This is a personal story of love and family. It’s my story.
I was born as the eldest of three girls to my parents Bill and Marie. Dad was British, Mum was Danish, and they met in Norway while they were both working there. My father then travelled to Canada with his work, and sent for my Mother to travel there to marry him. I was born there as was my next sister, and then we migrated to Australia, where another sister was born.
I had a happy childhood in that I was loved, and had two parents who wanted to provide for us, even though they were starting from scratch here. They bought a house, and we were all settling into our new homeland when tragedy struck – my Father died at age 39 from a cerebral haemorrhage. My mother was left alone in a foreign country, with no family support, three children aged 9mths – 9 yrs, and at that time my mother didn’t qualify for any Govt benefits as she wasn’t an Australian citizen!
Life was tough – we lived on food parcels and clothing vouchers from charity organisations for six months, until legislation was passed in Govt allowing foreign residents to claim benefits. Even though we had so little, my Mother surrounded us with love and good home cooking. She nurtured us and included us in both fun and work activities around the house whether it was gardening or doing the dishes. People would have said we were poor – but it truly was only in the financial sense. Mum taught us how to cook and sew and do repair jobs around the house. She also made magic happen – putting our food on the plate in the shape of funny faces, or hiding little elf figures in pot plants. For birthdays she’d make a treasure hunt, with clues for us to find our gift. The neighbourhood children also loved her because she loved and nurtured them too with hugs and stories. She was the best mother!
The years passed and I finished school and went on to become a teacher. I was recognising that within me was a yearning for something, but I didn’t know what ‘it’ was that I was missing. I kept thinking if I go to this place, or eat this food, or have this type of a relationship, that the missing feeling would disappear, but it didn’t. When I was younger I just assumed it was because I was missing my Dad, but it was more than that. I fell in love, married and went on to have 3 wonderful children, and although I was very happy with those parts of my life, I still felt this discontent, and yet couldn’t identify it exactly.
When I was 33, my mother called the 3 sisters together, to tell us an amazing story….. In 1952 in Denmark, my mother had given birth to a daughter, as an unmarried woman. In those days, if you weren’t married, the child was automatically given up for adoption. My mother never held her daughter, nor even saw her. Can you imagine that? The Social Workers at the time told her to go home and get on with her life, and to forget that she’d ever had a child! The only ‘proof’ my mother had that a baby even existed was the cot birth card, which she ‘stole’ from the hospital.
She never told anyone in her family, such was the ‘shame’ of being unmarried and pregnant. Friends didn’t know either as she’d moved away from home for work. When she met and married the man who became my father, she never told him either.
She was now telling us the story, as that baby had managed to find her, even though we now lived in Australia 16,000km away. She had been adopted by a couple and had grown up very much loved. Those parents had now died and so she started the search for Mum. So at 33, I now had an older sister, Helle. My mother and us 3 girls all corresponded with Helle, and eventually my Mother travelled to Denmark to meet her.
A few years later, I was able to also go. I remember clearly meeting my sister for the first time, and the l-o-n-g hug and many tears of joy. What I realised in that moment, was that I felt complete. It truly felt as if Helle reached out and placed a missing jigsaw piece back in my heart…. that was what had been missing all those years…. My SISTER was the missing piece!
I love my sister and we share such an incredibly close bond. We laugh together, we cry together and we hug together.
I wanted to share this incredible story with you not just because it’s incredible, but because of the ‘lessons’ to be learnt from it.
- Firstly – trust your gut instinct (I KNEW something was missing – and don’t ask me how, because I was born after she disappeared from my mothers arms). Gut instinct is a vital part of parenthood – of knowing your children and what’s best for them.
- Secondly, that families ties and connections are there for ever, even when separated by 16,000km.
- And thirdly, that love is the key to overcoming tough times in life. I love and am so proud of my mother – she continued to love deeply in spite of the terrible pain she must have felt.
Happy Parenting this week, and may you be grateful for the connections known,
and those felt in the heart!