39 Years of Silence
Rita has truly lived an extraordinary life. Born not so long ago, yet into an often more cruel era, she was forced, through circumstance and society’s moral pressures, aged 19, to give her baby up for adoption. She would never meet her daughter again.
In the years that followed, Rita had a blessed career, and one she adored: 10 years as head of W magazine for Western US and Canada; 14 years running her own home accessories company; and latterly, channelling her creativity as an interior designer. Yet despite the highs, part of her was missing. She could never be truly happy until she found the baby she had lost.
She went back to the hospital where she gave birth, but no records were found. The state laws of Florida were closed (and, unbelievably, remain so today) and all efforts she made ended in frustration and grief. She hired private detectives. She wrote to, then Governor, Jeb Bush of Florida asking him for help. He of course wrote back to explain that could not intervene in judicial matters and legal adoptions in the State.
But Rita didn’t give up, even as each new lead proved hopeless.
Rita didn’t give up even when her once-stable world started to crumble around her. Catastrophe followed catastrophe: the local economy of Orange County tanked, she lost her business, then her best friend, then her beloved dog. But the worst, most cruel twist was yet to come.
Thirty-nine years after giving birth to her, she managed at last to find her daughter: Jennifer. It was the miracle she had prayed for.
“When I finally heard her voice for the first time on the other end of the telephone line, she sounded exactly like me!” Rita recalls with joy. And that wonderful day started an intimate 3-year relationship, mostly by long distance telephone calls, long love letters, emails and text messages. They sent each other beautiful gifts, handmade cards, and boxes filled with gorgeous goodies and poems, drawings and photographs. “And she looked exactly like me!”
Jennifer and Rita shared so much in common. But they never met.
They did arrange to do so… three times; three wonderful, exciting, hope-filled times in three years. But each time Jennifer would cancel – always at the 11th hour. Rita would never discover why. The last meeting they had planned was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in New York City, in the first pew, at mid-day. Rita sat. She waited. She prayed. Her daughter’s message came too late.
And then, one day, terrible news.
Rita has only spoken to Jennifer’s adoptive father twice; once when she found her, and the second and last time after Jennifer ended her life. “He called me but did not want to go into any detail…only that her sister had found her dead in the morning on her bed. She had overdosed on pills. Then he simply hung up the phone.“
Rita was left stunned. In complete silence once again.
For a while she knew only despair and devastation.
Luckily, Rita is a woman of firm religious faith and deep spirituality. Slowly, through the ending of her world as she knew it, after a long period she describes as her “chrysalis state’ – facing silence and grief – she surrendered and just “let go of trying to hold on” to what she had once known. And in doing so, “a new world opened up”, full of insights and epiphanies. “Instead of running away from my grief and pain, I got very close to it. I allowed whatever needed to come up, out and through me to be part of my experience; an experience that eventually led to my transformation. It was a period I call my ‘Divine Dissolve’: as everything around me dissolved, I felt Divinely Guided.”
Rita is, as her friend describes, a ‘monarch butterfly’, and she learned to fly again. Choosing, through those early dark days, to write the story of her “39 years of silence” and her three-year relationship with her daughter. Rita believes with deep conviction that her book will help to change adoption laws for ‘closed States’ (such as Florida), and to help heal millions of silenced Birthmothers and Adopted Children.” For, as Rita says, “Every child has the right to know who their real parents are, their health history, and why they do certain things in the way they do.”
Rita is one unstoppable gal. Her courage, resilience, tenacity and imagination bowl me over. She proves just how strong and capable we all can be – even when faced with the most terrible misfortune.
Rita is one of our Ambassadors, she is part of our tribe and it was my privilege to meet her and to hear her story. I am honoured that she allows me to share it here. Maybe, sometimes, when we are taking the first hesitant steps into the rest of our new lives, one of the best things we can do is to reach out to others, as Rita has.