Women honored for life-giving sacrifice

| Gretchen Traylor for The Catholic Spirit | October 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

My lifelong dear friend, also known as my “other brother Mark (Claesgens),” and his sister and I grew up like siblings, as our adoptive parents were close friends.

While Mark’s sister searched for her family of origin early in her 20s, Mark and I were more hesitant. However, as I became more involved in the cause of healing within adoption for all involved parties, I noticed that Mark remained quiet and seemed satisfied with the status quo. As we entered the second half of our 60s, however, he began to ask more questions about my journey. But in the summer of 2013, Mark presented me with his adoption papers, asking if I thought I could find his birth mother. Amazingly, this woman had never married, which made it an easy search, and soon Mark and his mother were communicating. Mark was relieved and happy that Gertie accepted him and was enthusiastic about connecting. It isn’t easy trying to catch up on 67 years spent apart.

Last February, Gertie suffered a stroke that left her vision impaired. She spends her days in a wheelchair in a long-term care facility just outside the Twin Cities area. A friend now reads Mark’s communications and describes pictures for her.

This summer, Mark came to Minnesota from Louisiana to meet Gertie — on her 93rd birthday. Tears flowed as Mark and Gertie greeted each other with hugs and kisses, and cameras clicked as they tried to capture the moment so long in the making.

Day of Honor and Recognition for Birth MothersThis event recognizes the sacrifices made by those who have put a child up for adoption. It also offers an opportunity for healing, sharing and for learning about resources available for birth mothers. Hosted by Our Lady of Grace, Catholic Charities and the Archdiocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Life.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8.

Where: Our Lady of Grace, 5071 Eden Ave., Edina.

Cost: $15 covers lunch and expenses. Scholarships available.

Registration: Email Melissa Miller at melissamiller@olgparish.org, or call (952) 929-3317 ext. 111.

For more information: Call Erin at (612) 298-9369, or Gretchen at (763) 424-1430.

In 1947, as a single woman, Gertie had placed Mark for adoption. And as instructed by a Catholic agency, she simply got on with her life. But she could not, as also instructed, forget the baby boy she lost that day.

A faithful Catholic all her life, Gertie prayed for Mark, finished her nurse’s training and spent her life serving others. She never married and had no other children.

Mark grew up in the Twin Cities and attended Catholic schools. He had a long career as an editor, photographer and writer for college publications. Gertie, as it turns out, was an avid photographer as well.

The day after this reunion, my husband and I were privileged to be with Mark and Gertie at their second meeting. Mark and his wife, Maria, sat beside Gertie, who clung to them. She told story after story about her life on the farm, as a nurse, about her family and about her time during World War II. She asked many questions about Mark’s life and adoptive family as well, and the only sorrow was that she could not see him or the pictures.

Gertie later told me, “I think I made a huge mistake all those years ago. Look at the wonderful son I would have had all these years.” I encouraged her to go forward knowing she did the best she could for Mark, and that he is the terrific guy he is today because of her selfless decision. I also promised to bring another birth mother to visit, so she’d know she isn’t alone in her loss, which I have done.

Addressing this pain is the goal of Birth Mothers’ Day — to begin to lift up those who chose life, yet have suffered deeply for their choice.

May God continue to bless Mark, Gertie and all those touched by adoption.

Traylor, a retired high school special education teacher, is an adoptee and adoptive parent. She attends St. Gerard Majella in Brooklyn Park.

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