The Gift of Mum

I lost my birth mom the day I came into this world. We were in Northern India together and connected for just a few moments…and then…separated. I grieved the disruptive loss of a second (adoptive) mother the day I turned 18. Those are two significant days that hold life and newness which have been marked by ferocious pain. In my mind, there is not a more profound loss I have suffered on this earth than losing two moms

After death, there is an opportunity for new life to be birthed. My ‘Mum’ is a gift of new life and restoration that I could not have ever imagined. We met at church and became acquainted through enjoying a fresh fall meal together that consisted of zesty meatloaf and grilled tomatoes. Our relationship grew as we journeyed weekly through a powerful book together around her kitchen island. Over time, I gave her the name ‘Mum’ because she held so much of the characteristics of a motherly figure for me.

One of my favorite things I have come to love about her is her heart. This is ironic, since she has lived 64 years with a serious heart condition. My fondest memories are held in the times I am about ready to leave her home. We exchange a tight warm embrace, and she takes her hand and cups my head towards her chest. Because I am short, my ear hits the place where her heart is, and almost every time I can hear a few of the beats through her chest.

These moments are beautifully sacred and integrate the love we have for one another.

A handful of years ago my pastor’s wife and I took a home country trip back to India together. We traveled to India, served at my orphanage, and even met a few of the hands who cared for me as a baby. The trip lasted ten very hot days and held so many thoughts and feelings. As I traveled back to the US, I wasn’t prepared to step back into life. My re-entry was traumatic, scary, and dysregulating. Because I didn’t have a family to catch me at home, my body was remembering the trauma of earlier abandonment and bringing up a sense of re-orphaning. The intense fear and mentally-exhausting attempt to find care was overwhelming. As I sat, crouched over, on the side of my bed, I called my Mum who now lived a state away—almost a four-hour drive. She answered the phone quickly, and as I saw her beautiful and caring face across the small screen, I broke into tears. I gathered enough words to tell her that I wasn’t “doing well.” Her eyes grew with concern and she started to cry as well. Within a few seconds she said, “I’ll talk to Duane [her husband] and call you back.” Ten minutes later I received a text from my Mum, saying, “I am on my way.”

I crawled into bed and lay there, emotionally wiped out and physically ill from the amount of stress my body was holding. I fell asleep and was awakened by my Mum’s entrance. She let herself into my apartment, came into my room, crawled into bed next to me and held me. I remember my body not having much strength to embrace her back, and I just lay there, allowing her arms to wrap me up. She lay next to me the whole night and prayed silently over me as I slept.

In the morning, we whispered a few words back and forth and she prayed over me. She referenced some encouraging passages from Isaiah and Psalms, which we read together. The intense and dark storm had passed, and my body was coming back to life through the connection and deep love of my Mum. She showed up for me in one of the darkest moments of my life, by driving hours and miles to meet me where I was, when I needed a mother’s heart.

She came for me. She sought me out. She cared for me. She knew my needs and she lovingly moved towards them. She held me. She prayed for me.

My Mum is a gift of life, strength, care, and lovingkindness. I am still in awe that, after the loss of my birth mom and the abandonment of my adoptive mom, I still get to know the abundance of a mother’s love through my Mum.

Sandhya Oaks is a ministry leader, speaker, writer, and advocate. Born in India and adopted as a Transracial Adoptee in the Midwest, she has been serving with Cru Campus Ministry for more than 13 years and loves developing students and staff. She is the co-founder of The Adoption Triad, a social media group that provides community and resources to those connected to adoption and foster care. Her passion to walk with adoptive families is being lived out through leading virtual Transracial Adoption Parent Groups with Restoration Counseling. Sandhya recently moved to Colorado and spends her free time camping, sipping coffee with friends, and creating tasty charcuterie boards.