I am already an emotional train wreck this morning and have not stopped crying since the second stanza of the opening hymn of Sacrament Meeting. And when I say crying, I don’t mean the polite tear or two running down my cheek. I’m mean the unabashed crying that is making other people around me uncomfortable. My hands shake each time I reach for the trays in which the sacrament is passed to the congregation, unsteady and weak with the knowledge of today’s anniversary.
I know my loss is not unique, but part of the larger fabric of human experience. This morning, I am acutely aware of not only my suffering, but that of those around me, too. Sitting behind me is Sharon and her four daughters. Last July, she held her mother in her arms as her mother died from injuries sustained in a tragic boating accident that also took the life of Sharon’s younger sister and injured several of her own children. In front of me, Melody snuggles her darling baby girl who was born with several defects, smashing any hope she had of a healthy, normal daughter – we’ve talked frankly about the struggles she went through to accept the loss of her dream of a “perfect” baby girl. To my left is Vivian who never married and who lost the dream of children and a husband when she reached her 60s. Two rows ahead of me is Betsy, who mourns the loss of her 23-year marriage. Three rows ahead of her sits Maddie and her nephews and nieces. They live with her part of the time because they have lost their mother to a long jail sentence for her role in a fatal hit & run accident. Up towards the front of the chapel, I can see Elaine with her five children. She’s dealing with the loss of her husband’s job and the reality they are going to have to move in with his parents.
It is within this river of loss I mourn my oldest daughter lost to adoption this morning. My grief is at an apex when my phone buzzes to life beside me. The tornado watch issued this morning has been upgraded to a warning.
Whatever unsteady earthen dam I have erected in my heart this morning breaks and splits wide open, leaving me awash in a current of muddy water. Thirty-six minutes of church is all I can manage today, and so I leave before the deacons have even been dismissed from passing the sacrament. I run to my car in the gathering storm, the rains already pelting me at a 45 degree angle. I post this raw and honest statement on Facebook:
How fitting to have weather that matches my emotions on the 21st anniversary of the last time I held my daughter in my arms. Excuse me while I go seek shelter somewhere other than a LDS chapel. If I’m going to die today, it’s not going to be among people who believe my soul-crushing loss is “God’s will” and that my precious daughter is “better off” without me. #adoptionloss #stillwaitingforthosepromisedblessings
I can’t go home in my condition – my other children don’t need to see me in such great distress. I drive to the beach and find it deserted – no one else is willing to brave the ferocity of this storm. I know I am exposed to extreme danger sitting in the empty parking lot with no shelter nearby, the winds whipping around me, and lightening crashing between clouds overhead, but the winds and rain scour the edges off my suffering, and so I stay. Sitting here, vulnerable to the forces of Mother Nature feels like an authentic expression of my inner state. For for nearly six hours, I watch birds chase the roiling surf and listen to the rain pound the sand as the ferocious storm rolls across the emerald waters of the gulf.
Eventually (with enough deep breathing, mindfulness, and tear-stained writing), I collect enough pieces of myself to “pull it together.” Tears still fall as I watch the ominous grey-green clouds move off towards Tallahassee, but I have been granted a reprieve from the worst of the grief. I turn on the engine and head for home. Home, where Jeff, Matthew, Luke, and Poppy wait for me.
Right now I am having an tea party with my sweet Poppy. After stirring in three (!) lumps of sugar and some cream, she sips the fragrant Nutcracker tea and exclaims, “This makes my heart warm, Mommy!” I look down at her lovely little face full of light and joy, reach out to tuck an errant curl behind her ear, then offer up a silent prayer asking forgiveness of the daughter I gave away and giving gratitude for the one here before me. I lean down and whisper in her ear, “This makes my heart warm, too, sweet Poppy girl,”