I think about her quite often. Daily to be exact. I have known about her for over five months now. At first, she was just a name on a piece of paper. That name was attached to a story. A story that would entwine her life with mine, her story with my story. The name on the paper, attached to a story, that attached to my life would soon become a face.
I anticipated our meeting for nearly two months. I have never in my life been faced with such a hopeless and simultaneously hopeful encounter. She was the other woman. The woman who had suffered many losses and who had endured more than I am privy to share. The woman who was losing her daughter so that her daughter can gain life. A woman, through no fault of her own, who is ostracized and ill. She was left with no other choice. She had tried every other option. Still, every door she tried to walk through was slammed in her face. There was no other family. No income. No school. No welfare system or safety net. She looks out and sees the countless children roaming the streets looking for food, work, or trouble. She knows chat and alcohol are the substances many are choosing to numb their pain. She chooses a different path for her daughter, because that is what mothers do. Mothers sacrifice so that their children can live.
This is a sacrifice and choice I wish on no one. I could not imagine. I cannot imagine.
I lost sleep thinking about our meeting. What could I possibly say to her? Offer her? What would she be like? How sickly would she look? Would she like me? Accept me? What would she ask of me?
What is wrong with the world that this is even happening? “This is not fair,” I cried out to God many times. “No, God…why does she have to lose a child? Isn’t there another option? Why not?,” I would demand. “I want another option! Please! Both of them…we can help both of them,” I pleaded.
But, I already knew this is not how international adoption works. At least not according to the rules and laws as they have been explained to me. No money, help, or support could ever be exchanged. First, a child is declared an orphan through all proper channels THEN an adoptive family is sought. Through this order of events, it (in theory) prevents any money or goods being exchanged for a child. I understand the need to create ethical practices that keep everything on the up-and-up. I understand the need to ensure the process is squeaky clean. After all, we chose an adoption agency with an unblemished record.
We wanted to welcome a child into our home who didn’t have a family. This scenario was a bit messier than our previous two adoptions. I wasn’t sure what God was doing, but he assured me night after night that we are to march forward. “And the widow,” I would hear in the stillness of my heart. “Don’t forget the widow.” Was this God’s way of making sure I do not forget the other part of James 1:27? A lot of us are quick to remember the orphans, but do not seem to speak as loudly and act as boldly in the widow arena. Do we simply not know what to do? I imagine that is part of it. I imagine many of us would adopt widows if we could. I know I would. There are a few, but not many trails blazed in this arena, at least that I am aware of. But God tells us that we are called to the orphans and the widows. Not the orphans or the widows. “But, how God? How? What? Where? Please, make your desires clear.”
I spent the months leading up to our meeting asking God to make his will clear. I asked him to please keep a crack in the door that opens to her birth mother. Please God, do not let her drift back to her town, sick and alone, and leave us in the dark wondering what became of her. Please, please keep that door opened until we can figure out that we are supposed to do.
The day we met.
Her name on a piece a paper. Her story entwined with my story, attached to my life. Her face next to my face. We are both mothers. Both mothers to the same girl. We become one family, me and the other woman, and our daughter. We talk and learn about each other. I ask questions, she answers. She shares her story, smiles, and looks peaceful. She looks healthier than she did a few months earlier, when she wasn’t sure what would become of her daughter. She has put on weight and looks at ease…which puts me at ease. Though horribly crappy, this is the best solution at this moment in time. I feel assured that this is the truth. So far from perfect and not the resolution this idealist wants, but it is the best available alternative. Big Sister was officially declared an orphan months before we ever saw her face, knew her story, learned about her birth mother. She was an orphan according to all definitions under the sun. That was her label. Her identity.
On this day in April, she would become an orphan no longer. The birth mother would consent. We would consent. The judge would approve. The paperwork was complete. The file was closed.
Two mothers. 8000 miles apart. One daughter. In some ways, I guess you could say we are caring for the widow. I don’t truly believe that though, to be perfectly honest. In many ways, I believe we are not doing nearly enough to help widows and/or prevent injustices all together. These are big problems and one person or one organization will never be the answer. I know Big Sister’s birth mother is at peace knowing her daughter is safe. But is she really at peace? As a mother, I am not sure I would ever be at peace knowing that giving up my child was the best alternative. What kind of crap is that?
What is the answer? How do we care for the widow? How do we care for the widow who lives 8000 miles away? I don’t have an answer to that question. I would love to hear any and all suggestions or insights. Orphan care, while messy, is at least navigable. “But the widow,” the silent still voice repeats in my head. “Don’t forget about the widow.”
The big answer, I truly believe and have said many times, is to share each other’s burdens…locally, regionally, globally. Balance the scales a bit. It is not about being fair. It is not about me. It is not about you. It is not about “your” stuff or “my” stuff. It is about loving like Jesus loved. Loving others the way he loved us. It is about selfless love, even when it comes to parenting. If we truly believed that all comes from God and belongs to God, I think we would be a lot more selfless. God, help us to be more selfless. Love requires sacrifice, as you demonstrated on the cross. You gave your life so that we may have life in abundance. Help us to give our life back to you so that others may experience the abundance that most of us take for granted every day. Help us, God, to not forget the widow. Help us to love the other woman, to welcome the other woman. If there is a child in our home whom was not formed in my womb, help me remember and honor the womb where my child, our child, was perfectly knit. Lead us…light the way. Oh, and thank you for keeping that crack in the door.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.