On April 9, 2005, I spoke for the first time to the son I gave up for adoption in July of 1970. I was nineteen years old when he was born. The last time I saw him, he was being carried out of the hospital by a social worker. He was on his way to the parents who would adopt and raise him. And he was on his way out of my life—for thirty-five years.
After several months of searching, Craig was located, and on a Saturday morning, I phoned him. I can’t imagine how it felt to be my son at that moment, when his birth mother called out of the blue. But I do know that we had a wonderful talk, we talked again the next day for hours, and we both felt a connection. There were lots of emotions and lots of questions, as we both tried to grasp what we were experiencing.
Since then, Craig has come to visit me and I have been to visit him and his wife and children. We also communicate by email and phone. He has met his birth father, four siblings, and about sixty relatives on both sides of the birth families here in Canada. Everyone has welcomed him with love. And he has responded with love.
I have been fortunate to be in touch with Craig’s adoptive mother, once by phone and several times by email. We discovered that we had some things in common. Our own mothers even have the same first name! We acknowledged that somewhere in “time out of mind” we made this agreement with each other: I would bear a child I could not raise, and she would raise that child, giving him everything that I could not.
What I have found, in getting to know Craig, is that he is a very caring and loving individual. This is a reflection of the love and nurturing that his adoptive parents gave him. I have been able to find some peace knowing that Craig had such a loving upbringing. However, total peace was not mine, as I suffered from what is called “the primal wound.” This is the deep sense of loss that both mother and baby feel when separated shortly after birth.
During the only phone conversation that I have had with Craig’s mother, she happened to say, at one point, “present moment, wonderful moment.” I was totally taken aback. I asked her to repeat what she had said, and then I asked her: “Do you mean Thich Nhat Hanh and ‘present moment, wonderful moment’?”
“Yes,” she said. I couldn’t believe that she was Buddhist too!
She had been practicing in Thay’s tradition for many years. I had been practicing in the same tradition for about three years. “What are the odds,” I thought, “that Craig’s adoptive mother and birth mother are Buddhist, practicing in the exact same tradition with the same teacher?”
At the Touching Peace Retreat at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, in August of 2005, I told this story one afternoon in my family group. It was a difficult story to tell. It had only been four months since I found Craig and six weeks since I first met him. I was full of emotion and for several minutes, could not say any words or even get my breath. My family waited patiently as I slowly composed myself and could speak. I told my story: how I had given up Craig for adoption. How I had not known anything about where Craig and his family lived or what their names were. How I finally reconnected with him and got to know his adoptive mother a little. And, how his adoptive mother is also Buddhist, practicing in the same tradition.
At the end of the afternoon gathering, as my brothers and sisters left the family meeting, one person stayed behind. I was aware of him, and as I gathered up my belongings and prepared to leave, he said to me: “You know, your son had a very auspicious birth.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
“Well,” he said, “a person who is born with not one, but two Buddhist mothers, has been or done something very special in at least one past lifetime.”
His comment went straight to my heart. “At last,” I remember thinking, “there is some sense to make of all this.” There is a reason that this child needed to be born. The sorrow, the deep sense of loss, the pain—all still there after thirty-five years—suddenly lessened and were replaced by new feelings: wonder and awe. And, at last, some peace.
I will always be grateful to the two wonderful people who accepted with love the son I felt I could not keep. Their son loves and cares for them so much. I will always be grateful for reading a book by Thay, which got me started on the path. And I will always be grateful to the person who stayed behind a few moments to share his thoughts with me about Craig’s birth. It has enabled me to move past some of the pain and loss to freedom, stability, and appreciation.