What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post was submitted by Brittaney.

Photo by: Alvaro Serrano 
Dear Beverly: an open letter of closure to my birth mother

I have been searching for you for the last fifteen years. I’m not sure why, I guess I just needed some closure. I hoped you would be able to answer some questions for me and maybe we could even end things on a good note.

Fifteen long years I searched. I googled a million different versions of your name, called court houses, even entered your name into prison inmate search boxes. (Worst case scenario right?) I stopped looking for you after I received more clarity than I ever wanted to get-from a court report regarding my brothers and my care.

I read the report. And I immediately wished I hadn’t. I saw that you allowed your husband and son to touch us inappropriately even after the judge required you to keep us away from them because of prior instances. You promised to go to counseling so you could learn to be a better mom and out of all the sessions you were to attend you cancelled six and bailed on eight more. On your very last day you contacted that same counselor and “reported having consumed twenty-six beers”. You failed to show up at our supervised visitations while we sat lonely and afraid in the foster care system.

That report went on to talk about how, even before we were taken away, you allowed us to live infested with lice as our home was also infested with fleas and cockroaches. My sweet baby brother (maybe almost two at the time?) had gotten ahold of driveway salt and vomited uncontrollably while you only brushed his mouth off and hoped he would be ok. Probably because you were afraid to report it as you were already on thin ice with the courts.

I read that stupid report over and over again. I cried and screamed and felt my heart break into millions of pieces, just like it did the day that white van came and snatched me out of your arms. I hated you.

One of the quotes I found the most haunting from the report was when they described your state of being as “having poor social skills, insecurities, and being easily agitated.” Did you know that I had the worst time making friends in school because I wasn’t sure how to talk to kids my age? Or that I used to walk around looking at my feet because I was terrified someone might actually see me? When I used the bathroom I refused to look in the mirror because in my six year old mind I was the ugliest girl in the world. I bet you didn’t know that my husband couldn’t touch me in an intimate way for the first TWO years of our marriage. Oh Beverly. You passed so much more down to me than just your red hair.

I stopped searching for you because I realized you didn’t want to be found. You told us you would come back, but the words spoken that day in court tell a whole different story.

So I promised myself I would beat the odds of foster children. I would grow and learn and survive. I wouldn’t be addicted to drugs or alcohol. I would guard my heart and my body and find a man who truly respected me. I would work through my brokenness and see my own self worth. I promised myself that I would do all of these things and then I would find you and show you who I had grown to be. I wanted you to see that I wasn’t like you.

I finally found you. Almost twenty years after you let us go. I couldn’t wait to gather up my best photos and send them your way. I called the number I found and it happened to be your sister. You know, the one I was named after. She thought I was playing a cruel joke because you died two weeks ago.

I didn’t know I could grieve for someone I never really knew. My heart aches all over and I can’t find the words to describe this unfamiliar pain. I will never get that closure I so desperately wanted and needed. I missed that deadline by a mere fourteen days. My husband says its better this way. He doesn’t think I would have been able to handle who you really were. I know that you spent the last twenty years in and out of prison for drug possession. I saw your photo. I know that you were a 54 year old trapped in a 75 year old woman’s body. You never got better and I am sad for that. I only wish you could have known that I did.

And one more very important thing you need to know.

I forgive you.