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Friday, October 25, 2013

My o-mother passes on, and my sisters lift me up

My original mother passed away earlier this week at the age of 90.  Several weeks ago, she suffered what appeared to be a minor stroke, but all of her organs seemed to break down rapidly, and my sisters tell me that she passed peacefully and rather quickly in the hospital, saying, "I just want to go to sleep."

I was not with my sisters because my o-mother never became comfortable with the idea of publicly acknowledging my existence.  As I said to my sisters Janet* and Eileen,* she always remained kind of a ghost for me, someone I could never really get to know.  The sisters tell me that she was emotionally closed her entire life through and kept many details of her life private, even from them.  For example, my older sister Janet has no idea who her father is -- her mother told her that it was none of her business, and that she didn't need to know.

I don't know who my father is either -- my o-mother told me in a phone conversation ten years ago, "I can't tell you anything about your father.  He was a married man."  Whether she still thought she was protecting people (my o-father has long been deceased), or just protecting herself, I have no idea.  As Janet told me in our first phone conversation, "Our mother was always looking for love in all the wrong places."

My sisters had a long and rocky relationship with their mother, but she was their mother, and they remained loyal and loving caregivers for her until the end.  Following her stroke, Janet came to stay with her Mondays through Fridays, and Eileen took her to her home during the week-ends.  Both sisters and other extended family were with my o-mother when she passed.  And rather than send me an e-mail, Janet picked up the phone and called me when she died.

I admire my sisters so much for caring for their mother, even though she could be difficult and often fell short in caring for them.  They saw her limitations clearly, but they are loving souls who also see that life is what it is, not always what we would like it to be.   They recognized that their mother had some mental difficulties, and still kept sharing their love and caring, even when it was not reciprocated.  Sometimes in life, the strong must step up to help care for the weak.

                          My two granddaughters -- the sister bond can be so very strong!

I am so blessed to call these two women my sisters.  They express so much concern for me even amidst all the emotional turmoil they are now experiencing.  For example, following my o-mother's passing, Janet sent me this message late at night:

"Dear Susan,
I am lying here in bed hoping Mom has finally found peace and happiness she never found in life.  There is so much about Mom that she would never share and now we will never know.  The thing Eileen and I are most upset about is that she didn't let us make the decision to contact you ten years ago.  There was just so much that we could have shared with each other and our families.  I can't begin to thank Jenn (my daughter) enough for sending that letter (introducing herself, her children and me, and asking if Janet would be open to contact).  It was the beginning of something so special I still can't find the words.  You have a place in our hearts forever.  Please take good care of yourself and I will keep in touch.

I wish every adoption attorney, agency official, legislator and religious group that opposes adoptee rights would read this post and then tell me to my face why they think it is their right to deny me my own original birth certificate and make it difficult for me to ascertain the basic truths about my own life. How can they not see how discriminatory it is to treat an entire minority group differently by law than we treat everyone else -- especially now that we have hard data to show that adoptee access bills without restrictions work best for all concerned parties?  This is an intensely private subject that should interest only those people who are directly involved.  Adults must be trusted to handle their own affairs competently, just as they are in every other area of life.

If the naysayers had had their way, and had I not taken active steps to circumvent the archaic and completely discriminatory adoption laws now in place, I never would have experienced Janet's or Eileen's love.  In a short and poignant message, Eileen sent me this note after her mother's death:

"Thank you so much for your love and kindness.  Not knowing you was definitely our mother's greatest loss.  Praying for great results on Friday (I had a CAT scan this morning) -- love you.

Could anyone ask for more supportive and loving sisters?  What a gift they are to me, especially now, as I am facing a challenging medical situation.  They truly lift me up, and I am blessed.

*I am using pseudonyms in this post, as it contains some private communications and information that I prefer not to air publicly.


  1. Susan,
    I am sorry for your loss, but I hope that with the help of your sisters, you realize that your o-mother's inability to reach out to you was her issue and never about you.
    My wish for you is that your relationship with your sisters will continue to grow stronger and that you will live to a ripe old age like your mother.

  2. Robin,
    It's always so good to hear from you, and I so appreciate your positive thoughts. At this point, I am hoping for three good years, but of course there is always hope. The love and caring that I am receiving from my sisters continues to amaze me. Please keep me in your prayers, meditations or positive thoughts, whatever it is that you do. I start up treatments again Nov. 1, six infusions two weeks apart. At the moment, I am in a tough spot, just trying the best I can to live day to day.

  3. Susan,
    I'm also sorry for your loss. You don't know me, but I'll be wishing you the strength and love from within and from those around you. I'm so glad for you that you and your sisters found each other, hope that you all continue to make up for lost time, and that you can lean on them and your sweet daughter and others too.

    Thank you for being a voice for so many of us and sharing your life and wisdom with us.

    A virtual hug from a supporter,

  4. Thank you, Kym. The support from this community means so much to me.

  5. I am very sorry for your loss ...

  6. Susan - I am so sorry for your loss, not only of your o-mother's passing, but for her inability to let go of the adoption grief and embrace you in the here and now. How gratifying it is to hear of your loving sisters and the connection you have all built with each other.

  7. Susan,
    This is my first time reading and responding to a blog...I hope I am doing it right. I looked for an email for you to send a personal note, but did not see one.

    I was very fortunate to sit at a table with your colleagues/friends at the Angels in Adoption Award event, in which you received an award via. those friends. I was very touched that you had taken time to prepare letters that your friends handed out to us. It certainly made you a part of the spirit of that event. I read your letter while I was there at the event, and it has called me to sit down now that my work is caught up : ) and read your blog posts more.

    First of all, congratulations on your Angel award! Your dedication to the adoption effort tells me that the award is much deserved...I hope you are wearing your pin each day!

    I am sorry to hear that your o mother passed away. I imagine that it must be a very difficult thing to know that her secrets may have gone with her. In reading about you reuniting with your sisters, I had an overwhelming feeling that perhaps the passing of your omother may free you and your sisters to connect with her relatives and those she knew in the community to learn more about her story...and perhaps even your father and your sister's father. I am hopeful for you that your omother's loss may not be such an ending, as it is a beginning for you.

    I am sending out good vibes for you! Best,

  8. Hi Susan, I am an Amom to a little girl born in PA. I am relatively new to the adoption world as my little girl will be two in January. I came across your blog tonight for the first time and I am crying after reading this post. I am sorry for the loss of your OMother.

    Two things struck me about this post 1) access to birth records. Although PA does not permit a child that is adopted to have an original copy of her birth certificate I was able to get the agency to give me a copy prior to sealing her record. The state we live in allows this right and it was really important to me for my girl to have this piece of paper. I learned if you are persistent enough you can get what is rightfully my daughters. I'm glad I have it because what I had been told was on it was not what was really on it.

    2) the power of siblings. My little girls Omom went into jail soon after she was born which means that when we went back to visit last summer her Omom wasn't available. Her two siblings though we spent the whole weekend with. She calls them and video chats with them regularly and her brother is her favorite person in the world. I wish we could see them more often but I work hard at growing that relationship for her until she is old enough to take it on as her own. When I'm gone and D is gone the three kids will still be here and they will have each other. Your story made me know that as fact- so thank you :)

    I look forward to reading more of your insight.

    1. The understanding, compassion and love of Amoms like yourself give me great hope for the future. Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to respond!


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