Monday, August 8, 2011
A Day With Tigist...and Gotcha Day!
I've been asked many times since we got back home from Ethiopia, "What was your favorite part of the trip?" That's a hard this to answer, as everything we did was so different and touched me in such different ways. But one day does hold a very special place in my heart. On Wednesday of our trip, we were able to spend a day with Tigist, Ellie's birth mom.
When we were in Ethiopia 2 years ago to get Ellie, we were able to meet Tigist. It was nice, and I'm grateful we were able to do so, but it was short and I didn't really have a chance to ask questions or allow her to ask questions of us. This visit was different.
We were accompanied on our trip by Bisrat Fantahun, who acted as our translator. He's an amazing man with an incredible testimony, but that's another post altogether! The drive out to Woliso was about 2 hours, and the scenery was beautiful. I was nervous as we drove, wondering what Tigist would be like, if she would want to talk with us or if she'd be resentful of us for being able to have Ellie all the time. My fears were short-lived.
We met Tigist at the orphanage where Ellie was. We began our time there with a short walk around, seeing again where Ellie had slept and some of the other rooms. We walked out of the girl's dorm and Tigist came running to us. She literally ran into my arms and hugged me. Both of us were crying, and I looked up to see that Jeff was crying too. This is indeed a moment I will never forget!
It was our honor to take Tigist to lunch at the Negash Lodge in Woliso. What a great time!! This place is stunningly beautiful, a bit of a surprise in the middle of a town of such poverty. We sat down to lunch and were able to talk. Tigist told us her story, not exactly what we had heard in the past. It's so good to know the full truth of how Ellie came to be at the orphanage from her mouth. We shared stories of Ellie and more pictures. We were also able to tell her of Ellie's younger sister, and what a joy to see her face when she heard that her girls would grow up knowing each other!! WOW! She told us of her work, how she lives on 200 birr a month (about $11), and after paying rent, had only $7 a month left to live on. That's about 25 cents a day, folks. My heart sunk in hearing that. Even in Ethiopia, that's not enough.
Negash is known for the monkeys that live there, and we were not disappointed. After lunch, we went outside and were able to feed the monkeys. They ate right out of our hands! What a blessing to see Tigist smile and hear her laugh (JUST LIKE ELLIE'S LAUGH!). She told us "this is the only fun day I've ever had in life", and I don't doubt that at all. Then she asked us if we would like to come to her home for a visit. What an honor!
Tigist lives in a 10x12 mud and straw home. She was so proud to have us there, smiling for pictures with us. It was meager, but she was so proud of it. She had taken such care to decorate it, and I was humbled by all of it. I was overwhelmed at the thought of my little girl lying on that dirt floor to sleep.
Here's one thing I know for sure. Had Ellie been able to live with Tigist, she would not have the gazillion dresses she has now. She wouldn't have barbie dolls, coloring books or princess dresses. She would likely never go to school, learn to read, take dance or gymnastic lessons. But there is one thing she would NEVER be lacking, and that is love. Tigist loves her daughters. Of this I am sure! I saw it in her eyes, in the tears that fell on her face. They were tears of joy, knowing that her daughter has what she couldn't give. I felt it in the way she held my hand as we walked together. She held my hand with love and gentleness, not with any animosity or begrudging feelings. I felt it in the way she hugged me, as if she were thankful for me for how I love her little girl.
We connected that day. I feel a closeness to her that I can't explain. She's not a believer, yet I believe that God put this closeness within us. I believe it was His design that led us together. It is my honor to share Ellie Kedest, to mother her on Tigist's behalf. I pray I do it justice. I believe that God has a purpose for Ellie to be here, but I also believe that in a perfect world, her birth mother would be the one tucking her in to bed every night. I don't take this lightly, this gift we have been given.
Tomorrow we celebrate 2 years since we first held Ellie. It's been a gift far beyond my imagination. It's hard to remember life before her, before princesses, barbies, beads and braids, dresses, hair bows, singing and dancing all the time. It's hard to remember who I was before her. I don't really want to remember. She has changed me; Well, God has changed me through her. People tell us all the time that she is so lucky to have us. The truth is that we are the ones who are blessed.
Tonight my thoughts are with Tigist, wondering if she remembers that tomorrow is the anniversary of the day we first met. I wonder if she's staring at Ellie's picture and thinking of her. I pray she knows that we are telling Ellie of her every day, reminding her that she is loved by two mommas- one who gave her life, and one who holds her daily. I promised her that day to tell Ellie her story, of how her first mother loved her so much that she sacrificed everything for her. It's a promise I will keep.
Happy Gotcha Day, Ellie Kedest! I'm so blessed by you in our lives. I love love love being your momma!! I love watching you with your big brother, and I love how you are such a daddy's girl! I love celebrating you in our family!!