The altar server genuflected, snuffed out the candles, and returned to the sacristy after the funeral Mass of my father-in-law. Outside the church, small orange flags tied to each of the vehicles of the funeral procession crackled back and forth in the cold spring wind.
My husband stood with our four sons at the back of the church, along with his sisters and brothers gathered by their mother’s side. Seizing a moment of quiet, I slipped into a back pew with the weights of anxiety and sorrow pulling my knees down to the kneeler. Silently I prayed to my husband’s deceased father, “Okay, Frank. I am not going to let you rest on your laurels. I need you to pray for me. You see, twenty-five years ago, before I married your son Tom, I gave birth to a baby boy. I never had the privilege of raising him, because I gave him up for adoption.” I had never told my father-in-law about this because society and those around me had told me to get on with my life and to forget. The truth is that I never forgot.
A mother does not forget. “Pray for me, Frank, and for my firstborn child. We have started corresponding through the adoption agency and I want it to turn out okay.” I hurried after my family as they exited, grabbing a few of Grandpa Frank’s funeral prayer cards on the table by the door. I intended to place one in our family Bible, a tradition that I learned from my Irish grandmother.
My husband had been supportive of me contacting my first son. My initial call to the agency felt like a kick in my stomach when the social worker reported that my file contained no letters or updates. But finally after four years the agency informed me that my son had written of his intent to contact me. My emotions spun me around. For so many years I had tried to push the memory of losing him under the surface of my conscious awareness. Now the idea of contact with him brought a thrill and terror all together.
When I received his first letter, it contained a photo of him. He looked more like me than did my other three boys. He definitely had my hair. Since the day I had last seen my son, I began the habit of searching the face of every boy near the age my son would have been at the time. Having no idea where my son had been placed, he could have been the lad on the swings, the boy in the car next to me, the teen grocery carryout, the lector at church. Now that I knew how he looked, I still found myself studying each young man’s features. I had to remind myself, “You have found him! You know what he looks like!”
As summer vacation arrived, I found myself checking daily for a second letter from my son. It was like waiting for labor to begin. I wrote him a purposefully short note just to let him know that I was thinking of him, but I did not want to place any pressure upon him to respond until he might be ready.
While writing I glanced at my hand and realized I hadn’t worn my Claddaugh ring for a while. The ring, a gift from my husband, bears a crown, heart, and a pair of hands, which for me symbolized faith, hope and love. I would have to search for the ring later. On July 5, I received my second letter from my son, and I was ecstatic. He stated that he wanted to exchange identifying information. I would finally know his full name and where he lived and vice versa. I hoped that he would want to know me.
Editor’s Note: This excerpt is from Patti’s book Amazing Grace for Mother’s.