A Tribute to My Son

mother and son image

Here’s the real reason I’m able to follow my heart. My son. Without his full support, I couldn’t leave my home and my life behind in Virginia. All it would take would be four words from Davis: “Mom, please don’t go.”

It’s not like he needs me. He’s 20 years old, after all, and quite capable and responsible. Since Davis left home to attend college, he’s asked very little of me. I know he can survive, and thrive, without me. But a powerful and tender chord tugs at my decision. A chord connected to an unspoken bond that has deepened over the five years since his dad died into something both precious and precarious. Precious because both of us know how much we mean to each other. Precarious because we also know anything can happen to the other. At any time. With no warning.

No one — absolutely no one — comes close to how important my son is to me. I can’t imagine loving anyone more. So, before I committed to this decision to apply to serve with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Texas, I asked Davis what he thought of the idea. I genuinely wanted to know his concerns. He didn’t hesitate to support me. If he had any concerns, he didn’t express them. Davis simply wants me to be happy. Just like his dad would have wanted. No one supported my choices, my independence, as much as my husband David did. Now Davis is doing the same. How I could be twice blessed to have such men in my life is beyond my comprehension.

But here’s what I think. Davis is an “old soul.” If you believe, as I do, that some of us come to this earth more evolved, then you’ll understand. Since the age of four he’s been saying things that have made me pause and wonder, “Where did that come from?” Occasionally I find myself asking, “Who’s the adult here?” Maybe you have a child like this. One whose words can sometimes stop you in your tracks. I mean in a good way.

My little "old soul" and his dad
My little “old soul” and his dad

Several months after my husband died I finally entered that stage of grief called anger. If you’ve experienced a painful loss, you may be familiar with this stage: lots of complaining, resenting all the responsibilities I had to handle alone, second guessing my decisions regarding my young teenaged son, huffing and puffing at the supermarket shoppers who parked their grocery carts in the middle of the aisle (David used to do all the grocery shopping), shouting and swearing when dinner didn’t turn out quite the way I’d expected (David had been a superb cook and I regretted not standing behind him taking notes at the stove).

I remember one particular incident when my voice had lost all control. I was in my bedroom ranting and raving about something I had to do — although I can’t recall now what it was about. You know those moments when you hear the pitch of your voice and you know that whatever comes out of your mouth is not going to be good, but you’ve gone too far.

Davis stepped into the room, sat down on my bed, looked at me, and calmly said, “Mom, Dad’s gone. We can’t bring him back. You might as well stop fighting it.”

His words silenced me. That wise, sweet voice struck my heart. In that moment, I got it. I understood what I was doing to myself. And to him. He’d put an invisible mirror in front of my face, and I didn’t like what I was seeing. Grief, and guilt, consumed me.

There have been many other moments since where Davis has witnessed my faults and limitations. It’s unavoidable when you’re part of a family. But it doesn’t seem to matter what side of myself I show my son. He still loves and accepts me. And he always forgives me.

To know Davis is to know what a special gift he is. In so many ways. Not the least of which is his miraculous birth. After 12 years of trying to conceive. Three miscarriages along the way. Lots of tears, prayers, and spiritual seeking, ending with a child more perfect for me than I could have imagined.

As one of our family friends said recently, “You guys make a great team.”

Yes, we do.

Thank you, Davis. Thank you for being who you are. And for allowing me to be who I am.

I know that is all God asks of me. Of any of us. To be who we really are. And I realize it takes an immense act of humility to give back what God has given to me, warts and all. Thanks to Davis, I just might be able to believe that my warts aren’t so bad.

Mother and son
Mother and son


The Pain of Separation

As a parent, and a widow, I know how painful it is to be separated from those I love. Maybe you know this pain, too. A child off to college, or even summer camp, can cause that lonely feeling to creep in. Even though we hold those we love in our hearts, we miss their physical presence. And we can barely wait until we see them again.

But what about when you don’t know when you’re going to see your child again?

What about when you have to choose between staying together as a family and going off to a job that means living apart? When that choice means whether or not you can provide food and basic necessities for your loved ones, it doesn’t seem like much of a choice, does it?

And sometimes there is no choice at all. When an undocumented immigrant is deported (or relocated, or whatever the nicer-sounding word is that’s used these days), it can happen unannounced and unexpectedly, with no time to say goodbye.

On Saturday I spoke with Sr. Fran—the nun with whom I’ll be staying while serving on the border next year. We tossed around ideas of how and where I might best be of service. Because my Spanish is limited and my heart filled with compassion for the little ones, her suggestion that I could work with the children in the detention facilities especially attracted me.

These are children apprehended at the border. Some are accompanied by their parents. Some are not. Either way, whether they come with their parents or not, they will be separated from their family for a while. There are no detention facilities that allow families to stay together.

Unaccompanied youth, some as young as 2-years old, get sent to a detention facility or transitional foster care center as they await their plight. Their parents, who came to the U.S. months or even years earlier to seek work, have paid guides or “coyotes” $2,000 to $3,000 to bring their children across the border. They did this because they realize they can’t go back home. And they miss their children. It’s a risky situation, to say the least. But so is going back home where either there is no work, or they are barely surviving. For some, living in their country is too dangerous. I’ll say more about this in future blogs.

For now, I simply want to acknowledge that the separation of families is one of the most painful realities of immigration. Thanks to my experience on the border, I am being shown the harsh reality of why some parents have to make that choice.  Or have it made for them.