I Came Here for The Light
On December 28, 2021 my biological mother Mary passed away, alone.
(This is a draft outline, and pieces of chapters)
My whole life I have felt her. I have felt her longing for me, her loss, and her loneliness. This feeling lived inside my bones, ran through my blood and pierced my heart. Thousands of miles away.
Two years into the pandemic, I was sitting at home processing the fear, trauma, shame, anger, guilt and sadness of 2021. It had been a brutal year of isolation, loss and transition in both the home and work front. I was just hanging around in my Covid-times misery with no plans for socializing, when I checked my messages on LinkedIn. There was one from my biological cousin sharing the news that “Mary has passed away 2 days ago, alone at home. No one was with her since she suffered from sickness. Sorry.” I took in a deep breath, is it over? I started to dry heave, as tears and relief washed over me. Beloved Mary is free now, she is free to be with the great love of the universe from where she came, at last she will know peace.
I first met Mary when I was 33 years old. I flew from San Francisco to Bangladesh with a film crew to meet her, and hear her story. I did not know what was about to hit me, or the psychological wounds this was going to open within, I was a blind adoptee heading into a first reunion with her biological mother in the village where I was born. I was 5 months old when I was taken to an orphanage by my grandmother, for a better life. Mary hadn’t seen me since.
Meeting her as an adult, was like having an out of body experience, I completely disassociated that afternoon around 4pm. There were hundreds of people gathered around us to witness this occasion. Chairs were pulled out and we were told to sit. Cameras were flashing, there were translators, and all of it was too much for me to physically handle. Mary did not look much like me, I thought? Her eyes were dark, her body petite and frail, her skin was fair and I could see that long ago, there might have been a sparkle within a child, but it was not there. She touched my face as if she could not believe it was real, while her body trembled and I could feel that she, too, was overwhelmed. I didn’t know precisely at what moment, an old trauma had awakened, which forever became my work to heal. More on this later.
I didn’t feel like I could write about her while she was alive, the situation was so complicated and heart breaking. I did not know how to connect with, communicate with, or help Mary in the years since we met. I have over 50 hours of film footage documenting her story, that I have not looked at once. It was too hard for me to revisit, until recently.
My soul had lead me down this path, which I initially thought was clear. My intention was to tell Mary’s story, to give her a voice, and so many like hers, a face and a name. Bangladesh has a 51% child marriage rate. Mary was 14 years old when my 50 year old biological father asked for her to be his wife, as payment for a debt my grandmother owed him.
During my visit with Mary, one afternoon, we arranged to capture this story on film. We sat inside a small room with the windows closed for privacy, with the translators and cameras rolling. The space felt safe and quiet, all of us were gentle women, carefully chosen for this powerful moment. We started at the beginning, when it was an innocent childhood.
Mary liked to climb trees, from what I can remember, she reminisced that she played outdoors with her brothers and sisters a lot. There were games and laughter. She went to school and walked past my biological father’s property sometimes, which is where he first started noticing her. She was young and fair skinned, not like his other two wives. She seemed pretty care free at the time and fully trusting of her family’s care for her. She had no idea how her life was going to be disrupted in one day.
On that day, her mother told her that she had to be married and that she would drop Mary off at the man’s house. There was little explanation, other then, it was expected and she was 14 now. She described this moment as feeling like she was kidnapped. She was terrified and confused. That first night my biological father brutally raped her. He could not understand why she was not happy, grateful or returning his affections. He was a powerful and wealthy member of the community, according to him, he had just saved her life.
Soon afterward, Mary became pregnant with me. During her pregnancy she was beaten, starved, raped, shamed and tortured by my biological father and his two other wives. They despised her for her youth and the resources they needed to share and their husband’s affection for her. When I was born on a mud floor in a small hut, only my grandmother was present to help with the delivery. The beatings did not stop, in fact, they lasted for years. But in the first few months of my life, my grandmother recognized this would be dangerous for me to stay there. She wanted to take me to safety and asked the nearby Catholic Mission if she could be with me when they found me a new home.
To be continued…
As I sit with this story, and the permission I’ve given myself now to tell it, my desire is for healing. It illuminates my first blueprint or map of the world, my first auditory and sensory experiences that developed my brain and nervous system. I thought this journey would be about Mary, and giving voice to her life, but it also became a living, breathing, walking practice in examining my blueprint (thanks Eli Call), and understanding who I am, and can, and will be. I have also learned to understand others in their stories, what it means to be human, and collectively heal generational trauma.
I came here for the light, is a phrase I’ve always told myself. It is the thread I’m following when I see the world is tilting, and I am searching for the balance. Writing more soon.