Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Applause of Heaven

Part Five (Part One starts here)


Back in August, I wrote a post called Light Bulb Power. The title of that post came from a light bulb at Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on a wall of light bulbs that spells "Jesus is Life."

My son Roma lit one of those lights while he was there in the summer of 2014, affirming his new faith. The "light-bulb" image was reinforced by a seemingly casual comment made by friend who said, "that's what you can hang on to, the idea of the light bulb going on." Wise words from a wise and Godly friend. So "Light Bulb" became a Sacred Echo, one of many. When I heard it, I would pray that my eyes be opened for illumination, as well as Roma's!

And then I forgot about the light bulb the last months of 2014. I got distracted with trauma, and life, and drama.
                         
                                     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


There are some stories one only shares in huddled privacy and hushed whispers to select people who are believers of astonishing stories.But I will share mine with anyone interested, because, as G.K. Chesterton declared, "The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen."


The last series of posts, from Hope for Restoration to Face to Face with Igor have stirred readers to contact me like never before. One reader, unknown to me, wrote, "Sounds like Honey has been busy working hard since she crossed the veil. It would seem too 'coincidental' that she was so curious about Roma's family and now it's all coming together." I was bemoaning the fact that I wasn't able to share the exciting news of finding Roma's family with my mother. ("Honey" is my late mother made known in this post)  Another wrote, "I have no doubt your mother knows all about this. I think she has a hand in it."Another wrote, "Not only does your mother know about this, she instigated it."

"It." "This" Vague words trying to describe events we cannot properly put into words. But people are embracing my astonishing stories.

I made some Spiritual Resolutions the end of last year, as I spent sacred time with my mother as she passed from this world to the Next. I determined I would be more intentional in seeking God, in SEEING Him in all situations. I have been rewarded with some great experiences! Unfortunately, most of the time my "ah ha" moments are delayed, because I forget to be intentional when seeking Him. I am ashamed to admit how blind I am!

On the evening of December 14, I sat in my study in front of my computer, as I do so often. I have a dinosaur of a desktop computer so I write in the same place consistently. My study has become a sanctuary for me. Often I sit to write, just waiting for God's inspiration to give me things to say.

As I sat in the otherwise empty house, on this particular Sunday evening, night fell. The only lights in the house were in my study. As I entered the open floor plan of my dark house, I was shocked to notice the battery-operated LED lights I had strung on my dining room chandelier chain were surprisingly lit. In the blackness of my house, the tiny bulbs shed a dim, ethereal light. I froze. How did those lights come on? I turned the overhead light on, and clicked off the battery pack that powered the tiny glass lights the size of grape seeds. Always the thrifty consumer, I keep those battery operated lights off until someone is home to enjoy them. I was a little spooked, and locked the front door. I later chided myself for imagining the front door needed to be locked to keep out someone or something that would turn my lights on. I returned to my study after a short break.

Ten minutes later, I exited my study again. I gave the dining room chandelier a suspicious glance, relieved that the lights weren't lit again. My husband, is a scientist, and everything has a logical explanation to him. Perhaps the battery pack could just come on. There was a "timer" setting, which allowed the lights to burn for two hours. Perhaps there had been a malfunction. I laughed at myself for being afraid. But then I turned toward the family room. There, over the archway, where more lighted LED lights.

This frightened me in a way I was not expecting. But who expects lights to come on? I was still thinking "logical explanation." Although the lights had been up for two weeks, they had not lighted themselves once in that time. Now twice in a matter of a quarter hour.Still it was possible for them to spontaneously come on, I anticipated Bruce's explanation.

I headed back into my study. Next break was for something to eat. I smiled at my now dark chandelier and unlighted arch. Once in the kitchen, I turned on the light. I turned toward the dark family room. Through  the other archway, and could not believe what I was seeing.

I had bought six Mercury balls at a Christmas outlet in North Carolina with my sister. That was the last visit I spent with  my mother before she went into the hospital for the final time. The balls, six, eight, and ten inches in diameter had coiled white lights inside that lit at intervals, creating a shimmering effect. They are operated by batteries



On a shelf on the entertainment center sat a set of three mercury balls. The largest was shimmering.

