June 11, 2012. I’m going to be honest, I have no idea what I was doing on that date 5 years ago. In fact, I dare to guess that many of you don’t as well. It is nearly impossible for us to remember one day singled out of a year, let alone one date singled out of several. It is even more impossible for a child to recall events taking place on any particular day during any particular year. I mean I can ask either of my boys what we ate for dinner two nights ago and both will undoubtedly look back at me with blank stares. With all that said, there are days that are singled out in our memories, moments we can literally relive as deeply as when they occurred. I remember pieces of June 14, 2011 quite vividly. I was driving down the road in the backseat of our car with my mother in law next to me, Jay and my father in law in the front seats. We were headed out for birthday dinners, my husband and mother in law both share the same day, as does Jays twin brother obviously. Jay took a phone call while driving down the road. At first he asked if the caller was sick based on the tone of their voice. The car became eerily silent and then suddenly he veered off the road into someone’s yard (literally). He hung up the phone and turned around to face me, “Ileah, your dad died”. I can still hear his words like he spoke them to me yesterday and I can still see that look on his face. I remember getting out of the car, calling my mother, and rehashing her day of finding my dad. I don’t remember much after that, I remember being back in my apartment packing for a week I never wanted to partake in, driving two hours to my childhood home, and walking in the dark around my house to where several of my family had gathered on the back porch. Then the day is gone. Every year though on June 14, while I try and put a smile on my face and celebrate the birthday of some of my most favorite people, the sting of the memory from that day is still present and I relive those moments in my mind again and again. I doubt it will ever leave me, but at least I know why tears come and why I feel the ache that I do. There is a clear reason and cause.
Through my research into abandoned children, I have learned some amazing facts about our brains. It is quite an amazing organ in so many ways but learning about early memories and how they are stored is just fascinating. Research has shown that simply because things cant be recalled doesn’t mean they are not remembered by the brain and body, particularly in young children and even babies. There is something called implicit memory which describes how all of a child’s memories are stored before the age of 18 months. Implicit memories include things like emotions and body sensations. What is even crazier than realizing that babies, even new born’s have the innate ability to remember certain events and how they felt during them is that these remembrances from very early on can and do come crashing back into their minds and bodies sometimes on the exact date of their occurrences even if a child has NO recollection of the event themselves. They show up in behavior changes, mood swings, outbursts, sobbing uncontrollably, nightmares ect.
So back to June 11, 2012. It now holds one of those places in my memory which I will keep forever. I myself do not know what I was doing on that date, but I know what one of children was. There is a small blurb in Jude’s medical file that details his finding spot, the spot where he was found after being abandoned by his birth parents. The date was, you guessed it June 11, 2012. He was three days old and likely dying from untreated conditions from birth. I have a copy of the small piece of paper that was left with him with his birthdate etched on it in one of his birth parents handwriting. I would like to think that his parents tried for 3 days, but realized that he was just too sick. I like to think that they placed him in the little park he was found in because they knew he would be found quickly. I like to think that they watched as someone knelt down and picked him up, rushing to get him medical attention but truth be told I will never know. It is hard for us to think of leaving a newborn in a different room from us after their birth, let alone all by themselves in a park. I always wondered, would Jude have recollections of these events like research has shown. Unfortunately, I wasn’t bright enough to realize that his whining, his pouting, his tears on the anniversary of that day could have been from memories he didn’t even know were there. Feelings of fright, coldness, suffocation, and even death. That night as I rocked him to sleep, what would have been the early morning hours of that day in China, he grimaced in his sleep, whimpered, tears trickled down his cheek. He writhed in my arms, but he was in-between that state of sleep and wakefulness. I held him extra tight, whispered in his ear “You are loved, mommy is right here”. Then and only then did I realize the significance of the date.
A part of me obviously wishes I could take those early memories away. That Jude would forget what life was like before he had a family. I wish I could take away the memories that make him sad, mad, scared. A part of me wishes I too could forget my memories of profound grief, but as stated by Laura Jack a grief recovery specialist, “Every loss deserves the honor of grief”. Jude’s life in china mattered, his experiences, his feelings, his existence, and interaction with everyone there, all mattered and to want to take away such a huge part of him would be a dishonor to his life, just as wanting to forget the day my dad died and the sadness of losing such an important part of myself felt like would be a dishonor to my dad. Our boy is a warrior. He is a survivor. In the midst of it all, he has chosen to thrive, to live, and have hope in a better day. Isn't that what God calls us to do as well? To look beyond our circumstances to something better. To trusting Him who makes good with all the bad. This morning, June 12, Jude awoke with a fresh smile on his face ready for a new day. He told me several times before he left for school, “I love you Ma”. His LITTLE life continues to teach us BIG lessons and though I usually dread the entire month of June, because of the memories it drudges up, I am choosing to confront it, like Jude, with a fresh smile and gratefulness instead.