A mother's immeasurable love for a child she couldn't save

(CBS News) DALLAS - One hundred years ago this Friday, the House passed a resolution asking all federal officials to wear a white carnation for a day to honor America's mothers. That led to a new national holiday -- Mother's Day. Here is a testament to a mother's love in Steve Hartman's "On the Road."

Beyond the biological mandate, there's something about mothering that defies science and borders on the divine -- something especially palpable in this mom from Keller, Texas, named Brenda Gorman.

Brenda Gorman adopted Zia, an orphan girl from the Congo. Zia was diagnosed with a rare and grave heart condition.
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Brenda and her husband Gary already had one adopted child, Eliana, when they decided to add to the nest. Through an international adoption agency, they got matched with a 4-year-old orphan girl from the Congo named Zia. Everything was all set until a few months ago, when Zia was diagnosed with a rare, and very grave, heart condition. That news from the agency came with a question.

"'Do you still want her?'" recalled Brenda. "And I was silent for the longest time and I felt like I was going to throw up. I said, 'Are you kidding me? She's our baby. She's our baby.' She was our baby the moment we looked at her."

Last month, they arrived in the States and went straight to Children's Medical Center in Dallas where doctors got their first look inside the little girl.

Before she died, Zia for the first time had a mom in Brenda Gorman, who stayed by her side every day and every night.
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Brenda is looking on a computer tablet that shows an image of Zia's heart. Neither of those big bumps at the bottom are supposed to be there.

"Yeah, they said they'd never seen it before," said Brenda.

The next few weeks were full of pokes and prods and all kinds of procedures. Most kids would have been traumatized, but Zia was happy as could be.

"She never wanted anything," said Brenda. "She had every need met at the moment she needed it."

And most importantly, for the first time in her life, Zia had a mom, who stayed by her side every day and every night for the rest of her life.

Brenda Gorman said she is thankful for the 33 days she got to spend with Zia.
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Zia died last weekend.

While one can see what's in it for Zia, what was in it for Brenda? "I don't have an answer other than she was my daughter, and I wanted to love her for as long as I had her," said Brenda.

At a memorial Thursday, friends and family said goodbye to a girl most never had a chance to meet. And as painful as it was for Brenda, she said she has no regrets.

"I'm thankful for 33 days," she said, crying. "And given a choice between no time or 33 days, I'll take the 33 days every time. Rip my heart out every time."

So much of mothering truly is inexplicable. In fact, Brenda said she didn't do anything any mom wouldn't have done for their child. And on Sunday we will celebrate the simple fact that she's right.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.