I went to sleep that night, troubled over the meaning of the lights. Was it a warning of some kind? Was I crazy? Was I reading too much into this phenomenon that might have a logical explanation?

The next morning in my dark closet for prayer, I suddenly remembered my "light bulb" Sacred Echo. I also recalled my words to my mother as she lay dying. "I don't know how this works in Heaven, but if you can let me know your are all right, I will be watching for a Sign."

I slumped when I realized I had failed miserably at expecting a miracle that I had asked for. Was my mother that close, and I had missed her visit? And how quickly I had forgotten my Sacred Echo of of light bulbs, of seeing the "light go on."

Remembering the words of readers giving my angelic mother credit for helping find Liana and the rest of my new Georgian and Russian families, I thought how this all might tie together. The unseen world can be seen better, when we have eyes to see, and that has been my prayer. Why am I surprised that God answered that prayer?

Two weeks later we were messaging Roma's family.

When I let my vivid imagination run wild (as if I have any control over my wildly wandering thoughts!) the most outrageous things seem possible. Maybe the evening of the lights going on was Honey's discovery of long deceased Igor. I imagine the Applause of  Heaven  as my mother, who I grieved so much during this most exciting news of family discovery, who herself had kept our curiosity alive about Igor, had just encountered the object of all our curiosity. A beautiful, tragic young man whose loving cousin had said of him, "It seems he was doomed from the beginning." Maybe now Igor had peace. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Face to Face with Igor

Part Four  


Start with Part One here



I first encountered Igor Romanovich Sudzhashvili in January 2002, in a stack of official documents translated into English from Russian. He was just a name, and that name stirred no particular emotion in me, as we prepared to adopt his son.

In truth, I was preoccupied by the copious paperwork required for an adoption that already threatened to send me into panic mode. I had no time for additional sentiment. I was on auto pilot, skimming information, but interested only in completing required paperwork that needed to be done, yesterday,

From that same stack, Liana's name had tugged at my heart, as had baby Rostilav's. They were helpless children. But Igor was an adult. The record stated that he was incarcerated. The mother was charged with neglect. A family was imploding.  What responsibility did he bear on the unfortunate state of his children? But I had not walked for even a inch in his apparently difficult shoes. I could not judge this man I would never know. I was just required to love his son.  

Roma's stories about his father, unlike the animated, joy-filled stories of Liana, were rare. There were a few, and I will share those at another time. Mostly, my mother is the one who kept our curiosity alive about Igor. Many times over the years, she wistfully studied the handsome features of my youngest son and rhetorically pondered, "Wouldn't you love to see a picture of his father?"

My mother died in October. I have thought of her many times since this new story we are living started to unfold in late December. She would have loved to hear the details, and see the pictures. I start to call and tell her new updates, and then I remember that she is not there. I like to believe my Godly mother, Honey, is "in the know" in Heaven! 

Thirteen years would pass before I would learn new and surprising information about Igor. The information would come from Igor's cousin, Lia,

Shortly after we located Roma's sister Liana, Lia reached out to me on Facebook. She was overjoyed when learning from Liana that Roma, lost for so long, was found! Her family had tried to help from neighboring Georgia when the mother lost custody of the children. But they were not allowed to cross the border into Russia to the north. After several attempts to save Roma, they learned of his adoption.

Lia's first messages to me in early January were praises to God. She called us "heroes" for saving Roma and loving him, and now sharing his pictures and his life with them again. Never once have I felt like a hero. Lia confessed that at first she cried every time she read my messages. I did the same with hers. Our communication is aided by Lia's beautiful nineteen-year-old daughter Elene, who reads and writes English very well. I am eager for the day we will all meet in person.I am just beginning to understand the proud and noble heritage of Roma's family. I am seeing my son with different eyes. One day he will understand the magnitude of this great and merciful Gift of revelation.


