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parenting Oct 28, 2022
the word forgive spelled in felt letters

by Christina Thibodeau

It’s sunset. My son, husband, dog, and I are sitting on the floor in our den filled with plants. We humans are holding hands, a candle in a bowl in the center of our circle. We’re sending messages of love and hopes for peace, to our son’s birth mother who passed away recently.

When I first met his mother, I was a little surprised at how comfortable I felt. She was not a cardboard cutout, an evil person who did nothing but unspeakable wrongs. She was a deeply sad person, who had never gotten the love, safety, and validation she needed to ever be ready to become a mother. We hugged when we parted, and I knew that there was forgiveness.

So, what was she doing if she was not raising her sons? Living the high life? Remarried with new, replacement, do-over children? Far from it. Her suffering was such that she was giving up on life. A year later, when she lay dying in the hospital bed of self-inflicted cyrrohsis, I was able to see her one last time, and kiss her cheek. There was not a single molecule of doubt that she would have loved her sons the way a good mother should, if she could have.

When my husband and I were trying to prepare our son to see this mother he hadn’t seen in three years, we talked about forgiveness. I asked him to try to find it in his heart to understand that she didn’t get the love she needed and that she was so sad, that’s why she drank and couldn’t take care of her sons. She died as we were making the trip to her bedside.

I hope my son comes to find peace in his past. Forgiveness may be a tall order, but acceptance and peace will give him a chance at a happy life. I am trying to model that for our son, but there is one giant elephant in the room that is undermining my efforts at being a role model.

Father’s Day 2011. We are at my in-law’s house, and my husband is announcing that the adoption will take place in one month’s time and he hopes that his family will attend the ceremony and party afterward. The reaction we received was not a surprise, but it did bring everything into the blinding sunlight. The reaction we received was stone-faced silence. It must have lasted over a minute. I hate to say it, but I was shocked and paralyzed. People didn’t act this way! They must have forgotten their script! Smile, hug, congratulate, exclaim! Nothing. A few days later, my husband returned to this house to return a borrowed item and his father said to him in these plain and direct word, “I don’t want him to take our family name.”

Over two years later, I would like to say that my father-in-law’s heart has softened and that he accepts our son as his full-blooded grandson, another blessing in his life. But that is not the case. We’re still living that one minute of silence. Of rejection. The first week after it happened, my husband couldn’t sleep, pacing and feeling so lost. My anger was through the roof. I have since tried many things to make my peace with the situation; counseling, meditation, yoga, letter writing, and affirmations. Intellectually, I understand that he has inferiority issues stemming from growing up in a colonized country. But in my heart, I am still angry. I am still the victim. I am still very upset when my husband goes to their home to visit. I am still outraged that they would inflict such cruel rejection on an innocent boy who had experienced so much of that already in his life.

So, I strive. I take two steps forward, and one step back. I am not at the point where I am showing a consistent, healthy model of forgiveness and acceptance for my son to emulate. But by God, I am trying.

When I first started dating my husband, we attended a Hindi funeral for his relative. The pundit announced to the mourners, “Anyone who has any grudge or bitterness toward the deceased, I urge you to open your heart and forgive her right now. So that she may be freed to begin her journey.” I don’t want to wait until that point to forgive my father-in-law. But I do know one thing for sure, that if I don’t succeed before he passes on, I will not feel a need to try to hold him back from trying to move toward peace. I wish us all healing, acceptance, and peace.


Photo by Magda Ehlers

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