Flowers and Forgiveness

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Flowers and Forgiveness

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Posted: 4/25/2009
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

/images/stories.asp?i=20110523192648.0.jpgThings are not always what they seem. With help from Search Quest America, I was able to find my mother and meet her for the first time in almost 50 years. This helped bring closure to a situation that I have been dealing with all my life. I hope that my story will be an inspiration to anyone else who has all but given up searching for a missing loved one.

When I was just a child, I said goodbye to my mother for the last time and watched her drive away. She thought my dad's sister would take care of us, but she didn't have the means or the inclination to do so. At first she pawned us off on other relatives until finally there was no one left and we were placed in foster care. After several months, my dad found us and got custody. He was an ex-marine, flipped out and loony. We were terrified of him growing up, and abused as no child should be.

Somehow we overcame our circumstances and grew into happy adults. I got married and had a family of my own and could never understand how my mother was able to just walk away one day and never look back. I heard over the years that she remarried and moved on, and I was angry that she had forgotten us. I also knew that she was an alcoholic and had grown up in difficult circumstances herself, but I still struggled with feelings of bitterness.

There comes a time in everyones life when open chapters need to be closed and old wounds put to rest. For me, a large part of the healing process was finding my mother. I wanted to look her in the face and see what kind of woman she had become, and deep down I needed to know if she ever loved me.

For me personally, it was a matter of prayer. I believe in a divine creator, and I believe that he hears and answers me when I pray. One day I sat down to talk to him and said, "Ok, God. You know where she is. If you're such a big God, then tell me how to find her." I asked for what I needed, and kept asking until finally I was pleading for that connection and for answers to my lifelong questions.

First, I hired a private detective to find her. After paying several thousand dollars I was told she was not interested in making contact with me. When I tried again to contact her a few months later she had moved and I felt I had reached a dead end. Finally, I contacted Search Quest America and purchased a comprehensive database report. I found out that over the years, Mom remarried and moved several times. I received an address, but no phone number.

The first thing I did was send her flowers. It was her birthday, and it seemed like a good way to break the ice. I called a local florist and had them delivered. On the card I wrote, "Happy birthday, Mother, from your daughter Karen. I've always loved you." We waited for weeks, and never heard anything back.

My husband and I prayed and prayed to know what to do. Finally he stood up and said, "I feel like were supposed to just get on an airplane and go out there." That day we booked a flight to Washington. We rented a car and drove to her small town, all the while practicing what we would say. We even typed out 3x5 index cards. "Hello, my name is Karen. I am your daughter." What do you say to a woman who abandoned you a lifetime ago?

When we pulled up to the small, quaint house we saw that the next door neighbor was outside doing yard work. We got out of the car and approached him. His yard was separated from my mothers yard by a large hedge, and he gestured that direction and said, "Marge has Alzheimers. She's nice enough most days, but she won't remember you tomorrow. So don't expect too much. She's been an alcoholic all her life, and it doesn't look like she'll last much longer."

It's hard to explain what I felt in that moment. I had conjured up in my mind the image of strong, independent, hard-hearted woman. In my mind she was still the woman who turned her back on my brother and I fifty years ago. I never pictured her as an ailing or elderly woman, nor had I considered that I could find my mother and still never find the answers I sought.

The next moment, we heard a frail voice from the other side of the hedge. My mother walked right up to us and looked me square in the face. I thought, "I'm 50 years old and this is the first time I'm ever going to see my mother."

She said, "Hello, could you come over here and help me? My back is hurting and I need to sit down." Such a simple request, but I froze to the spot. After a moment I came to my senses and took her by the arm, leading her back to her porch and easing her into the chair by the door. It was surreal. We sat on the porch chatting for a few minutes as if we were complete strangers. Then she said, "I'm getting cold. Could you help me inside the house?" she invited us in and we sat down. We heard a shower turn off in the back of the house and her husband Larry joined us a few minutes later.

We couldn't forget that we had come for a reason. Marge left the room for a moment and I asked, "Larry, do you know anything about Marge's past? We have a few things to tell you that might surprise you."

"Lately, after what I've been through, nothing surprises me," he said. "I know she was married before, and at one point she had 2 children. She used to wonder about them. You know, before. She said she had to get away from that man, but she always felt bad about leaving her kids. Drunk herself near to death over it," he muttered.

Marge was off in the kitchen fussing over something, and we explained to Larry, "I'm Karen, and I'm her daughter. I came to find out who she is, and how she's doing, you know. I don't need anything from her. I have a wonderful life. I just needed to know what had ever happened to her."

"Well she isn't doing so good right now. Not sure what kind of shock it would be to know who you are if you know what I mean. We got the flowers you sent, but she was detoxing at the time. You know she's an alcoholic. I didn't tell her who sent them. All those years she ran away from what she did and tried to forget about it. Now she's an old lady and the Alzheimers did it for her. You really want to bring it all up again?" I understood what he was asking--that I turn around and walk away and leave the past alone.

I didn't know what to do. The scene in front of me was so different from anything that I had been expecting that I had no idea what to do or say.

So we didn't do anything. We spent a few minutes on a chilly afternoon getting to know a lonely old woman. We smiled at her jokes that didn't quite make sense, patted her on the back and said "Goodbye for now." We snapped a few pictures and she never even asked why. As we walked out she said, "it has been a nice visit. Why don't you come back tomorrow?" But her husband shook his head behind her and his message was clear--don't come back, and don't tell her who you are.

On the airplane my husband asked if I was disappointed. "You seem very serene," he said. "Are you ok?" I thought about that question for a long time. Was I ok? I had asked and pleaded for the opportunity to meet my mother just once. I felt like God was saying to me, "here it is. You wanted this. I always knew where she was. Now you do too."

Meeting her gave me answers and truly, it changed my life. It also gave me hope. It closed chapters of my life that have always been hanging open. Even just to know that she's alive settles something in me. So I just laid my head on my husband's shoulder and I said, "I know I'm not alone in this world. That's enough for now."

That was last September. I've done a lot of soul-searching since then. I have decided that I'm going to visit her again in the spring. This time I'm going to tell her that I'm her daughter, and that I love her. Then I'm going to wrap my arms around her and tell her that I forgive her, and God does too.

This isn't a tragic ending--it's a happy one. I don't pity her because I know she chose her life. She wallowed in it every day. I dont hate her, I forgive her. Life is about choices, and that was hers. This is mine.

(Written by Mica Burton on Karens behalf.)
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