Igor at 5 or 6
Lia was born the same year as Igor in 1965. She remembers with love that she and Igor were more like sister and brother than cousins growing up. Lia's parents tried to intervene in young Igor's unhappy childhood. His mother had abandoned him when he was little. His father, Roman, who traveled long distances for extended periods for work, returned one day and found his wife gone, and young Igor relinquished to an orphanage. He went through the lengthy process of bringing Igor home. When Roman finally remarried, his new wife was harsh on the boy. Whenever possible, Lia's mother, Igor's aunt, brought him to spend time with them and lavish love on him.

Lia described Igor as sweet, sensitive, stubborn, and difficult at times. (Hmm. . . ) The difficult parts she blames on his painful childhood. Lia's affection for Igor is deep and genuine.

Lia's stories reveal Igor's love for Lia, too. She was his confident who he trusted with his joys and his sorrows. The gifts he gave her of his time and talents remain priceless treasures to her.

As photos started loading on my computer screen from Liana and Lia, I sat dumbfounded! My mother, who was so curious about this man, could not have anticipated how much father and son resembled each other. Here I sat, face to face with Igor. Roma's father. This man whom I had felt nothing beyond indifference all these years sat starring back at me, almost pleading, reaching out to me across the decades. I finally understood his brokenness and pain.

Igor at 17



As Lia and Liana make Igor known to me, my deep compassion for him grows. Such a beautiful young man, so like his son, my son, who he never got to know. A young man filled with potential, and hopes, and dreams.

Surprises meet me at every corner.

I have shed buckets of tears for my new-found family from Russia and Georgia. I have cried for Igor, for Lia, for Liana, for Roma, for myself.

By the time I got to know and love him, Igor Sudzhashvili had been dead for eight years.


Continue here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lovely Liana

Part Three  (Start here for Parts One and Two.)


I have a dear seven-year-old grandson. Jack is full of life and a sense of awe and adventure. His sweet temperament and energetic enthusiasm for all topics reveal his vast potential. He is loved dearly by his sisters and brother, his mother and father, his aunts and uncles and cousins, and his grandparents. And not necessarily in that order of magnitude! Jack, who is secure and happy, is already making his impact.

If he was suddenly removed from my life, if he disappeared, I would be haunted forever by the mystery surrounding our precious and irreplaceable Jack.

Suppose we lived in a country where it was common to send children to foreign countries by way of adoption. What if we were informed Jack was scheduled to be shipped off to one of those  foreign countries, and I could visit one last time, to say my final goodbye. But when I arrived in my tearful state of utter despair, with a gift of candy, trying to be strong, I was told he was already gone. What if my desperate attempts to learn more yielded no information about his whereabouts or condition, but only dead-ended to a door that was securely locked. We would have no choice but to move on with life. But, of course, we would never forget him,

Never for a moment would we forget him.

Someone else's loved and irreplaceable seven-year-old brother, son, nephew, cousin, grandson became my son in April, 2002. In a temporary period of hopelessness, helplessness, and chaos, Roma's birthmother's parental rights were terminated. For almost thirteen years, Roma's Russian and Georgian families have asked questions for which they could find no answers. What had become of cute, precocious little Roma? Was he okay? Was he thriving?  Did he live with a family who would celebrate or discipline that witty, charming, bossy assertive personality? Was his potential being nurtured? Was he mistreated? Was he loved? Was he still alive? Infinite questions and mystery surrounded one loved and lost little boy.

Never for a moment would they forget him!

Do not misunderstand—I am not saying adoption is a bad thing. It is a wonderful, redemptive, God-ordained experience from my point of view. And for all the children who would otherwise have no families, adoption can literally save lives.  Blessings from our adoption have been incalculable. But there is another side, a story of loss. And this is Liana's story.

When lovely Liana's photo first flashed on my computer screen on December 30, 2014, I knew I already loved her. I had dreamed of her and this meeting for 13 years.

