It all began less that two weeks ago. Really, it was a Friday like all the other Fridays in the fall. Prying my eleven year olds out of bed. Hugging Nick and whispering a silent prayer for his safety in his final football game of the season. Answering a text from Hannah from the night before. Attempting to get more than a grunt out of Zak as he shuffled through the kitchen in a zombie like haze. It was just a typical Friday morning, that is, until I looked at a message on my computer.
“Dear Julianne, I have just received results (from 23andme) and you appear to be a 2nd or 3rd cousin. I’d love to connect via email if you would like to do so. I was adopted at birth, 45 years ago.”
Hold the phone. Hold the hugs. Hold the wake up call up the stairs. Hold the zombie shuffle. I read and re-read the message just to confirm that I understood what I thought I had read. And then my heart swelled, because two words pulsated forward out of the many. Cousin and adopted.
This is my story. My words. As an adoptive mom. As cousin of an adoptee who had been lost from my family but is now found.
As fast as I could shoo my sweet cloud of young men out the door I immediately sat down to respond to the message. Back and forth we wrote, on this now not so typical Friday morning and as the morning progressed it was very very clear there was something amazing developing, something that confirmed that even though adoption separated us, our nature was so very much the same. We both have five children. We both have children adopted from China and Korea. We both have adopted children with special needs. We both are strong advocates for finding a family for every child. We both write…to raise awareness. However, I will gladly step aside here and give her a very humble, wide sweeping bow for ALL and EVERYTHING she has done throughout the years for the children. She is a hero to many many many families.
Later that morning she sent a picture of herself at her high school graduation. And when I opened that file and the picture appeared…I saw an 18 year old me. I. Saw. Me. The familiarity of our hearts had been established that morning but the familiarity of her face? It chilled me. We weren’t a carbon copy of each other by any means, cousins aren’t. I had blue eyes. She had brown. But there was something about her…something so very Irish.
I called my mom and together we started pecking through the branches of the family tree. We came up with hunches and possibilities. My brother became involved and within a weeks time we had information I passed on to her of potential very Irish birth family links. How could I not? I am the mom of three adoptees who might someday want to fill in some very big blanks if possible and I would pray no one would purposely get in the way of their chance to tell their story.
And as it turns out, my cousin and I are more closely related than we thought.
What my cousin does with the information I gave her is her story to tell. The next chapter of her life should she choose to write it. For me, to be able to gift her with even just her heritage and the name of the isolated cross roads in Ireland where our people lived before they sailed to Ellis Island less than 100 years ago? That is a gift that is priceless.
It is the best gift I have ever given anyone.
When I was in Ireland a few years ago I visited an art studio, The Wild Goose Studio. It was filled with beautiful blends of modern and ancient Celtic art. Out of all the pieces of art my eyes connected with one, the Celtic Cross of Journey and Meetings. I bought it and brought it home to display by my dining room table because it was symbolic of my family, created through adoption. Through its simplicity of Celtic knots and the Tree of Life it represents Emerson’s Law of Spiritual Gravitation, that people destined to meet will do so by chance, at precisely the right moment in time.
For my cousin and I that right moment in time happened. On that not quite so typical Friday morning less than two weeks ago.