The Ties That Bind

Mother’s Day Story #2. (Originally published in 2005.)


“Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.” – Mary Baker Eddy

In 1953 my dad was on a mountaineering expedition on K2, the second highest mountain in the world, and considered by many climbers the hardest in the world to climb. A member of his climbing team fell, ropes got tangled, and five men found themselves careening down a steep and icy slope, out of control, with no hope of being able to stop themselves.

Fortunately for them, Pete Schoening was a member of their team. Pete kept the five falling men from certain doom with a belay that has come to be known as “The Belay” in the annals of mountain-climbing history. Because of Pete’s courage, quick-thinking, and strength, my dad and his comrades survived that fall and made it back to civilization where they took up their lives and proceeded to reproduce.

I’ve often thought of the children born to these men at least nine months after this expedition as the “Children of the Belay” and, although I’ve never met all the other spawn of these adventurers, I feel a certain connection to them.

One of the Children of the Belay is Pete’s daughter, Kim. Besides the fact that our dads were both on the expedition to K-2, Kim and I have many things in common. We both were raised in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest by our dads, raised in Christian Science by our moms, and married men from the east coast. When Kim married she moved to upstate New York with her husband, Rich. When my husband’s parents retired they moved to a place about forty miles away from Kim and Rich, and so our trips to the east coast have often included visits with them.

Another thing Scott and I had in common with Rich and Kim was the desire to have children.

You know how when something good happens to you, you want it to happen to your friends, too? When Scott and I became parents for the first time with the birth of our eldest son, it felt like a miracle. I so wanted my friends, Kim and Rich, to experience that miracle, too. So every morning when I woke up I would talk with God about Kim and Rich, and how it seemed such a pure and right and natural thing for them to have a child. I knew they would be great parents.

Two months after my son was born a former Sunday School student of mine asked to speak with me after church. Coincidentally, my former pupil was named Kim. Although no one would have been able to guess by looking at her, Kim was seven months pregnant. With tears in her eyes she told me that she loved the baby she was carrying, but she’d come to feel that the baby didn’t belong to her. She asked me to pray with her to know that the baby would be brought to his rightful home.

So – picture this if you will – every morning I woke up and talked with God about Kim Schoening and her husband and what great parents they’d be, and in the next breath I was praying for Sunday School Kim’s baby to be brought to his right home.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took a week for me to see the obvious.

Sunday School Kim went through an hour of labor and after two pushes (no, I’m not kidding) gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. She told me it was as if she’d never been touched by the pregnancy or the birth. Because the baby was born early, Kim agreed to nurse him for a few weeks. But even as she nursed him, she knew he didn’t belong to her. When it came time to put him in the arms of Kim Schoening she was able to do so with nothing but joy.

Kim Schoening’s family gave a baby shower for the new baby. When I visited them later I asked Rich to show me the gifts they’d received at the shower. Rich held up a little shirt in awe and said, “We got this.” Then he carefully laid it down and picked up a little sweater, “And this,” he said, handing me the sweater. He continued, reverently showing me each pint-sized t-shirt and each pair of booties and overalls. There was something very touching about seeing this grown, bearded man tenderly handling each of his son’s gifts.

It’s been almost thirteen years now since the adoption. Today Sunday School Kim is happily married with two healthy young sons of her own. Kim Schoening and Rich were blest with the birth of a second son two years after they adopted their eldest. And Scott and I were blest with our second son not long after they had theirs.

Pete Schoening passed away last year. I miss his energy, and his positive approach to life. And I will always be grateful to him for keeping my dad alive on K2. I once pointed out to Pete that if he hadn’t saved my dad’s life on K2 he wouldn’t have been blest with his grandson. The idea made him smile. Pete’s wife says, “These are the ties that bind.” I like that thought – that we’re all bound together with love. And how awesome that the good Kim’s father did for my father came back to him thirty-eight years later in the form of a grandson. You just never know how the good you do today will affect your future, do you?

-Karen Molenaar Terrell, from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist

(Among the people in this photo of the “Children of the Belay” are Scott and me and our sons, and Rich and Kim and their sons.)

The Children of the Belay

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