I hesitate writing about this now. Maybe it's too soon. I don't think it's too personal - in fact, it gives real meaning to this entire experience. It sheds new light. Perhaps it will cause some of us to search deeper and reach down and grasp greater understanding of this process.
I hesitate to share because it's long. Perhaps a double post-er. (Have I ever even done that before? That would be your cue to grab your cup of coffee now...even if this is the first instalment of two, it's likely not a Cole's Notes day.)
I hesitate to share because it's still fresh and raw. Not nearly as bad as week ago, or the night it happened but fresh enough that if I allow myself to go back and relive it for more than thirty seconds, I succumb to the sorrow, ache, tears, raw reality of the situation in which we found ourselves two weeks ago today.
I know it's losing some of the raw"ness" because it now takes thirty seconds for the tears to fall...this time last week it took a split second...if that.
Two weeks ago today: the day Makeda was taken from her second home.
Two weeks ago: the day she unknowingly said goodbye to the "mothers" who had cared for her to the best of their ability - as they would their own flesh and blood - for the past many months. I don't know when precisely Makeda was removed from her intake orphanage in Harar to her most recent home - Abenezer Orphanage - in Addis. My best guess would be March-ish. I base this on hours of conversation and therefore greater understanding of the paper-chase/orphanage move process.
In order to be moved from Abenezer Harar to Abenezer Addis, she would have been driven ten hours by van. It wouldn't have been a quick, easy trip but rather, done out of necessity. (The flight would have simply been out of the question due to cost.) Her birth mother would have followed several months later...in the same van, along the same dirt roads, when going up for court. As if relinquishing her wasn't enough, Makeda's Birth Mother then had to revisit her decision in front of a judge. I cannot even fathom. I truly don't believe we do anything that compares to this.
The orphanage has a room designated for Birth Mothers who come up for court and spend the night. (My guess is, based on the length of the trip, this would be the majority who have relinquished their children.) This means, she would have had the opportunity to visit Makeda, ensure she maintained this irrevocable decision, and then left her one final time.
We suffer, sure. But we don't suffer.
What is comparable to consciously making the decision of changing one's own lineage in hopes of offering up more? I have given this much thought and I can't think of a thing.
Thursday, September 22, 2011.
This was not our Gotcha Day. It was our intended GD, but because Wednesday had been so smooth - seemingly seamless in my mind - I had taken her on Wednesday. We were invited to return Thursday, after having spent the entire (!) afternoon with E on Wednesday - between the arrival at the orphanage, the two hour visit with Makeda, the donations run, and supper, we had spent nearly all morning, noon, and night in the presence of saints. I'm sure of it. Uncertain of the reason behind the request to return but of course having nothing else on the go, we agreed to return the following morning.
Thurday, we were picked up at 10am. We spent a couple of hours at the orphanage. Upon our arrival the children sang to us - in english and amharic. We walked around a little more, enjoyed lunch and another traditional coffee ceremony - all surreal now, and yet moments I would nearly sell my soul to relive - all during which Makeda was with her nursery peers, friends, and nannies.
We were then introduced to the little girl who took Makeda under her wing - mothered her, "Makeda is her favourite" is what we were told. She is four years old. She too, will be going to a family, along with her sister. She too, has a story of tragedy. She is beautiful. Her story makes her moreso. Her strength to survive, even more than that. She sat quietly with us and listened as we spoke a language she barely (if at all) understood - but that she will soon learn fluently. I tried to look into the depth of her being, through her eyes. They were wise. They were old - not those belonging to a four year old. They had seen much, experienced more. And in the moment of fully grasping this the only thing I could think was, "how unfair". Her deep brown eyes held mystery, perhaps uncertainty...they were beautiful. There was a sense of loss I gleaned, as I sat and she stood in front of me. This may seem obvious but it was more striking than words could do justice. Her silence spoke volumes and if I could have asked her a million questions I would have - in a heartbeat. We learned a bit of her story from E...and there it stays. It's hers. It's all she has. That and her sister.
As she stood there, Makeda was brought into the common room and there were now five of us together.
The little girl gave Makeda a hug, a rub on the leg in sorrowful silence and left.
...And I am truly sorry but I have to leave it there. I will pick it up very soon. It's so very raw - more than words would do justice - and too real so I will pick up again tomorrow...