A day of blessings

I know that many of my readers are adoptive parents, deeply interested in the types of issues we are facing on this homeland trip for my sons.  When I asked my 11 year old son if I could blog about Friday’s happenings, he unhesitatingly and happily said yes.  Since he tends to be a fairly private kid, I felt confident about his comfort level with this.  Yet I wonder if years down the road he might not want every detail of his story out there. And so I am giving you a somewhat abridged version of this day in his life, trusting that you will understand the need to leave some questions unanswered.  The day was so central to our reason for being here, and so filled with blessing, that it felt like not talking about it would be skipping the high point of the story of our trip.

Friday we were blessed to meet both with our youngest son’s foster mother and with his birth family.  We approached the day with some trepidation. That morning was the first day I navigated the subway on my own this trip, so I was a little worried about getting to our meeting in time.  But all went smoothly, and when we arrived, his foster mom was already waiting.  She hardly looked any different from 9 years earlier– can you believe she is in her mid-50’s??– and she greeted Ben with warmth and kindness.

We talked about what he’d been like as a baby, what she remembered about him, and what she has been doing since then.  She said he was a handsome boy and looked very pleased to see him again.  He is one of the oldest of her foster kids she’s met. She was able to visit the US last year and meet some of the others.   She gave him a taekwondo uniform, since her son is a taekwondo master, and she was pleased with the photo album of pictures that we brought her.  All in all it was a very nice meeting.

We had about an hour between the two meetings, and during that time we were invited to go cuddle the babies currently living at the baby house.  My boys could hardly get past the fact that we were all asked to wear pink bathrobes, but I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to cuddle some adorable little ones.  (John, can we have just one more??  🙂 Isn’t she cute??? )

After we got our fill of baby-cuddling the boys managed to tear me away from the babies, we headed back for the office where we were to meet Ben’s family. Though we were early, we were told they had already arrived. As we prepared to step into the room, my chest was tight, hoping that this would turn out to be a good thing for my boy.

As soon as we walked into the room, his mother was immediately standing, crying, embracing him, stroking his hair, touching his face. His dad stood back, face stern, tears welling, letting his wife greet their son first. The mother’s grief was so great that I was instantly in tears as well, patting her back and telling her thank you over and over and wishing I had more Korean words with which to express my gratitude.

The social worker guided everyone to sit, and it was then that Ben’s dad sat down in front of him, knee to knee, holding both of his hands and speaking earnestly. Ben looked at me helplessly. He could see his dad was saying something important but couldn’t understand. We looked to the social worker, who jumped in to translate as the father apologized and shared more fully the reasons they were not able to parent him.

I knew that they had good reasons, and had told Ben for years that they had his best interests at heart. But seeing the emotion on their faces, and they way they stroked his cheek and smoothed his hair and examined his hands and sought out his eyes made their feeling and intent so much more clear.

Ben was extremely shy at first– his father told him that shyness runs in the family– but answered their questions with a little coaxing from me. They were concerned about his health.  I was quick to assure them that his prosthetic leg allows him to do anything that any other child can do.

After a bit of talking, we gathered our things and went to a restaurant for lunch, where we had a private room complete with grills on the tables for grilling the bulgogi that was ordered for us. All through the meal, his parents were filling his plate with choice morsels and encouraging him to eat and stroking his hair and studying his face.

His mother has a glowingly brilliant smile that often sparkled with tears. (I wish I could share pictures but I think I will wait to get their permission). I got the impression she was soaking up these moments as priceless treasures. His father was more somber, his sadness closer to the surface. Yet there were delightful flashes of humor that reminded me so much of our son.  Over and over again he reached out with warmth to Ben, talking to him, telling him how he resembled their family, or explaining where he might have gotten some trait that they noticed.

By the end of the dinner, Ben was getting comfortable, joking and smiling more. I was so happy they were starting to see more of his true self. As the dinner wound down, it was obvious no one wanted to say goodbye. The family asked if they could take us out for coffee. And so we walked to another place close by, again to a little private space in a corner, and talked for another hour or so.

Finally the social worker gently suggested it was time to go. (We were going to a baseball game at 5, and the family had a three hour train ride back home.) We walked to the subway together, Ben walking alongside his dad with his dad’s arm over his shoulders. Ben was peaceful, content — relieved I think that these strangers had turned out to be people of great kindness. But my heart ached hard for what the family must be feeling, getting ready to say goodbye to their boy again.

Before saying goodbye we took more pictures, exchanged email addresses, and agreed to try to come to Korea again in 5 years so that they could see Ben again. John and I had been hoping we could do this even before this trip– John wants to come along next time. But after meeting the family, we feel even more strongly about visiting again.

Goodbyes were quietly tearful and put off for as long as possible, with many hugs, and his first mom and I taking turns telling each other thank you. As the boys and I walked away, they watched tearfully, and I knew part of my heart was back there with them.

The boys felt the sadness less than I. They chattered about how nice the family had been and how much fun it had been to meet with them. There was a lightness to Ben’s face that hadn’t been there in the day or two before the meeting– I think he’d really been worried about that meeting.  I could tell he was really glad to have the experience, and I think it was in a way helpful to our other Korean son as well. Even though he is not going to get to meet his first family on this trip, seeing the kindness of Ben’s family helped him guess or imagine more about the kind of people his family might possibly be.