I cried as I began my first surreal message, "My dear, dear Liana, I have searched for you for a very long time . . . "  Through tears I translated her messages. Though foreign words peppered the translations from translate.google.com, her JOY gushed at seeing her little brother's photos for the first time in thirteen years. He was alive! He was not seven anymore. Her self-reproaches for not being able to save her precious little brother were heart wrenching. She was only seventeen years old. She had no power to prevent the adoption. She told of arriving at the orphanage to say her final goodbye, and he was already gone. The pain was still apparent. I cried for hours over that one image.

Since our first meeting, five weeks ago, Liana and I have messaged for hours. And we have cried for just as many. Random moments in those first days after our meeting, I would be overcome with tears. Tears for her loss, for her new joy, and even in her joy, sadness for lost years. But we cannot go back. We are grateful for this miraculous reunion from a merciful and loving Father. We will embrace this opportunity, and each other!

While her brother, my son, struggles with his understandably emotional tempest over this astounding development, Liana and I have become family. Our messages now end with blown kisses, and hearts, and Я люблю́ тебя́, which means "I love you," I think. At least that is what I want to say. The translation system is flawed and tedious, but as I get to know this beautiful mother and sister, wife and daughter, universal languages take over.

We have time to be patient as the ongoing story takes wild turns, and surprising characters from the past enter into this inspiring narrative. I am humbled by God's Presence in our midst!

God keeps giving me things to say. I will keep writing them down.

Stay tuned, and please remember us in prayer!

Continue with Part Four here

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sacred Restoration

Part Two (Read Part One here)

A teenage girl who visited her little brother in a Russian orphanage with gifts of candy has inhabited the shadows of my vivid imagination for 13 years. The teen is now 30 years old, the little boy, my son Roma, now 20. 

While I am talking about my son Roma . . . he kept us alert and on our toes in 2014. Readers are still visiting and commenting about The Hound of Heaven Winks and subsequent posts of how God relentlessly pursues this young man. On one vulnerable day in a year of power struggles, my strong-willed boy confessed that he wished we could find Liana. After years of not appearing even curious about her, he exposed his profound loss. 

In 2014 I joined more adoption groups to share what I have learned and to learn from the experience of others. From one of my Adoption group pages, in November, I learned about VK.com, the equivalent of Facebook for speakers of the Russian language. According to the website, 100 million use VK.com. It was worth a try before I spent upwards of $2000 to begin a search that might not succeed. 

In late November I opened a KV.com account and stalked the site, but found no Liana S—. On my new wall, which I opened under Roma's former name, I posted photos of him when he was little, and carefully crafted a text stating when and where he was adopted, and my desire to locate his Russian family. If anyone searched his name, they might stumble across his/my page. Then I forgot about it until Roma was due home on December 20. 

I checked back on "our" account. No activity. I stalked again, looking in Mozdok and Vladikavkaz. There were a few subscribers with the S name in Roma's original hometown! Cousins? But no Liana. When Roma came home, after he got settled, I showed him the account and suggested he request some friends. It is overwhelming when everything has to be translated from English to Russian, but thankfully there are websites for that purpose. As excited as I was about the idea, Roma feigned indifference. For Roma it is a "power" thing—If I want it, he cannot want it. I encouraged him to just sit and look through it. He exposed his stubborn side (Is it accurate to say Roma just has a stubborn "side," implying that he has any another "side"? But I digress.)

With a house full at Christmas, I forgot. 

On December 29th, I told Roma, if he wasn't going to investigate more, I was. He said I could, if I wanted to, but he was not. Those were his exact words, so I had his permission. So I did. I sent friend requests to every member of VK.com who had the same last name as his birth name. Surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as many as I thought, for a country the size of Russia and surrounding countries! One hundred million users! Since I had his permission, sort of, I added more photos of him, through the years, up to the most recent. I wrote as if I were Roma, because I had his permission. I said I was looking for family, especially my sister Liana.  I said a prayer, and posted it all, in English. His region of Russian is eight hours behind us. Everyone slept as my friend requests alerted mailboxes.

The next day, December 30, was busy, with family home for the holidays. When my daughter, Kellie, her husband, and five children met friends for lunch, I headed to check on my VK status. I had six new friends! Two messages!

