“She was found abandoned in the neighborhood of Dong District Office.” That’s how the paperwork begins.
It was 39 Septembers ago, on a street in Kwangjoo City, Seoul Korea. The official report continues… “She carried a piece of paper which showed her name and date of birth. Further information on her background is unknown because she is an abandoned child.”
I was eleven days old.
And that’s it. It’s all I know.
I’ve often wondered, “Why wait eleven days?” “Why the note?” I’ll never know, but my heart tells me my birth mother didn’t want to give me up, and when she was forced to, she wanted me to know my real name and birthday, a rare privilege for an abandoned child. It tells me I was loved. Another rarity in the world of the abandoned.
And yet, what a strange reality. It stands in contrast to the stories of my friends, sister, husband, children, and everyone in my life. They all know their backstory. All I know for sure is there isn’t much to know. I’m reminded of this every time I have to fill out my medical history. I check “unknown” on my mother’s side, as well as my father’s.
If there were a different box titled, “unknowable,” I’d check that one too.
“That must be her!” I’m told those were my grandmother’s words as each new baby was de-boarded from the flight that brought me, and dozens of other Korean infants, to their adopted families in the United States.
It was a Thursday, and I was the last baby off the plane, and placed into the arms of my new mother, who would love me everyday for the rest of her life. I was wrapped in an adoption agency blanket, when my new Mom introduced me to my sister Shannon, my dad and some others from of our small extended family in Southern California, on February 16, 1978.
I had been abandoned, but now I was blessed, and have never doubted that I am loved.
My parent’s decision to adopt had come in the wake of great loss. After my sister’s birth, my mother had suffered the horror of losing two babies, both born prematurely, followed by a third pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage. Each one bringing a pain I could never begin to imagine until I had children of my own.
And so my story, my second chance, came at a cost – as is almost always the case with love.
My adoption was never a secret, mentioned only in whispers around our house as I grew up, but was made into a comfortable thing we could and did talk about. There was no association with shame, only with acceptance. Just a part of my story. I would never feel out of place. My Mom used to joke God had placed me in the wrong body since it always felt like we belonged together.
I remember clearly being eighteen and my Mom handing me my adoption papers, and watching as I read them. She was nervous about my reaction at seeing the word abandoned in those paragraphs. But it didn’t evoke anything negative. A tribute to the love of my family The Lord had placed me in. God did math different in my life because even though my past had missing pieces, I miraculously felt whole and complete.
His Grace marks my life, but like yours, mine has had both pain and joy.
I told you my Mom loved me every day for the rest of her life, which ended when I was twenty-six and she was just Fifty-seven. The ravages of breast cancer took her, even though she fought the disease well for years, with courage and a heart still capable of love. She loved my sister and me so well until that very last moment when it was my turn to hold her hand and lean in to whisper “It’s okay to go home Mom.” And she did. I was still leaning and watching when I heard the release of her last breath on earth.
Her body was there before me, but she was gone. And I’ve missed her literally every day since. As cliché as I’m sure it sounds, she was my best friend. A miracle of Grace for a little abandoned girl.
I wish she were here to read these words. You would have loved her laugh!
One blessing in the midst of all the loss is she got to meet both of my birth children, Caleb who is 15, and Brooke who’s almost 13. What a gift! I remember being in the hospital with Caleb, and my Mom leaning in to ask, “What’s it like to know someone you are biologically related to?”
Her words and that question were profound for me. I looked down at him there in my arms and realized for the first time in my life, there was someone who would be near me who I am genetically and biologically related to. Another amazing gift!
My Mom never got to meet our third child Jake, who we adopted. There was a string of miracles, too long to list here, that led us to adopt him, and for me to be there in the room when he was born. His Mom chose us, and we chose him, and now he lives in a family saturated with love for him like mine was for me. He will never be alone.
So the redemption of my life, ultimately led to the redemption of Jake’s, who is now eight. That’s how The Lord tends to do things. The ripples of His love floating outward to eventually roll over the lives of those he allows us to love.
And so my story is one of redemption. Abandoned, and yet chosen. Let go of – yet embraced. Seemingly hopeless – yet now giving hope to others. God has been so gracious to me since that note was left on me, and the footsteps of whomever placed me there receded down that street on the other side of the world.
Often the richness of His Mercy and Love for me simply, or not so simply, overwhelm me.
I may never know exactly why my mother had to give me up, but there will always be one thing I know for certain… I came from Love.