I think some people might wonder about the wisdom of letting a child meet his birth family. What kind of emotions might that stir up? Are we borrowing trouble? Those thoughts definitely went through my mind beforehand. But the day after the meeting the boys soundly dispelled any doubts that might have lingered in my mind. In the middle of a long subway ride, I was chatting with the boys and asked them to choose their favorite part of the trip so far. Both of them quickly said that the very best part of the whole trip was meeting Ben’s family.

I would have to agree.

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  1. Now what can I possibly add to this extremely poignant time your son shared with his first family? I am so glad that it went easily for Ben’s sake – and theirs – and that everyone seems to have their hearts settled and some unknown questions, answered. I am so glad that the opportunity to build a relationship exists, and that Ben now has some tangible memories to keep. And although the same thing wasn’t possible for your other son, I’ll bet that seeing it all play out for his brother also eased his own mind about his first family too.

    As you know we have a similar situation in our family. The relationship you can now build with Ben’s first family will grow ever more precious over time, I think.

  2. Wow. Mary, this made me cry as I was reading it. How wonderful and almost terrifying at the same time….Your son and his birth family are blessed to have you and John, and you two are blessed as well.

    Thank you for sharing. I needed the reality check today….

  3. Beautiful.

  4. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!

    That’s all I have to say about that.

  5. Thanks for sharing this Mary (and Ben!). How amazing.

  6. My children are from Ethiopia. I desperately wish I could offer them this chance, and the knowledge that they can gain from it. Sadly, it is not an option for them. I am so glad that Ben has that opportuntity, and a family sensitive enough to persue it for him. How wonderful for all of you.

  7. Jamie Lyn says:

    Beautiful. I can understand your keeping some details private for your son’s sake, but I hope you’ll write down the full story somewhere for him to keep. He’ll appreciate that now as a way to remember details that might otherwise grow fuzzy, but someday he may look back on that day from a different perspective–perhaps as a father himself–and wonder how YOU as a parent must have felt. I have so often wished I could have known my parents’ perspective and thoughts at key moments in my life. How wonderful for him to be able to discover that in your writing.

  8. What a beautiful post. Pls thank your son for letting us share in such an emotional reunion. You have me in tears! You are doing a wonderful thing and I hope one day I can to the same for an orphan child.

  9. Oh Mary, you are a loving and beautiful woman. Your beautiful heart is just all over this post. I’m so glad you were able to share this with your sons. 🙂

  10. simone17 says:

    Awww.all choked up, what a beautiful story to read! Thank you.

  11. Mary, Please thank Ben for allowing you to share the story of this day with us. What a gift, to Ben, to his birth family, to your children, and to you and John. Blessings on you all.

  12. Oh Mary, what an absolutely beautiful post. What a blessing for your son and for his first family, and how amazing are you that you set this up. I think Ben will love knowing where exactly he came from. Much love to you and both your sons.

  13. Thank you – I’m incredibly touched.

  14. Colleen says:

    What a great opportunity you were able to provide for Ben. How emotional! I am sure his birth family will treasure up that moment and it is fortunate that you’ll be able to keep in touch better. What a blessing!

  15. Beautiful words….I am crying. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Tears are streaming down my face…thank you to Ben for inviting us into this private part of your trip, and thank you Mary for so vividly describing it that I feel like I was there witnessing it. I’m particularly happy to hear that this was positive for your other son also since so many adoptive families have combinations of open/closed adoptions or those with known/unknown birth families.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing… tears are flowing. Adoption is not for the faint of heart! So much joy, mixed with heart rending pain.

  18. Oh Mary! I am just in tears reading this! What a beautiful experience for Ben! He looks just like his birth father from behind. The more I know you the more I see how great your heart is.

  19. Thank-you, too many tears to say anything else.

  20. In a world filled with “octomom” and “john and kate”, I was so reassured to read of the dignity and kindness with which all of you managed this rewarding, yet difficult, occasion (and it was an occasion, wasn’t it?)…my heart breaks for all of you, but at the same time, I’m filled with awe and inspiration. Thank you for sharing this story and thank your son for allowing it to be told.

  21. So many emotions in one trip! Reading about the meeting has brought about a flood of emotions. What a precious gift for your son. He is so very blessed to know both sets of parents. How I wish meeting our daughter’s birth family would be possible. Unfortunately, the reality of adoptions from China, makes that unlikely. Have a wonderful rest of the trip and safe travels home :O)

  22. Thank you so much for sharing this big moment in Ben’s life and please thank him as well, for letting you share. As an adoptive parent, myself, it really helps us to ‘witness’ such an experience. I think the more accepting we can all be of our kid’s birth parents, foster parents or any other relatives, the better it is for the children. Love only grows as it is shared.