One messaged, "Who are you?" (He had obviously NOT read my informative status!)

Another "friend," Eduard,  messaged, "Hi. Do you speak rushing language"

The messages were from hours ago. I answered the second one.

Trying to be very simple with my English, I wrote, "No. I was only seven. I only speak English now." (I felt silly in the conversation, pretending to be Roma. I've always only spoken English, and some people think that sounds funny because of my Southern accent!)

He messaged back. "I speak English very poorly. Are you my brother?" (perhaps translation difficulty? Cousin maybe?)

I had a live one, so I continued, "No, my brother is Rostilav, age 15. I am looking for family."

Eduard messaged back, "My father says you are Liana's brother."

I sat stunned, covered with chill bumps,studying the words. Then I typed breathlessly but carefully, "YES, Liana is my sister. 30 years old? Do you know her? I haven't seen her since I was seven. But she was very good to me."

Eduard: "Of course I know her. she is my aunt. sorry that didn't answer right away, I was busy."

I suspect Eduard and his father were checking me Roma out. I can only imagine what was happening in this family so far away at almost 11 pm, their time.

Eduard: "I asked my father. He said you are his nephew."

Then Eduard sent a link. I clinked on it. It was a VK account with a photo of a very pretty young woman in sunglasses. The name was not Liana. I studied the wall. The birthday was wrong. I knew Liana's birth date. I was careful not to be deceived.

Me: " That is not Liana, wrong birthday."

Eduard: "page her husband but it's on this page is she on photo"

Me: "Send her my page and photo. See if she recognizes me."

Eduard "I'll call you, don't worry everything will be fine. It's late tonight, tomorrow I'll call ok?"

Me: "That's right, it is night time there. Thank you so much!"

Eduard: "Glad to help you."

Roma arrived home in the middle of this frantic encounter, I grabbed him and tried quickly to fill him in on the details as we walked into my study. He was a textbook "deer in the headlights" as he was trying to process this development. I led him to the desktop computer and sat him down as I was explaining. "Read and answer," I commanded. And Roma, never for easy compliancy, sat, read, and answered, not even minding me hanging over his shoulder to read.

Roma: "So you are my cousin?"

Sweet Eduard, ready for bed: "You are my relative know it."

Roma: "okay talk to you tomorrow."

Eduard, "No problem brother. Sorry for my English."

Then suddenly there was a friend request from the girl in the sunglasses. Remember, it is after bedtime in Russia.

Roma finished his message to Eduard: "Haha I dont't speak any Russian anymore" and accepted the friend request.

Eduard: "not anything to worry about . . . Liana you a friendship sent."

Roma: "yeah, I got it."

Eduard: "Chat"

Roma: "What?"

Eduard: "Communicate with her."

(Sometimes Eduard's English was better than Roma's!)

Roma: "I just did"

Eduard: "Do you have a translator?"

Roma is asking me, and I explain about translator sites on the web.

Roma: "Computer translates, so yes.

Then he switched to Liana.

Roma's and Liana's messaging, even with the awkwardness of translator was very sweet and intimate. I tiptoed out to give him some privacy for this raw and tender moment. 

Kellie and her family returned while he was still in the study, busy at my computer. I met her at the door and whispered, "Roma is messaging Liana." She looked into the office through the closed glass doors and her wide eyes filled with tears. Mine filled, again. Kellie knew Liana too. This was a monumental moment we were witnessing.

I read their correspondence later, as tears streamed down my cheeks. It is too personal to share. It will take time for these long lost siblings to get reacquainted. Roma told me he is too emotional to talk about finding Liana right now. I understand—Boy do I understand! I have cried for days! I have waited until Roma gave me permission to share this story. He allowed me to share all  the other interesting stories starring God and himself. This was different. This is too fresh. It is too raw and tender. THIS is Sacred.

