It is never too late ... to redeem the future. This is one of my personal tenets. I love when I have the chance to witness a redeeming moment. Let me share my recent experience ~
This photograph of my sister and I from the mid-1950s pretty much illustrates my childhood. I grew up in a home filled with love and joy. Life was good growing up in southern California!
Part of the story of my childhood includes how our family came to be. I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't know that my sister, Kathy, was adopted. It simply is part of our loving story ~ that God gave my parents a precious daughter when it appeared they would never have a child.
And I never tired of hearing our mother tell the story. How our father's cousin, Stewart Hiatt, was a doctor in California's central valley. How "Uncle Stewart" ~ as we called him ~ telephoned my parents in the spring of 1950 to see if they wanted to adopt the baby of one of his patients. How much joy they felt as they brought Kathy home from a Modesto hospital at the age of three days old.
Then ~ wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles ~ almost two years after adopting Kathy, my parents discovered they were expecting me! Bill and Adele Goodrell, who thought they would never have children, were soon to have two daughters to call their own. And, as they say, the rest is history!
Then last fall Kathy came for a weekend visit to our home. I showed her the family trees I created on Ancestry.com. If you have worked on this website or watched NBC's Who Do You Think You Are?, you know that Ancestry is a vast database of genealogical information. When the information you enter into your family tree matches something or someone in that database, a small, green, spinning leaf appears next to that name on your tree to tell you that there is information in the database about this individual.
As Kathy and I talked together there in my home office, she expressed her longing to find her birth mother. I decided to start another tree ~ one that contained what little bit of information we knew about her birth family from the certificate from the hospital, past conversations with Mom and non-identifying information which Kathy had received from the state. Then we sat there talking and waiting and watching the computer screen for a spinning leaf to pop up. Quite a while passed before we accepted the fact that there was not a match for her birth mother's name. For the next three months, each time I logged into my account on Ancestry, there was nothing new to help me find Kathy's birth family. That is until about three weeks ago.
After months of trying various spellings of the only names we knew, and researching leads that led nowhere, I decided to try a different search; to compare the names I knew with names that were part of other public trees stored on the website. Within a couple of minutes, I noticed a match. One particular tree contained a name that was on Kathy's unamended* birth certificate, although a subsequent marriage had changed the surname.
A public tree on Ancestry is exactly that ~ public, for any and all to see. Additionally, through the website, it is possible to message anonymously the creator of the public tree with questions regarding individuals or dates which are listed. I was quite nervous as I typed a well-thought-out question into the message box of someone I had never met. I even changed my User name to something less obvious and more obscure so if I was about to disturb a hornet's nest, I could not be easily identified. I thought to myself, What's the worst that could happen?
Over the next 48 hours, the owner of this tree and I exchanged messages; each message I sent asking more questions that might provide proof that I had found the woman who gave birth to my sister sixty years ago. It was late on Sunday night when I received a message giving me the confirmation that I needed. I had indeed found Kathy's birth family. I stayed up till almost 3 a.m., just connecting the dots between all the facts that I now knew.
The following morning I shared all my findings with my husband to check the accuracy of my information before calling my sister with the news. I was blessed to make the initial telephone call to the birth sister who was four years old when Kathy was born. What an experience to know that, although her birth mother is no longer living, Kathy's birth family now includes five siblings.
The past three weeks have been an adventure as I dig through boxes of our family photos and compare pictures of Kathy with pictures of her birth mother and siblings. The resemblance is truly remarkable! There is so much to share from my perspective of watching this precious, long overdue reunion. I find great joy in the reality that the very process of redeeming the future is taking place before my very eyes.
Note: Since my wonderful experience with Kathy, I have had the opportunity to help two of our friends, also adoptees, begin the work of redeeming the future.
*Amended Birth Certificate: A term used to refer to the new birth certificate that is issued for an adopted child after an adoption becomes final, which shows the new name of the adopted child and the adoptive parents as the parents of the child, as though they are the biological parents. This new birth certificate is placed in the public records in place of the child's original birth certificate. The original birth certificate is then stored in a separate secure location that is not accessible to the public, and may be viewed only by court order. (From http://glossary.adoption.com)
***UPDATE: Kathy's sister, Connie, flew out from Texas this past week to meet all of the family. We had a wonderful time welcoming her into the clan, and looking at pictures she brought along. It was absolutely amazing to see the family resemblance even into the third generation!
The photo shows three generations of Redfern~Goodrell~Briggs~Robinson families, including the Hardwick~Doolittle~Warner families!
Top row: Tony, niece Kelly and her son, Tyler
Middle row: the sisters ~ Kathy, Connie and Bonnie
Front row: our daughter, Amy, and her daughter, Kaitlyn; Niece Kara, and her daughters, Cameron and Brooklyn