Over the years, I went back and forth on the decision to search for my birth parents. I considered many different scenarios. What if they didn’t want to be found? What if I found them and they felt some attachment to me that I didn’t feel for them? I never understood the reunions on television. Why were those strangers hugging and crying? If they didn’t know each other, could they really feel like family? I guess I waited too long to make my decision. In April of 2016 I got a devastating surprise.
As I awaited my Ancestry DNA results, I tried to mentally prepare for the worst. I was excited to find that I had some good matches. While trying to figure out how to navigate the DNA, I was offered the help of a search angel. The next few days were emotionally overwhelming. My results had come in a little earlier than I expected, so day one of my search was also moving day. My angel charged full speed ahead, occasionally sending me a name to search for or a record to find. While I did help some, I felt terrible that I was basically absent from my own search. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing though. The whole thing made my head spin. By that evening, she had narrowed my tree to my birth parents. We found some email addresses and Facebook pages for different members of the family. We discussed my options for making contact. I decided to send out a few emails and Facebook messages. I waited impatiently for a couple of days. Not knowing if the correspondence would be received, we started formulating a backup plan.
My angel offered to act as an intermediary, so we decided she would make a phone call to my paternal grandmother. I went about my day shuffling boxes around, unpacking, and tending to sick kids. I tried not to hold my breath. I didn’t know what time the call would be made or if anyone wound answer on the first attempt. A while later I got a very short message saying that she had spoken with her and for me to let her know when I had some time to talk. There was something about her tone that just seemed off. I told her I was ready.
I had been so close. I was confused by how upset I was and angry with myself for waiting so long.
I waited several minutes that felt like an eternity for another message to come through. All the while a knot grew in the pit of my stomach. Instead of launching a barrage of questions at her, I turned to Google. I scrolled up through our messages to confirm my birth father’s name before typing it into the search bar. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but it only took a second to find. The instant I saw the obituary I knew it was his. My breath caught in my throat. I laid my head in my hands and sobbed uncontrollably. My heart was broken for a man I had never known. I was confused and hurt and angry. He died on March 28, 2016. I had been so close. I was confused by how upset I was and angry with myself for waiting so long. How could I have missed him by just a few days? What had I done with my life that was so important that I put this off? To make matters worse, I felt horrible for showing up when I did and imposing on such a private and emotional time for my family.
In the days that followed, I talked with other relatives including three sisters. I learned that he was a lot like me. He was laid back and loved the beach. He took life with a grain of salt. A couple of months later, I was invited to south Florida to attend his memorial service. He had chosen to be laid to rest by Eternal Reefs. I spent the three-day process bonding with my new family. We mixed his ashes into a personalized reef ball they placed in the Gulf. Even this type of burial touched my soul. It was as if he knew me better than anyone. Being a part of that meant more than words can express. Through their pain and sorrow, they reached out and accepted my family as part of theirs.
I never got to meet my birth father, but I miss him so much. I’ll never get to hear his laugh or watch him smile. All I have of his is a box of things. Small possessions that may not have meant much to him, but mean the world to me. After a year of reflection, I feel like maybe it was supposed to be this way. Maybe I was supposed to find my sisters at the exact time they needed another set of arms around them. Maybe somehow, he sent them to me. Now I understand the reunions, though. I finally get it. Those people aren’t strangers at all. They are family. And finding your family feels like coming home.