I knew Roma would not, could not, answer Liana's many questions. I opened my own account and have friended my dear young friend. I share photos with her, she with me. I answer her questions as best I can with a flawed translation system. We are forever connected. We are family. We always have been. She is as lovely as Roma described her over the years. I have since "met" one of Roma's lovely relatives, his father's cousin, and a former neighbor he knew when he was little. Apparently no one ever forgot Roma. If you know Roma personally, you're probably thinking, who could forget him?! I have seen his two precious nephews, ages five and seven. Roma was taken from his home at age five. The last time Liana saw Roma, he was seven. How great is our God who, after Liana lost two little brothers, gave her two little sons.

Now the process begins to get to know Roma's past. Perhaps we will find youngest brother, Rostilav. Please pray for our families as we build bridges!

So many issues of adoption involve matters of "identity." I thank God, for He has restored Roma's identity. Not only is he a Beloved child of the Most High God, and us, but once again, even though 13 years and 5650 miles separate them, he is a treasured little brother of Liana!

Praise be to God.

Liana gave me permission to use her photos for this blog. Isn't she beautiful?

Continue this story here. 

Hope for Restoration

Part One

C.S. Lewis, who wrote over 70 books, including the Narnia series and Mere Christianity, once said, "I never actually made a book. It's rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say." I understand exactly what Lewis was talking about, because I too have been "given things to say." Everything I have recorded  that has been of significance comes from God. For all the tripe, I take full ownership.

Why do I feel compelled to share my little stories of significance? Because they point to God! God is the Author of my significant stories! They draw me closer to Him, and ultimately to a place of overwhelming peace and JOY, regardless of the daily challenges!

Many readers of my book, But the Greatest of These is Love have reported mopping tears as they read. The most commonly asked question is about Liana, Roma's sister, age 17 at the time of Roma's adoption 13 years ago. Are we in contact with her?, they eagerly ask.  

In Roma's "profile" (his life summary prepared for prospective adoptive parents) I first learned of Liana. Roma, seven at the time, had a younger brother, Rostilav, age two, and an older sister, Liana, age seventeen. How could anyone split up a family? He was a "social orphan," meaning he had at least one parent living. The paper trail of Rostilav had ended abruptly more than a year ago. Our case worker speculated that he had been adopted because of his young age. Most adoptive parents choose children under five. Once over five, most children are never adopted.

I was profoundly sad when learning of Liana. I cried  when writing about her, and every time I read the book again, I cry again. And yes, I have reread many times. When I hear from a reader saying, "I am on page — and I have laughed and cried." I pick up a copy that is always nearby and start reading at that page to see what has triggered emotion. I get caught up in the story and keep reading, laughing, and crying, like I haven't read it before, like I didn't LIVE it, like I don't know how the story ends! And, as a matter of fact, I don't know how the story will end. It is ongoing. It continues to be a good story. It is God's story, so I will not diminish it with false humility.

The powers-that-be did have the authority to split up a family. Liana was not eligible for adoption. Rostilav was already adopted, and Roma was on adoption parade, being displayed, by way of his circulating profile, for international adoption. Although I was fighting God about His idea of adoption, He had made His Will unmistakably clear. We were taking a small step toward that end by hosting Roma when he was part of a group of five children, ages seven to twelve, who were flown to American for a five day visit. All Sacred Indicators pointed to this little boy. A few short, hectic months later, God led us to Russia to bring Roma home.

Upon our return home, we gradually went through the mountain of paperwork requiring our attention. One was a translation of the official document Liana had signed releasing him to what she hoped would be a better life than what she could give him. She was not yet 18, shy just five weeks. She had no rights to contest the adoption; her signature was a formality. We were later told that had she been 18, she would have had rights to custodial guardianship. With guardianship of a minor brother, she would have been granted government aid and an apartment. I wondered. . . had the accelerated schedule to adopt  been a calculated plan. We filed papers in late January. Six weeks later, we had a court date. A month after that, we found ourselves, deer-in-the-headlights panicked, on a plane, bound for Russia. On the return trip, nine days later, we had our new son in tow. Waiting parents before us had waited a year, or longer, and had been required to make two, and sometimes three trips, some trips lasting several weeks.  

