I finished reading the Encounter at 3 a.m. It is now 3:38. I’ve written my review, and a heartfelt letter to my birth mother.
The book reminded me of the Shack. He called it a parable. This one, however, based on the combination of two true stories. The fictional parable itself was compelling. I read the book during a very busy day in less than 12 hours. Carried it with me. Read a page at a stop light. I just couldn’t put it down.
I was reading parts of it this wee morning, and it finally internalized to my story. Andy Andrews says of it, “you’ll learn things about yourself that you never knew were there.” It didn’t even dawn on me throughout the book, that the man was seeking out a meeting with his birth mother, whom abandoned him at 4 in Alaska, and that much of the anger in his life was from not being able to sort out his value - the resentment and lack of forgiveness – of that day. It wasn’t until he looked through a scrapbook, and saw the pictures in print, that were also in his memory, of their last day spent together, that it all focused in my mind.
You see, when I was little, my mother, a native Alaskan, also abandoned me. I remember the day quite clearly. It is a movie that plays through my mind. When I think of her, I remember that day. The emotions, the place, the kitchen, the bedroom, the words spoken, and then the lack. I remember that feeling of complete and utter void. My father had left my mother, and then my mother had left me. My turning point in my story, was that we were sent to live with my Grandparents for a time – and then back with my Dad and a new step mom. Their love for the Lord, their guidance and love and grace, their simple life style (all four of them), kept me from internalizing the whole story as something that was done TO me, and just as something that happened. I think that’s why it took me so long to see myself in this book. I don’t feel like anything was done in my past was specific to ME. I was just a participant. Without realizing it, by the end of the book, watching this father and mother painfully reunite, hearing how all of their perceptions of what they thought the other was feeling were wrong – and they began the road to reconciliation – acceptance – I realized I was wiping tears away. I think for me – it always boils down to the not knowing. Not understanding how a mother, any mother, could abandon a child. I do assume, that they think that being out of the child’s life will make it better. I wish they knew how untrue that is.
I already have sent an email to my birth mother. We recently caught up on email and a tiny bit on Facebook, although she only logs on about once in six months. My life is there for her to read about, my feelings, but I have none of hers. I wanted to write to her and tell her all the things that stirred in my heart for her because of this book. Personal thoughts. Not for the wandering eye.
Page 47 says, “you have to go beyond the entitlement of resentment so you can have the freedom found in acceptance.” I find this to be true to any situation. From waiting in a long line and having someone cut ahead, lane changers in traffic, to things happening today, expectations not met by other people, broken possessions, to the past. It seems I hear a lot about the word Forgiveness. But there isn’t a lot of how that gets walked out. The Forgive and Forget, I think should be changed to Forgive and Accept, and then apply real grace and mercy. Do your best to find the truth, hear the perspective of both sides, find empathy. Even though he was looking for truth, he wasn’t looking to be sympathetic or empathetic until they faced a situation of death. Then he found it in himself to demonstrate grace.
I too, with my birth mom, stand on the brink of death. She is in the final stages of cancer. Her health, our lack of income and a vehicle, have prevented our meeting. I never saw her after she left our home when I was little, until a brief meeting when I was 18, and then a summer spent together a year later in Seattle while I was in the Coast Guard. Even though we’ve lived 4 hours apart, I’ve seldom known where her location was or had a phone number. For many years, I only had her first name. It’s been over 22 years now since I’ve seen her. I would like to talk with her in person. Not as the confused 18 year old, full of life and passion and self confidence, ready to prove myself to the world, but as the 40 year old, full of mercy, grace, humbleness. Willing to hear her real story. Listen. Sip tea. Hear what these years have been to her. From the beginning. I may never have the chance that he did, to read through his mother’s scrapbook of his life. I do see, that I do not harbor resentment – I have come to acceptance long ago – that this is just part of me.
It’s funny. I was just having a conversation with friends, over tea this week, and we were opening up our lives, talking about our childhoods. One badly neglected and abused as a child, one badly abused physically and mentally. I felt sort of bad. My real memories start at age 5, with a Beaver Cleaver life. A near perfect childhood. That has gone into marriage and motherhood. Hard knocks yes. American Poverty and physical hardships of illnesses yes. I do know pain and hurt. Hurt is hurt. But my childhood with my grandparents and parents are filled with love, peace, joy, and strawberries. I had mentioned as such, how grateful I was for such a wonderful childhood, when I hear of other children who have gone through similar family rips, who did not come out the other side so well.
I am sure, and as reading this book I kept seeing visions, of my grandmother, both of them actually, who breathed into me what I did have, what I could cling on to – my Mother Pat – the Lord – the New family. I knew how hard my Father was working to make the family work. I knew that my life was sort of a make up of what went on before. My grandmother Ruth breathed it into me. Centered me on the Cross and not myself. It is a trait that has carried with me through adult years. Circumstances and Events, although not fun to go through, are mean to be lived through, and then walked away from. Learn, grow, and then walk forward. I was never given a choice to feel entitled to resentment. Entitled to anger. Entitled to fear.
I hope to pass these same character traits onto my own children.