It was one of those long days.
It was the kind of day mothers everywhere have experienced.
It was a day when sleep had eluded me, when I’d spent the sleepless hours praying about the burdens that weighed too heavily on my heart, when the problems felt like mountains before me and so unequally matched to my abilities. It was a day when breakfast started early and quickly turned into one long seemingly endless string of meeting needs and pouring myself out until long after the sun had gone down.
I stood there in my kitchen, weary, exhausted, staring blankly into the void as my mind raced with all that awaited me, wondering what next thing I needed to do first. Then I felt her tiny hand on my back, gentle, soft and loving. I recognized the touch of her hand, the rhythm of her breathing, her presence was as familiar to me and as deeply embedded into my senses as any biological child’s could ever be.
I turned to see her dark brown eyes shining at me, somehow shining more brightly because of all the loss they’d seen, and shining even brighter still, because the lack had made the having so much more precious. The years she’d spent without a mother, a father, without sisters and brothers and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, without belonging, had somehow deepened her present joy.
“Mudder,” she spoke in her loud voice, her slow, deliberate words exposing the effort it took for her to form them. “Mudder, you tired. I do it!”
It was late. The fatigue showed in the shadows under her eyes. The others were in bed, and Mark was out running taxi service for one of the older kids. Yet, here she was wanting more than anything to be allowed to stay up late to help her mommy.
“Mudder, I can do it!” She repeated with the innocence of a child who longs to show off her skills.
“I know you can, sweetie. But you have school in the morning, and you need to get to bed. I can do this.” I said as I looked at the counters covered with dishes, school papers and lunch boxes, with the stuff of our day.
“No, Mudder! I do it! You go lie down!”
Her eagerness to help melted me. “Okay. Let’s do it together.”
The smile spread accross her face like morning sun begins to fill the sky. “I help you, Muddder. You like me help you?”
There it was again, the need for reassurance of her worth, of her value to me.
“Oh yes, you do help me! And even if you are too tired to help me, I love you.”
We worked there in the kitchen for a long time, talking, sharing, laughing, taking time for hugs.
Then, in the quiet, she told me.
“Mudder, I couldn’t read in China either. Something wrong with me. I can’t remember. I try hard read, but I can’t.”
Her words filled me with thoughts of how hard we’ve tried to help her learn to read. Images of her face, looking at me with pleading eyes, hoping that I would be able to find someone to help her learn to read English, flooded my mind. The many times I’d asked her if she had written the letters she had sent to us from China by herself stacked up in line, one after the other in my mind, like a trail of dominoes, each one knocking the next one down. For three years I’d thought she had an amazing ability to write flawless Chinese as the translators had told us, and that all I needed was to find the right way to teach her. For three years…
I was overwhelmed with sadness for my precious daughter who had taken three years to come up with the nerve to tell me she had never learned to read. For three years she had been afraid that I might not love her if I knew that she had never learned to read. Sadness washed over me like a wave floods the shoreline. Tears filled my eyes as I took her in my arms.
“Oh honey, It’s okay. It doesn’t matter to me if you know how to read. I love you. You are my precious daughter, and I love you no matter what.”
I began to feel angry for the things we hadn’t known, not because I loved my daughter any less, but because I was unaware of the burdens she had carried all alone, the fears she had borne. I felt angry that somewhere, someone had felt that they had to lie to us, that they feared if the truth were shared, Eliza would never have had a family.
But then my thoughts took a different path, one that made me angry with myself. I began to wonder if I had known that my dear Eliza had such cognitive differences, would I have still chosen to be her mother? That’s a question I honestly can’t answer. I don’t know. I hope it wouldn’t have mattered to me then, as it doesn’t matter now.
Much is written about the lack of information in our children’s files from international orphanages, and I, too, have often lamented the fact that far too often, vital information is left out of these files, yet I wonder if the problem lies in our own hearts, in the view that pervades our world that those with cognitive issues are somehow less valuable, less worthy, less lovable.
I am suddenly filled with thankfulness for whomever it was who dropped the information from our daughter’s file. It wasn’t so vital, was it? Perhaps it was someone who loved her very much. Perhaps it was due to a deceitfulness on the part of her first agency. You can read that story here. Or perhaps it was the hand of our loving Heavenly Father who loves all of us with an infinite, perfect love. Whatever the reason no longer matters to me now. I am thankful for God, who knew, far better than I could have ever known, that Eliza was our daughter, no matter what.
The most vital information in her file was that she needed a family.
And now she has one.