Sometimes things aren’t as they appear. I died at birth. I have the death certificate to prove it.
Perhaps my earliest memory is a fuzzy image of my adoptive parents hovering above me. They brought me home when I was less than one year old but their first smiles remain fresh in the edges of my mind. It was a good foundation to build on.
Only storms would come with vengeance to test our strength. Daddy died in a car wreck when I was four.
One night years later Mom knelt beside my bed for our nightly prayers. “Ashley,” she’d said, “Aunt Martha is very sick. She’s lost everybody else, her husband and child. We’re all she has. Will you help me pray for her?”
Fear swallowed me. I didn’t know why. I cried myself to sleep murmuring prayers as I drifted away.
Soon Aunt Martha was living in our extra bedroom. She was pale and gaunt from chemotherapy. She needed a miracle and I begged God to bring her one.
Pastor David took me aside after church one Sunday. “You’re almost a teenager, Ashley. Nearly grown up. Are you ready to be strong for your Mom when Martha goes to be with God?”
“Of course not!” I didn’t mean to yell. “I’ve been praying for a miracle!”
“Okay,” he comforted. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Frantic, I ran home and cuddled with Aunt Martha. I made her promise not to leave us. We fell asleep together on her bed. I felt safe there, as if it was where I’d always belonged.
Silence filled the doctor’s office. Aunt Martha would need a marrow transplant if there was to be any hope at all. The whole family would be tested to see if any could be a donor. Except for me. I was adopted so the chance of a match was slim.
“Please,” I begged. “Let me try. I’ve been praying for a miracle. Maybe it’s inside of me.”
“Odds are against it,” the doctor said.
“Otherwise we’d let you,” Mom agreed.
Finally they relented. The tests were done. I was a near-perfect match.
Six weeks after the transplant Aunt Martha’s cancer was in remission and her cheeks had flushed with new color.
Pastor David announced that a miracle had been delivered and the congregation sang with joy.
Only Mom was quiet. Her eyes were wet with tears and sorrow seemed to pinch her brow.
Ovarian cancer spreads faster than others. Mom was diagnosed and within weeks she was gone.
Family gathered. People grieved. Aunt Martha held me for nights on end, rocking me to sleep through my grief.
Sadness gripped my life.
Pastor David came by the house after the funeral. I had gone into the backyard where I could be alone.
Outside, I could cry in peace.
Opening the door, Pastor David paused and stared at me. He approached with an envelope in his hand. “Come here, Ashley,” he said. “I have something for you.”
Fingers trembling, I took the parcel from him. I recognized the scent of Mom’s perfume.
“She came by the church a few weeks ago.”
Pain radiated across my chest. I could scarcely breathe. I carefully lifted the seal making certain not to tear the contents. I removed the folded paper.
Oh, my dearest Ashley. I’m sorry to leave you.
Only you’re not alone.
Finding and adopting you were the best things that ever happened to me. You brought so much joy to my life. How you came to be at the agency, I’ll never know. It must have been the grace of God.
Somehow I knew you were never truly mine. I wondered how your birth mother could let you go. I thought she must be a selfish girl.
Perhaps I was too quick to judge what I didn’t understand.
Oftentimes things aren’t what they seem. You were stolen from your real mother’s arms right after you were born. She didn’t give you away. She was told that you had died.
Only later did we all learn the truth.
From your prayers to God’s ears. You asked for a miracle with Aunt Martha‘s cancer, God delivered two. You gave the marrow that saved her life. At the same time the tests proved that she is your true mother.
Hurry to her now and love her as I have always loved you.
Aunt Martha, my mother, was weeping on the back porch. I ran to her. We fell together sobbing, mother and daughter.
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