fourish years ago, a ten years turning eleven, scrap of a boy came to live at my house with a bag full of clothes and need for a haircut.
his mother had ended her life a year before over the thanksgiving holiday. and eventually it became clear that his place was with us, a family in the middle of being a family.
he had spent the last year not knowing how to be in a life suddenly void of a parent, giving his grandparents a run for their money in the working out of his anger and confusion. he came to us needy for love and not trusting that he deserved it.
four years later he has become my son…but i am not supposed to say so. he has a mother and she is not me.
my label is aunt.
i circle guardian on forms or cross out mother to clarify my position. i stumble over introductions, clumsily correcting misunderstanding between son and nephew...knowing there is no birthing or document to confirm my heart’s claim.
and i battle tiny seeds of bitterness along the way.
i held him through months of letting grief bubble up and be released, so that he wouldn’t be stuck between before and after. i held him while he processed a mother saying i love you in the morning and taking her own life the same day. i read the letters he wrote to her, watching him learn to understand her brokenness. i was his witness on his journey to healing.
i am the one whose stomach fills with nerves as he lines up to compete. i am the one that hands the paper back and says do it again, knowing he will be better for the lesson…receiving his temporary resentment until he exchanges it in for understanding. i am the one that holds strong against the hurt of his pushing hard to test the limits. and i gently pushes him forward when he thinks he’s reached the end of his own abilities.
i am ashamed of the moments i sullenly kick at the pedestal he sometimes places her on. frustrated that i–the flesh and blood, making mistakes reality– cannot compete with only good memories held on to by a nine year old. saddened that i have made it a competition i run to a friend who knows my true heart. she holds the hands i beat myself up with and i remember:
that i want nothing more for this boy than to know he is loved forever, that god’s plans for him are good. that the question of his value brought on by being left behind, is always answered with a resounding you matter and we will always want you.
and at the end of the day, his life…and the mother that i am rests in the hands of his father.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families….” (Psalms 68:5-6, NIV)
and i… i take that piece of my heart that wants more and i lay it at the feet of jesus… over and over again. and he fills my heart to overflowing. over and over again.
and our house? it is filled with ‘your mama’ jokes and no one cringes at the word suicide. god has restored this boy and given his heart a home.
and i am his aunt. it’s a good, good place to be.