I have permission to share a very special, true story with you. It is very close to my heart and my husband's family's hearts. It's not what you think. It is a heart breaking, heart healing, God is faithful, love endures, love never fails story between mother and son.
It all started back in 1966. Patricia was in an unhappy marriage to Jack, which then ended in divorce. In those days, divorce was still very much looked down on and this one seemed almost a family secret. There were not a lot of support systems available in those days for people in troubled relationships. But that wasn't all...
The cousins knew, of course, Margaret, Norman, Bradford, Carol, DiAnne, and when a new family member married in, it was tactfully, quietly shared, to me, for instance, that Cousin Tricky (Patricia) had a child that was kidnapped and never seen again. When I came on the scene, it had all happened 20 years before. So still very fresh, wouldn't you say?
One day, Jack, Patricia's ex- husband, picked their only child up, Sean, for a scheduled visit and never came back. Patricia had custody of Sean, but that was the last time she ever saw her child. He was just three years old when he was abducted. Patricia was devastated, of course. She had lost her marriage and her only child. The other relatives were heart broken, as well. His grandparents, everybody. Where was he? How is he? Did he grow up and marry? Would we recognize him on the street? Oh, to just hold him and read him that favorite story of his. In many ways, he was frozen in their minds as that little boy, but 46 years went by.
In the years following, Patricia married Bob and they had two children and a granddaughter, Naomi. Life went on. Many happy things happened and because of her love for God and the family closeness, Patricia was able to move on. For the most part.
This is what Patricia writes:
"There's a part of this story that I think might be important to you readers.
From very early in the whole story I have felt forgiveness for Jack. It just came easily for me. It just seemed that God reached down into my heart and took out all the hatred and bitterness and replaced it with peace. Many people have wondered how that could be. They have told me I'm very strong or a saint or whatever. But, of course, I'm neither very strong nor very good. It just took a willingness to be led by God."
Then, it happened. On May 21, 2016, she got the call. Her son had found her. Rather, her ex-husband died in 2015, and her son's wife, a genealogist, proceeded in earnest to locate his mom. Patricia became a grandma that day, (She is a grandma already to sweet Naomi) and even a great-grandma! All on that day. Sean went from 3 years old to 48 during that call. He called her "mom". They set up a meeting. Patricia came down with shingles. Waves of emotion came sweeping over her. Yes, it was stressful and many memories flooded in that had been suppressed for a long, long time.
Patricia adds a highlight of their reunion in early August of 2016:
"Interestingly, Sean and I went to visit Jack's mother last week. She said she had been praying from the start that I would forgive Jack. I told her that her prayers had been answered decades ago. It seems to me, that my forgiveness of Jack wasn't my gift to him, but God's gift to me."
Their first reunion went so well that Sean flew down from Alaska to Tacoma, Wa., in early September. During this time, our first daughter, Sarah, got married and Sean came to the wedding! We were very excited to meet him and were blessed by his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild coming as well. Sean grew up not knowing if he had any family to speak of. Boy was he in for a surprise!
This summer has certainly been epic. Sean's wife, Trysha, has since been diagnosed with cancer. I asked Patricia about her relationship with Sean's wife. They are able to talk about spiritual things:
"Here's another miracle! My friends and I have been praying (in a pentacostal, charismatic way!) for Trysha since her diagnosis. At her last check the tumor was 100% gone! She's still doing another round of chemo.
Trysha and I discuss spiritual things a lot. Really, I think my faith has grown as much as hers through our discussions. We pour our hearts out to one another via our phones!"
Do you see? Patricia is just a regular person, however, she responded to the Lord's gift of forgiveness offered to her. She could have spent 46 years in bitterness and anger, not allowing God to grow her in her relationship with Him and others. What kind of person/mother would she be today if she had wallowed in self pity and hate. Can you imagine Sean's disappointment? And Trysha! She could have missed this new exposure to the things of God.
I think you can probably find it in your heart to forgive, too, knowing that Patricia did. She was open to God helping her with it and He was faithful to allow her to forgive. She has led a rich and fulfilling life in the 46 years between the loss of her first born son and the time they were reunited. She never knew if they would be reunited. She enjoyed fellowship with the Lord all that time, family, friendships and a meaningful career teaching children too. Our children have always loved spending time with cousin Tricky because she was fun to be around! She invested in our lives rather than curling up in self-pity. Yes, there have been other heartaches along the way. This isn't the only trial she has faced. And she admits to being as weak as the next person. Only willing. As a Christian myself, I am encouraged to stay the course and to trust in God's plan even more.
The process of closing the gap of all those years continues. This week, it is time to look through all of Sean's childhood pictures that he sent. Hard. Very hard. Bittersweet. Precious. Sean will likely be doing the same soon. He has two siblings that he didn't get to grow up with. How different were their experiences from his?
We, personally, are removed just enough to stand back and marvel at their strength and courage to work through this entire process, but there are other, closer, relatives that still feel the hurt of hearing that their favorite, little guy wouldn't be there at Christmas or be able to toss the ball around in the backyard because someone selfish snatched him out of their lives. I pray that they will find peace if they haven't already.
This love story continues to unfold.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.