In the past 13 years, I have never forgotten Liana. Always in the shadows of my imagination was a teenage girl who had lost her family. I got to know Liana through Roma's stories of her. He talked about her as if we knew her, and pretty soon we did! He told us she was beautiful and she told him funny stories. She visited him at the orphanage with gifts of candy. I was always touched by this gentle act, but Roma was always reminded how miffed he was that the caregivers insisted that he share his treasured gift with the other eager children.

Liana was only six weeks younger than my tender-hearted daughter, Kellie. I am thankful that God put Roma into a home with an older sister who had not yet left for college, who is beautiful, who doted on him, who read him stories and played games with him, and gave him candy. Not a substitute for Liana, but a reminder from a Loving God who provides for our needs.  

For the first three years, home visits were required and paperwork sent back to Russia, to document Roma's well-being. I requested, at every home visit, that the officials in Russia please get word to Liana that Roma was loved and thriving. I watched as the social worker wrote the request in her notes, every three months, as she pronounced that Roma was bonding well and in good health.  

A few years ago, I registered with several adoption groups whose purpose is to find family members lost through adoption. Separating children from their families causes trauma. I worried about Liana, as well as Roma. Some children never recover.  We had been so naive at the beginning. We believed we could love Roma enough for any pain of lost family to heal. Roma seemed to be thriving. He is, by nature, a happy-go-lucky child. He was distracted with many activities of his own choosing. He seemed eager to embrace his new life. Roma appeared to be ready to close the heavy door on the previous chapter of his past. I, on the other hand, was unable to shut that door completely.

As he grew, he didn't want to talk about Liana anymore, and didn't want me to mention her name either. Was it too painful?

"Mom," Roma would try to comfort me in Roma's blunt manner. "She is probably dead." 

Is this how Roma dealt with his loss? Of course it could be true, but his effort to forget Liana was to wipe her out completely? He couldn't conceive that his sister could be somewhere "over there," continuing life, maybe even having fun without him!

He turned 18, then 19. Roma is 20 now. Life happens fast. It is unbelievable that he has been my son for almost 13 years! Liana knew him for only seven. Is he mature enough to deal with what might be an emotional experience? How can they even communicate? He doesn't remember Russian, and it was doubtful Liana, now 30, knows English.

Does she have a family? Does she ever wonder about Roma? Does she think about us as much as I think about her? 

I continued to pray.

Continue to Part Two here

Friday, November 14, 2014

Until we meet again

Last month I said farewell to my bravest hero, my most passionate fan, my fiercest champion. My first and best friend.

My sweet mother passed peacefully into her reward on October 10, 2014. But I will not say I lost my mother. No, my dear mother is not lost! I know exactly where she is!

At the Hospice Home in Burlington, NC, my mother walked through the thin, invisible veil that separates the two worlds, and into her Eternal Home. The veil did not seem invisible to the angels who work in Hospice care. Their testimonies and Mother's faith made the veil more "visible" to me.

For her last three days of life, I traveled from Maryland to be with "Honey," a name given to her by my second daughter, her third grandchild. Kellie was simply repeating what my dear step father had called her. Even though the first two grandchildren called her "Grandmommy" for their first verbal year, "Honey" stuck. It was a perfect name for this gentile Southern lady, and she adored it. Over the years we all called her "Honey" too.

The devoted nurses and staff at Hospice Home confidently visited her room to interpret the signs for us. The most common observation was, "She is 'very peaceful.'" After hearing the description repeated often, almost as a unexpected surprise, I asked if they often saw otherwise during their care for the terminally ill. Oh yes, they had seen fear and anger. I recalled my grandfather, a very private man who died when I was 17. As he lay unconscious and dying in the hospital, we heard indistinguishable groans of agony, terror, and even rage directed at some thing, invisible to us. In contrast, my mother lay there, beautifully tranquil, having left nothing unsaid or unresolved. "She has one foot in this world, and the other in the next," observed one nurse. She took that final step from this flawed, physical realm patiently. I wondered what she must be encountering on the journey to Heaven.

