She chose to live with a shattered soul to give him the best possible change at life.

Her love for him surpassed the potential for life-long personal agony.

She learned to smile and laugh with a broken heart until she began to travel with newfound courage and inner strength–the unexpected self-gift of her choice.

She eventually risked loving again.

Handclasped vows of fidelity, loyalty, and love were followed with the exquisite joy of one, two, three babes of her own.

Her scattered soul, once believed to be lost, was renewed and rebuilt. Through faith and life adventures and misadventures and education and experience, womanhood was claimed and embraced with a bright countenance.

Yet, the daily grief and loss of a child dearly loved simmered below the surface, occasionally exploding through the strength, often in November, the marking of the birth of a son lost by choice. Husband, children, parents, and loved ones knowing her past but at a loss of how to comfort and ease the pain of such a deep, not-fully-healed wound distanced themselves until the sorrow retreated into the abyss to be borne and carried with silent suffering.

23 years, and then a tentative email written by one who longed to know his biology and medical history for the sake of his newborn son to a woman who had unceasingly prayed for an eventual reunion. The connection made through, the mother placing simple information, and the son’s curious computer search.

A match! Too many coincidences result in a drive to a neutral restaurant in a neutral town and a terrified young man sitting in a car, encouraged by a wife to connect for good or ill. Tentative hellos exchanged, menus studied to cover the torrent of emotions, and the waiter asks for orders. With her request of seafood enchiladas, the tension melts away because he was going to order the same. Could it really be her? As they wait for food, a few sacred remnants are shared: a hospital birth certificate with black ink footprints and thumbprints, mother and child hospital bracelets, a blurry Polaroid of a newborn with lots of dark hair, and a card noting the baby’s weight, length, and time of birth. He pauses at the time–a piece of information he knew but didn’t share. They match. He looks up and says, “It’s really you.”

She shows him her ring—seven colored birthstones: one for her, one for marriage, one for her sweetheart, one for each of the three that call her “Mom,” and a golden November stone for him–evidence that he is as important to her as those with whom she has shared her life.

“Do you want to hold your grandson?” Another dark haired baby is passed, and she embraces a new generation.

The meal ends, and they head outside. “Do you still want to do the genetic test?” no doubt for herself, she asks.

With amazement he looks at her and says, “With all the evidence against us, we would be convicted. No. I don’t need the test. Do you?”

“No. You look more like me than my other children.” A pause—a hope and a dream expressed, “Can we take a picture?”

The camera is passed to his wife, and mother and son, for the first time since the first time, wrap arms around each other. The camera isn’t working right, but neither will let the other go, both afraid if they let go it won’t be real. Finally, the picture is taken of a mother and her son, delayed 23 years.

More than eight years later, the family ties continue to strengthen through zoo trips, vacations to the lake, weddings, funerals, and three more grandbabies. He calls her Lisa out of respect for his mom and dad, but they are a special kind of family–never to be lost again.