On Sunday, Parke's birth mother and her family wanted to pay their respects to our family for the loss of our sweet baby boy. We have seen them multiple times since Parke's birth, texted regularly, and shared a crazy amount of pictures. We went to their house with the kids, but we really didn't know what to expect on this visit.
We sat there for 30 minutes just making small talk and watching the kids play. We gave their family a plant and an 8x10 picture of Parke for their house. They have 8x10 pictures hung around the top of their wall of all their family members...even those in the Marshall Islands. We thought it would be special for them to have his picture, and they really loved it.
Finally, people started flooding in, and I realized what we were waiting for. In a 2 bedroom duplex, over 30 adults and multiple children came to honor our family and acknowledge the loss of our child. Some of their families traveled over an hour to get there just to shake our hands.
Their preacher showed up, and they even worked out having a translator there for us. The preacher stood up and gave a short message, and then the entire house broke out in the most beautiful Marshallese song. I wanted to pull my phone out to video or take pictures the entire time, but I did not want to offend anyone. Even without pictures, I will remember those moments vividly.
After the song, they shared with us that in their culture they like to make an offering to the family to make up for their loss. They got in a line and came before us to throw money at our feet. Many people cried for us, and they all shook our hands and shared in our sorrow for losing a part of our family.
This part was difficult for us...we wanted to say NO WAY! Especially because we were in a home where 17 people live in 2 bedrooms. They are in a state of poverty, and they continued to want to honor our family with the little that they had. They gave us over $70 and the flowers pictured below.
After that was finished, the preacher shared with us that they had prepared "refreshments" for all the guests. A child came out with a plastic bread-bag filled to the top with individually zip-locked egg salad sandwiches. Two pieces of white bread and mashed up eggs...that house started getting very stinky! :) After they passed everyone one sandwich, the child came around again offering us the extras. We had plenty, so other family members started taking what they could.
Next, the birth mother's brother, and the "head" of the house came offering drinks. He used the lid off of a storage container as a tray and had an assortment of sodas, juice, and water for us to choose from.
I cannot express to you how they honored us in those moments. They put together a very special ceremony of love where our families and cultures were joined.
The birth mother and I cried together, and my heart truly hurts for hers. She has been so gracious to make known that I was Parke's mother, but I know her mama heart is hurting and broken as well.
I'm just throwing this out there in case anyone is wondering. If you want to honor Parke's life with a donation towards his birth family, we will absolutely get that money to them. I'm not asking anyone to do that, I'm just sharing that we will continue contact and will have a way to provide that gift to them at any time. I was overwhelmed that, with so little, they still wanted to give to us in a big way. They wanted to show us their love, their respect, and their sorrow for our family.
We not only share a child with this family, we share the same God. I am thankful for the knowledge that one day the birth mother and I will sit down face to face in heaven and speak clearly to each other. No broken conversations, no cultural confusion...just mamas sharing stories about their baby.
**I have learned something very interesting about the Marshallese culture throughout these months. If a Marshallese woman has a sister, their kids are all considered siblings. If she has a brother, his kids are cousins with hers...just like in the US. I can't tell you how many men walked in and the birth mother told me they were her brothers...at least 12. Birth Mother's sister told me that their aunt (mom's sister) lives here and that is where all of their siblings come from. They have a family of 8 and so does the aunt. Pretty wild!**