Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Weeding Through

This morning, I unconceivably got the urge to pull weeds from the butterfly garden. Ginger was keeping me company while Ella took care of business in her egg-laying nest. I was reminded of a poem my sister-in-law Lesle wrote after the death of her brother, my husband's brother, Perry. She reminisced about their childhood as a family and the weeds they sorted through as time went on. It made me think of Gina's passing and the weeds she encountered throughout life. It reminded me that sometimes even a weed will produce a lovely blossom and who's to say where beauty lies?

When Gina was 16 she gave a son to adoption. I was six at the time and have no recollection of her "being shipped away" to her father's home out of state. In fact, I didn't learn about the adoption until 1993, when I was 27. Can my family keep secrets or what?!So the year was 1972 and Michael was born.

Michael lives in the state he was born in, has a 14-year career in the US Army, is married to Renee and has three kids. He's known about the adoption since he was 6, he is now 34. While on deployment several years ago, Renee hired a PI to find Michael's parents. Not too long after, she was put in contact with Gina's stepmom and they met. Michael was given the name of his biological mother, saw photographs of her and his grandparents, aunt and uncles. History was shared and Gina's contact information was given. The proverbial ball was in his court.

After many attempts of calling and getting no answer or picking up the phone and losing courage, he finally reached Gina in March, 2006. Over the next several months, they phoned a few times. Some of Michael's questions were answered as was Gina's prayer. She wanted nothing more in life than to have her son contact her.

When I learned of Gina's hospitalization, I called Michael. I can't remember making a more difficult call in my life. I explained to him the severity of Gina's illness, not knowing what he knew about her. I offered to contact him with updates if he wanted me to, and he did. It was the next day that I called to tell him the ultimate prognosis and that I had made arrangements to fly to IN to see her. He called me back a couple hours later to inform me of his travel plans to IN. He understood it was a now or never situation for him and chose to act now.

Gina was informed of Michael and Renee's travel plans and a friend of hers gussied her up a little bit so she would feel more comfortable seeing him for the first time. When Michael arrived, I asked Gina's visitors to leave the room so we could have that moment in privacy. I will NEVER forget the huge smile on my sister's face when she saw her "baby boy". Never. Michael hugged Gina and between them and Renee and I, the room was filled with tears of bittersweet joy.

Michael and Renee stayed for four days. They spent countless hours at Gina's bedside. When she was coherent, they'd share photographs with her and she'd just look at Michael and smile. She repeatedly told people how handsome he was. She was so very proud and I am convinced that his presence there kept her hanging on. He tended to her needs as though he'd always been by her side. I don't think there are words to describe the depth of that sorrowful beauty.

Fortunately, my brother Doug flew in from New Mexico so he got to meet Michael and Renee. They went out to lunch one day and spent many hours just visiting. It felt so comfortable, it felt like family. On Thursday night, the night before they were to leave, Michael and I stayed with Gina all night. I'd done it every night since I arrived but Michael offered to stay and give me a break. It was my intention to leave but we ended up talking until 6:30am Friday morning. That will long be a favorite night of mine.

Since leaving, Michael and I, or Renee and I, have been in touch both by phone and email. He said that now we've met, Jeremy and I should come up for a visit and I'd love to do that. I talk about him so much you'd think he was my son. He's my nephew but with a six-year age difference, I feel I've gained a brother.

It's an irony of sorts. I've lost and gained as I've weeded through this difficult time.


Blogger Lacy said...

That's a beautiful story, Juli! I have a friend that met a daughter he didn't know he had about two years ago, and now it's like she was always a part of the family-- there's something about the strength of blood...

August 29, 2006 10:20 AM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

How bittersweet. Good for you that you can look this sorrowful time in the face and recognize that you've gained something.

August 29, 2006 10:21 AM  
Blogger HeartSleeve said...


My heart goes out to you, Dear... I can't fathom the pain of losing a sister. I am so glad you got to see her and experience her joy at seeing her son. You have lost and you have gained, and I can understand the sweet pain you are feeling.

And weeding is therapeutic... keep your hands in the earth and your eyes heavenward.

August 29, 2006 2:00 PM  
Blogger Mim said...

Thank you for a wonderful reunion story. I am happy for your sister, for Michael and his family, and for you. That this time of loss would have such gain is amazingly wonderful. hugs for all of you.

August 29, 2006 11:03 PM  
Blogger Wildside Musing said...

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story. So sorry for your loss too.

September 01, 2006 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

Oh my goodness, you just made my heart skip a beat. and rise to my throat. What a perfect thing to share

September 06, 2006 3:20 PM  

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