Krista in Korea: A Letter to My Birth Mother

Korean and adoptedThis summer, Holt adoptee Krista Gause will travel on the Holt Heritage Tour to Korea. Before her departure, she writes an honest and heartfelt letter to her birth mother, sharing about her life and grieving the fact that it is too late for them to meet. 

Dear Mother,

My name is Krista, and I’m your daughter.

The adoption agency, Holt International, suggested that I write you a letter. I told them that I didn’t know what to say and they advised me to tell you about my life, explain my intentions, let you know that I’m okay and that I’m looking for you.

You last saw me on February 19, 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. You spent one day with me before you said goodbye. What you don’t know is that I was in foster care once you left and my foster mother, Mrs. Na, took good care of me. I was underweight and my crying was “vigorous.” But Mrs. Na and her family took such good care of me that after a few months I left their home and boarded a Korean Air flight to the United States. On June 8, 1988, four months after you said goodbye, I met my family. We met and fell in love at JFK Airport and every year we celebrate this day, my Airplane Day.

Today is my Airplane Day and I thought about you a lot. In fact, I’ve been thinking about you a lot every day for a few months now. I started thinking and wondering about you so much that I booked a trip to Korea just to meet you, even though you may not want to meet me. But I’m curious. And I guess that’s why I first started writing to you.

The adoption agency suggested that I write you a letter. And while I know I’m supposed to keep this brief, I just can’t. I have so many things to share with you. Did you ever have a friend who you only saw every now and then but you loved each other so much that time and distance didn’t matter? And that when you finally did see that friend you had a laundry list of things to share with her? That’s exactly how I feel right now.

Mom, I’m really happy. I graduated from college. I have a pretty fun career. I lived in New York City for close to ten years. I have a sister who is my best friend. I have two psychotic dogs. Mom, I’m married. He makes me smile and laugh every day. When I annoy him he says my name three times in a row. And when he knows I’m thinking about you he just holds my hand and lets me get lost in thought.

The adoption agency that suggested I write you a letter could only answer a few questions for me. For example, I know now that you and my father were 23 when I was born. I know now that you were students at the same university. I know now, after 28 years of wondering, that I was born in the morning. That I was born as K88-0576, and that my social worker assigned me the name Kim Hee Yung, and that I liked to drink barley tea as a baby and I “smiled spontaneously” in my sleep.

Mom, if you ever think of me, you should know that I forgive you. Maybe you’re not looking for forgiveness, but still…I forgive you.

The adoption agency suggested that I write you a letter when I officially started my search for you back in 2011. It wasn’t until 2013 though that I was finally emotionally ready to send in my paperwork to begin the process. They told me that early communication between birth parent and adoptee can be fairly simple, one or two topics per letter, just to establish a “feel” for the other person. Just like any friendship begins, it’s all about comfort and getting to know each other.

So I wrote you a letter that was a few paragraphs long. It felt cold and very “business professional” because at that point I didn’t know what I wanted out of this. What I wanted from you. What I wanted for us.

So I took that letter and threw it out. And now here I am writing to you as me. Free of guidelines, free of structure (let’s call this a stream of consciousness), free of concern for your emotions or any consideration for mine. Because this letter really isn’t for you at all. It’s just for me.

Because you died on January 17, 1996. A day and one month before my 8th birthday. I’m twenty years too late. And I’m mad. I’m mad that I can’t introduce you to my mom. She’s beautiful. She’s crazy. She made sure I grew up surrounded by other Korean adoptees so I never felt alone or ostracized as a minority. She enrolled me in Korean Culture Camp and for ten years she drove me an hour in the morning to camp and an hour home at night. She even volunteered at the camp and she was the most popular volunteer because she could make amazing mandu. And you know what? She thinks I’m amazing and reminds me every day how much I mean to her. And my dad. I’m mad that you’ll never be able to meet my dad. He’s the most selfless human being in the world. He was a cop so he was always a cool dad to me. He served in Vietnam so he understands and taught me the value of life. I’m so upset that you will never know that he used to call me Angel as a little kid, even though I was the worst, spoiled, bratty, most tantrum-loving toddler in the entire universe.

I’m mad that I’ll never be able to hold your hand and tell you I’m okay. I’m sad that I’ll never be able to cry on your shoulder and tell you that my life is incredible. I’m really ticked off that I will probably never know your name, how you lived and how you died. I’m so heartbroken that our only day together is a memory that I will never remember.

Mom, I’m so sorry that within a few years I will have outlived you. That I’ll grow old and you will forever be my 23-year-old mother who died before she was 35. But while I may never know your name, how you lived and how you died, I will fill this void of unanswered questions with what I do know.

My name is Krista, and I’m your daughter. My life is beautiful. I’m surrounded by family that I love and adore. Surrounded by friends who are crazy and weird but also honest and true and ridiculously funny. I plan on dying an old wrinkled woman. I’m going to die holding my husband’s hand and laughing about that time I booked a trip to Korea to meet you but you weren’t even there. When I die I will be thinking of you, Mom. I’ll be thinking about how I was so lucky to have two mothers, two fathers and two lives. Because of you, I had two.

Mom, my adoption agency suggested that I write you a letter. Now you know my name is Krista, and I’m so very proud to be your daughter.

Krista Gause | Holt Adoptee

This was originally posted on Krista’s blog, Adopted and Korean

See Krista’s other posts on the Holt blog about her trip to Korea: Looking for My Mother and What’s in a Name?

5 Replies to “Krista in Korea: A Letter to My Birth Mother”

  1. I am so sorry you did not have the opportunity to meet your birth mother. In 1970 I was adopted and will be traveling to Korea in October with my daughter. Even though I know nothing about my birth mother, being in the country I came from will be so rewarding. Your experience inspires me, thank you so much.

  2. I’m an adoptive Dad. My son was born in Seoul on Nov 13 1989. My daughter was born in Jia Jiang, China on Aug 2 1995. I think about the birth parents of both my children. I have a lot of information on my sons birth parents. I have NONE on my daughter. My son has never voiced any desire to even discuss the subject…..nor has my daughter. Seems the one effected most is the one no one ever expects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *