned are like the new growth in the Spring…dead seeds sprouting and bringing forth new life. THAT is the period we live in with our daughter these days, and it is such a wonderful place to be living right now.
I don’t borrow tomorrow’s sorrows or joys, but I truly try to live THIS day savoring the joys that God grants each day. But even as long-running as the struggles with our daughter, there is a sorrow that life could not remedy for me.
As a young wife and mother, barely into my twenties, I saw my hopes and dreams dashed to pieces. Much like Humpty Dumpty, there was no one who could put my broken pieces back together. I suffered a massively destructive ectopic tubal pregnancy. With that loss, we didn’t just lose a little life, but all those hopes and dreams that parents have for their children. Gone was that little baby. Gone were all the birthdays and first teeth and first steps and first days of school…
And gone was my ability to bear any more children. So many people, well-meaning but ignorant, said things that honestly just didn’t help. That I had a child already did not erase my pain at losing another child. It also didn’t fill the void of a large family I had dreamed of having. It didn’t fill that empty place in the pit of my heart or replace the yearning for another baby. No one, no matter who they were, could guarantee that a miracle child would just come if I relaxed. And those comments came from well-meaning people. Others were just heartless.
When I think about the pain of those months and early years, it still cuts me in a place nothing else has ever touched. Thirty years later, that pain lingers.
There have been occasions when I have allowed myself to ask the what ifs. To wonder what my life would have been like if our little baby had lived. If I could have borne more children, how many would I have had? What would they have been like? Who would they take after? What if…
We named that little one Jaimie. Not knowing if that baby was a boy or a girl, we chose a name that carried the desire we had had…in French, Je t’aime means I love you. We wanted to have a name that conveyed our love for that child. It was the best name we could think of that worked. Jaimie.
Later, we adopted two children. Such blessings to all of us. We struggled through difficult adoptions and then the naturalization procedure. So much red tape, but so worth it. But our family size was limited to what we could afford in paper work, so our family was then complete. Dad, mom, two daughters and a son.
You wonder why I am bringing this up now, at Thanksgiving?
Well, let me tell you about the miracle we have found this year. It will have to be the Cliff Notes version because the story is almost 50 years old.
I had an uncle named Jimmy. He died when I was twelve. So almost 42 years ago, my mother’s younger brother died and that closed a chapter of her life story. Uncle Jimmy was a bit of a rascal…some would say that he was more than just a bit of one. My mom tells a lot of stories about their years growing up. And she has scars that accompany a lot of those stories.
My mom says that her brothers and sisters used to make fun of her for being the only white sheep in the family. That should give you a bit of understanding about the life she knew growing up. As my mother got older and the internet became readily available, she started looking for information. There were some large gaps in her genealogy and she had an incredible inner need to answer the questions about her ancestors so that she could know who she really was…in many ways like our daughter wishing she knew about her birth family because she just wants to know more about who she is and where she came from.
My mother researched cemeteries, public libraries, churches and any place that she could to find more records. She published her findings on Ancestry.com and went to family reunions with other branches of the family she had never met. Over the course of many years, she got a lot of answers to those questions that had been her own struggle for such a long time.
When she developed breast cancer, the research sort of stopped. Her chemo treatments were terrible, but she went through it with grace and strength. I am still amazed at the way she battled back. The after effects have been lingering. Maybe if she had been younger, her body would have rallied back. But she remained very weak. Of course, aging coupled with the chemo effects have taken their toll.
But she eventually began plugging away more slowly at her research. And then, her younger sister, Delilah, died suddenly. It was a terrible loss that I can’t even begin to describe. But out of that loss has come an incredible surprise.
Remember Uncle Jimmy? Well, while he was stationed overseas in England, he apparently had a son. And this son had been looking for his father’s family for years. He had hired private investigators and done all he could to track down his U.S. family. But with a last name like Johnson…well, there are a lot of Johnsons out there.
But this cousin, who I didn’t know existed, was researching while my mother was researching. And he stumbled across Aunt Dee’s obituary. And guess what that obituary contained? ALL THE NAMES OF THE FAMILY MEMBERS, along with their spouses’ names! AND the cities where they all lived.
In this year, I have “met” (not face to face yet) my cousin–JAMIE. It has been such a blessing to get to know him. To talk with him and hear him tell his stories, in that wonderful English accent. To find this out, so many years later, words fail me. Jamie is five years younger than I am. He doesn’t know about my little Jaimie. (Well, he will now…).
I cannot tell you how much joy finding him has meant to the whole family. My mother is just overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed. It is a blessing that goes beyond the superficial. It hits you down deep, in that tenderest place that holds your most painful and most wonderful thoughts.
That his name is Jamie. Well, all I can say is that I love him and am grateful that God has given me an answer that I wasn’t even looking for. It is very much like having something that was lost returned to you. He is not my Jaimie. But he is Jamie–so loved and such an answer to prayer, on both sides of the Atlantic. And the astonishing thing is that he and one of my daughters resemble each other very much. I just cannot adequately put this all into a short blog post. Trust me. There has to be a book out of this somewhere.
But for now, can I just share from my very thankful heart, my prayer for you all to have a very happy Thanksgiving. Treasure the blessings and recognize them for what they are. Blessings so undeserved, yet so treasured.