“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in
Psalm 30:5 (KJV)
“I need to speak to you,” my mom told me. “I think you’re old enough to understand it now,” she continued quietly. I was thirteen.
“You are adopted, but we are family. I am your aunt. You and I are blood, but you and your father are not.” Of all the things she could have said, this was the one I least expected.
“Then who are my parents?” I wondered out loud.
“Your real mother’s name is Naomi, and she lives in Queens, New York. Your real father is my brother, your uncle Doyle.” Wow, I’d just thought that I was his favorite nephew. All my life he’d done special things for me. Now I knew that I wasn’t his nephew, I was his son.
“When you’re older, you need to find your real mother and get to know the other side of your family,” Mom said. I promised her I would. “Don’t tell your dad,” she admonished. “He doesn’t want you to know you’re adopted.” He didn’t want any confusion.
My dad was a no-nonsense guy, but I knew I could go to him for anything. Although they were very strict, both my parents always showed me a whole lot of love. They instilled values in me that made me who I am today. I adored them, and they adored me.
I lost Doyle in 2000 and my dad in 2004. As she aged, Mom began to suffer from dementia, so in a way I began to lose her, too.
When I was in my twenties, a half-sister told me that my real mother was dead. When I was in my thirties, an aunt confirmed it. I heard I had a half-brother, but every road I took to find him turned into a dead end.
My wife had a keen interest in ancestry, so when our daughter suggested I buy her a DNA kit for Christmas, I agreed, and I bought myself one as well. Last Thanksgiving, unbeknownst to me, my wife followed my DNA trail and found one of my aunts and one of my cousins.
“I found your family!” she announced excitedly. We gave my cousin a call.
“I’m glad to talk with you,” I told them. “It would have been so nice if I could have gotten to know my mother before she passed away.”
“Aunt Naomi’s not dead,” my cousin said. “She’s in Queens.”
I was astonished.
Within a week, I spoke with my birth mother for the first time. During our conversation, I learned that my brother lives in Palm Coast. We agreed to meet there April 7th. In the intervening months, the two of us exchanged letters, pictures and phone calls. I’d kept my promise to my mom, and I wanted her to know, but she had developed full dementia. How could she possibly understand?
“Did you see her?” Mom asked when I visited her one Sunday. “The lady’s looking for you. You’ll meet. You’ll see her.” No matter how many times I asked, I couldn’t find out who the lady was. Could Mom somehow know I’d found my real mother? Was the lady she was talking about Naomi?
When Mom developed pneumonia, she was put in hospice care. I stayed with her, talking to her through the night before she passed away March 26th. Her wake was April 5th, her funeral April 6th. On April 7th, as we’d planned months before, my wife and I drove to Palm Coast to meet my brother and Naomi.
I buried my mother one day, and I met my mother the next. One chapter closes, another opens through God’s orchestration alone. Rev. Dr. Oliver L. Phipps