This story begins, like any extraordinary story, with vulnerability. It’s etched with the importance of our voices, of our words, and our experiences. It’s a tribute to all the things you think you should never say, the things you wish you could say or do, the times when you second guess reaching out to someone, and it’s a reminder to just do all of it.
Somehow, despite our best efforts and remarkable technology, some things are completely out of our control. Still they manage to impact our lives.
The Butterfly Effect.
The idea in action described as a butterfly flapping it’s wings in New Mexico at just the right time and causes a hurricane in China – not immediately of course, but eventually.
A man, who for some reason found himself in the words that I’ve published over the years, decided to thank me for acting as a balm for his own wounds. There was something so enveloping and lovely about him; his kind heart, the almost unabashed way he told the parts of his own story, the hope that lingered in every typed word.
When I clicked open on that message from Sean, I had no idea the butterfly had flapped its wings.
A year or so later, I met Sean, unexpectedly at a meeting for birth mothers and adoptees. He was anxious, and shy but articulate. He wore his pain inside out. You could see it in his movements, in the way his tongue emptied words from his mouth. The genuine enormity of his heart was obvious, despite the invisible gaping wounds that you could see behind his eyes.
He didn’t add much that afternoon, only quipping here and there, when the moment allowed. When I told of my closed adoption, the frustration I felt from the lack of movement, the annoyance and anger I was clinging to, he leaned forward soundlessly. He told me to do everything I could to make sure my son knew he was loved. Nothing was more important. If I loved my son, I would move mountains for him. If I loved my son, I would swallow my pride and do what was best for him. Do it now, and do it until he hears it.
Sean managed to pull a thread in my heart that caused me to pause amongst the inner chaos and anger I’d been inhaling. I listened. I set aside my pride and I got to work mending a bridge that was deeply in need of repair.
Months later, Sean committed suicide.
I sat his at his funeral regretting that I never got to tell him how genuinely grateful I was for his words; he hadn’t been pleading for my son only, but for the child within himself who had been rejected over and over again by both his mothers.
Now he’ll never know that he was my butterfly.
There won’t be a summer day on that very deck. I won’t I animatedly, (as one does) tell him how earlier in the week, I’d been searching for The Kiddo’s birth father on Facebook, feeling sort of uneasy that I’d lost track of him somehow. There won’t be only the buzz of the insects around us, a dog barking in the distance, as I replay how I’d spent Tuesday afternoon sobbing because I didn’t know how my son laughed. How it only subsided when I unexpectedly got a text message from his adoptive mother. I won’t get to portray my shock at how easy this conversation was with her; as if a barrier had been removed, as if we’d been talking like this for years. There will be no opportunity to tell Sean how I thought of him as I hit send, asking, suggesting, that since they were close by, that maybe we could arrange a meeting.
And I won’t get to tell him how I sobbed, this time in joy, when the answer was yes.
My son wanted to meet me.
He wanted to meet me.
There won’t be any laughs or jokes as I recall the storm that hit most of Alberta the next day. A rain that reminded me so very much of the day I went home from the hospital without The Kiddo in my arms. A storm that I would have walked through to get to him.
I won’t get to tell him how the entire city we planned to meet at for dinner was without power.
The. entire. city. was. without. power.
That much like this adoption, we took another unexpected detour, The Kiddo, his brother, his mother, my husband and I, my kids. This adoption stuff is never linear. Even in the joy. We re-evaluated plans and we moved in a different direction, because that’s all you can do.
I’ll never get to tell him how the minute I saw my son, I loved him like he’d never been gone. Like he was just born, like he was and still was my own. I won’t get to tell him that I was swallowed by love for his mother, who was eagerly, excitedly facilitating the discussion because our nerves were just wrecked. Or how I didn’t cry like I thought I would, because my heart was just so full.
He won’t know that my son’s favourite colour is green, or that we wear the same glasses. That his hair parts just like his father’s. That when he smiles the world seems brighter. That my kids fell deeply and madly in love with their half-brother.
That because of him, because of his words, I got to be in the same space, breathing the same air as my son, with my two other children. And that it won’t be the last time it happens.
Thank you Sean for setting in motion the only thing you ever wanted. I’ll never waste a minute of it. I’ll tell him as often as I can how very loved he is.
Flutter went that tiny wing.
Then years later, it created something so insurmountably beautiful.
Image Credit: Kathleen Dagastino