On our previous visit, three weeks earlier, she had gently attempted to prepare me for the inevitable, "Now Darlin', if I die in my sleep, I want you to be happy for me." I assured her that I would, since I plan on a future reunion. So, I was happy for her when she departed with a peace that calmed us all, even the nurses on her death watch, twelve days before her 86th birthday. It would have been selfish to be sad for her. This world is not our home. Death is the most inevitable and unavoidable part of life.

And hers was a beautiful death.

She had always loved the Lord—she shared once that she had felt like a special "pet" of God's. She felt his love so strongly even as a young child. I could recognize her pure God-Love, even when I was very young, as she prayed with us kids as we knelt beside our bed at night in our little apartment. They were intimate friends, my mother and God. She had learned early to trust Him, and learned that He was worthy of her trust.

Her life had not been an easy one. She had grown up during the Depression. Her parents worked in textile mills. They didn't stay married for long. Still she thought of her childhood as a blessed and happy time. Her sickly mother, older sister, Jean, my future mother, little Nell went to live with a relative. (By the way, "Nell" is pronounced "nail" in North Carolina,  but in the South we stretch it out a tad, to two syllables!)  She was smart and excelled in school, achieving the award of Salutatorian of her class at graduation, but there was no money for college, and no expectation to alter the circumstances.

Her first child died at birth. Three more babies followed, me being the middle. My father left the family when I was five. My mother worked hard to support us, and although I am sure we would have qualified for public assistance, my proud mother wouldn't consider it, choosing to model the best example she could for us, trusting God to make a way.  She eventually made a decent living with the Federal Government. Slowly she climbed the ladder to a position as a quality control inspector for military contracts. She gave God the glory for every promotion and advancement. Even though we never owned our own home and had little money for extras, I remember her sharing with a less fortunate neighbor, a single mother of twins. And she always tithed at church, where she was the forth grade Sunday school teacher for a million years. She didn't complain. She didn't gossip. She didn't envy. She had a spirit of love and gratitude. Her life was her testimony of how much God loved her in return.

I remember men calling and her curt response was always, "I don't date." She put her children first considering us an extravagant Gift from God. When I was in college, thanks to a community scholarship, she met and married my dear step father, through an intervention by God Himself. She was confident of that it was a Divine match! We couldn't argue once we got to know this dear, Godly widower, who considered himself so blessed to have been Matched with his adorable new wife. Honey said a faith-filled farewell to Nathan who died in 2008.

I spent my quiet nights at Hospice Home with my mother's life flashing before me. I often imagined Nathan on the other side of the veil with his arms held wide, eager for the reunion. During the three days and nights I spent there,  I grew close to the staff. Did they talk this boldly with others who might not share their faith? And they ALL had a considerable faith. Anyone who works so close to the veil, must see beyond it at times. Even the cleaning lady, 68-year-old Barbara, preached love to my sister and me as we counted down the hours. Leaning on her dust mop on one side, and moving it to the other when her topics of revelation changed, occasionally running it over the shiny floor, still talking about the God she knew so well, occasionally breaking into a hymn.  Barbara was a beautiful, spiritual black woman, rich in Testimony for the Glory of God. She too had known hard times. But not anymore. She had been wooed away from employment of a former family into Hospice care when her gifts of compassion and wisdom were discovered. She and my mother would have been good friends. I brought out a photo of my mother so Barbara could tell me how beautiful she was. Yes she was, on the outside of that already diminishing body and on the inside. Her soul is eternal.

In the past few weeks, I have often picked up the phone to share some news with her, only to remember that she is not there. I have many messages that will go forever unerased from my phone of her sweet, animated, ageless, Southern voice.

I have realized what a blessing and honor it was, and will always continue to be, to have a mother of faith. I had a mother who prayed for us children, for our families and friends, even for our enemies. The legacy she leaves us is a priceless treasure. My mother served the role as mother and father. She was the nurturer, the affirmer, the disciplinarian, and the confidante, the teacher and preacher, the never-tiring prayer warrior, the sweet, warm, and welcoming grandmother and great grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. I have huge shoes to fill! But I had an awesome teacher!

Until we meet again, sweet Honey.