    Our girls are from China so it may be unlikely that we will ever meet the birth parents, although things are changing so dramatically in China and there is such a huge ‘paper trail’ on all our kids, that it is not impossible. I also have adoptive siblings who were adopted in the early 70’s domestically. They too could seek out their birth parents but have chosen not to. Either way, it is important that we and our children are not afraid to open those doors, if appropriate. So, thank you so much for sharing…

  23. Reading this brought tears to my eyes! Thank you for sharing this!!

  24. God bless you Mary and Ben.
    BEAUTIFUL!!!

  25. Dawn in OR says:

    Mary, Thanks for posting on this experience. I found my birth family at 45. At 45 I became a little sister. 🙂 I wish my Korean born son (20) could have this healing experience. I can tell by the way he speaks Or does not speak about his birth mom his heart needs healing. You have done a great thing for your sons.

  26. Thank you for sharing…and for making me cry. I can only pray that my kids will have a reunion story like this to share.

  27. Mary, read this post last night and cried and had to revisit again today. This is a beautiful post and I thank you, your son, Ben, and your family for sharing this beautiful moment with the world and me. I am so glad that this trip is a wonderful experience for everyone involved. I pray that this experience eases both of your son’s questions and soles.

    Again, thank you for sharing this beautiful experience.

  28. So precious!

  29. just catching up on your blog…oh my. tears flowing…thank you for sharing. beautifully written.

  30. Thank you to Ben for allowing us to share in this day and to you for sharing such an amazing and poignant time. I was crying, even as far removed from this as I am – I can only imagine all the emotion that you were feeling.

    You are an amazing family!! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and finally was led to comment today.

  31. Nicole Slack says:

    Thank you and your beautiful son for sharing his day. It was very encouraging I am sure to alot of people and made my day brighter.

  32. Mary, this post really touched my heart. Thank you for what you shared. I’ve loved reading about your Korean experiences.

  33. My heart goes out to the birth family. This must be so hard on them. Good thing they now saw for themselves how fortunate their son has been.

  34. Oh Mary, what a GIFT. a precious, precious gift.
    WOW. I just don’t have the words….
    incredible.
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  35. Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this sweet, encouraging story!

  36. Oh Mary. I have tears streaming down my face reading this. How absolutely beautiful and heart rending. I’m just so grateful to God for allowing it all to come together.

  37. Thank you for sharing this. We hope to meet Jorge’s birthfamily some day and hope it goes as smoothly. Of course we question every aspect: when? will it be possible? is it a good idea? how? etc. Your story gives me hope and many tears.

  38. Wow. I’m just so amazed and glad that the meetings went well. I hope it helps Ben in the future, because he now knows more about his life and history. That is just so wonderful. And I think it is appropriate to keep their stories theirs… thank you so much for sharing what you felt like you could.

    I wish my daughter could meet her biological family someday, but since she’s from China that is inordinately unlikely.

    Prayers and blessings,
    Melissa

  39. Mary, I am so touched by this post. What an awesome experience.

  40. Mary, I’m fairly new reading here and I have to tell you that this post touched me in a way that I didn’t expect. It’s a beautiful story and I’m so thankful that Ben allowed you to share it with us.

  41. Sniff, must have been such an emotional meeting all round. Good for you for making it happen, what a gift you gave those parents (and them you of course). This made me teary it was so right and good..

  42. Thank you so much for sharing. I have two adopted children from South Korea, a boy, 8, and a girl, 4. My hope and prayer has been for this same experience to happen for them when we make a trip. I likewise share the same fears. So encouraging to read how well things turned out. What a gift you have given to your son. A true act of unconditional love. I cannot imagine the joy and the sorrow inter-mingled in his first parents hearts. Wow!!

  43. Candice says:

    Thank you so very much for sharing this beautiful story. I was in tears and very happy. You are truly blessed.

  44. What a lovely lovely post. I was in tears. Add that last picture is precious.

    Mary, you are a stunningly graceous and beautiful person. How blessed your sons and their birth families are that God placed them safely with you and your husband.

  45. hi there

    i’m a lurker – but had to comment here. i’m a master of social work student and spent last academic year in a field placement at the adoption reunion registry in the state where i live. the reunion registry in this state provides non-identifying information from adoption files for members of the adoption triad, and also facilitates adoption reunion. i felt so honored to be involved in the reunion process for birth families and adult adopted persons… i was so happy to read that you arranged this reunion for your son… my experience at the reunion registry permanently changed my idea of what “family” is supposed to be. ahh, warm fuzzy feelings 🙂 🙂 congrats.

  46. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful experience. I know so little about you but felt so much as I read. I’m still wiping tears!

  47. Oh, this made me cry. Thank you to Ben for allowing us to share in his experience.

  48. It’s unanimous–Ben is loved round the world: by his first family, by his ‘in-house’ clan, and by all of us who appreciate his willingness to share.

    Thank you Ben, Thank you, Mary

  49. I am so overwhelmed as I read your post. We were recently contacted by our 5 year old’s birth parents in Korea, and they want to meet us and him. I would be so interested in emailing with you if that’s okay.

  50. Oh Mary, I don’t know you at all– I only stumbled across your blog some months ago and have loved reading it. But this post, this one has me in tears. I can’t imagine the emotions– the fears all of you must have felt–but the goodness that has come out of this meeting. Wow.