Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Reunion to Remember

Sometimes, you just have to jump off a cliff...and sometimes u just have to hold the faith to let something wonderful go and hope when its time, it'll come back to you.

I was born on July 1st, 1981 in Calgary at the Foothills hospital. My birth mother was 19-years old when she had me and made the hard decision to give up for adoption.

My adoptive mother received a call on Tuesday, which she has always referred to as 'Happy Tuesday.' My mom and dad were ecstatic to receive the news that their long awaited baby girl had arrived, and couldn't wait to hold their daughter for the first time.

I have always known that I was adopted from a very young age. My mom told me, "Honey, you weren't born in my tummy, you were born in my heart." I understood her loving message perfectly. At about 13, she gave me a single paper with many details about my birth parents- their most intrinsic personality traits, hobbies, national origin and some physical stats (height, weight, eye and hair colour). I can't tell you how many times I studied that one page over and over again. Trying to get a feel for my roots. An 8 by 11 sheet of paper was the only concrete link I had between me and my biological mother and father.

I've always been curious about my birth parents, and knew at some point I would begin my search to look for them. Over the years I prepared myself for disappointment- not ever finding them, finding them but being rejected, finding them and having NOTHING in common with them, or finding out that they were struck with an illness or worse- dead. I prepared myself for the worse, but prayed that if I did find them, or they found me, our reunion would be a heartwarming and deeply moving experience. I dreamed of the best.

I remember as a small child I could barely even talk about the fact that I was adopted, not because of any kind of embarrassment about it, but because it ran so deep, right to my very core. When I talked about it I would sometimes be overcome with emotion, emotion that I didn't know how explain or where it even came from.

I've always been so close to my mom and dad. They gave me a great sense of self and endless love. The gratitude and adornment I feel for my mom and dad cannot be measured. Was my life a great big fairytale? Of course not, but there was never a shortage of love. My parents got divorced when I was only 2-years old. So I don't ever remember them together. My brother and I lived with my mom, but often spent time with my dad out on his ranch or in the countryside while he conducted his business buying and selling cattle. Their relationship was far from friendly at times, but when it mattered they did whatever it took to make sure us kids were taken care of.

I knew I wanted to begin my search when I had my husband their to support me, and be there for whatever unfolded. I also knew I had to be in a place of emotional stability and strength. Timing was everything. Just over a month ago, I mustered up the guts to enter my information to the Alberta Adoption Agency. Just a few years ago, they changed some laws regarding an individual's original birth documents, allowing open access to this information. Also, if I submitted information, and one or both of my parents submitted their information, we would be matched. They said this entire process would only take about 2-weeks before I was contacted.

Over a month had passed after submitting my information, and I had heard nothing back. I was a little disappointed, but intuitively believed something was in the works with all these dreams I was having about my birth parents. There was also a lot going on for me. I was dealing with a pregnancy that didn't seem quite right.

Last Wed. I was admitted into the hospital after they discovered that my pregnancy was ectopic. My HCG hormones were not rising as they should have, so they sent me to a specialist who was pretty positive that if I didn't do something right away, by Monday they may have to surgically remove one of my fallopian tubes and ovaries, or worse- my tube may burst which causes internal bleeding and possibly death. I was lucky enough that they were able to give me a medication through intravenous since the cells were still so small, instead of a much more invasive surgery. I was admitted on Wed. at 5pm and left the hospital just before midnight, a bit shaken and shocked, but relieved that everything would be ok. The next morning, I left for a planned trip to Jasper with my dad (talk about timing), the perfect place to heal and get some much needed rest.

We will try again in the fall. I have peace letting that pregnancy go- sometimes there needs to be an unfortunate death to make room for new life...and well, that is exactly and ironically what happened.

We spent the weekend hiking, playing in the creek behind Bev's house, and visiting over exquisite food, like Bev's ginger lemon Belgian chocolate- aka 'healing food'. Then on Tuesday evening, Brydon called from home with news that something came in the mail...something from the Alberta Adoption Agency. Immediately, the hair on my arms and the back of my neck sprung up. A hot and cold whoosh of energy overtook my body.

"Do you want me to open it?" He asked gently. "Yes, open it," I gasped. "Can you see any names?" I could feel him scouring the pages of what were my original adoption papers. Finally. "I've got a name, your mother's name- are you ready?" He asked. "Yes, tell me!" I squealed, taking a deep breath, grounding myself.

"Sandra Lynn." when he said her name, years upon years of wondering unravelled into my lap. The immediate answer felt like a shock after not knowing for so long. I breathed it into me. Finally, I know her name. I know my mother's name. I can't believe I finally know her name. 'Sandra Lynn, Sandra Lynn'...Oddly close to Sunny Lane.

Next came my biological father's name...Robert Heister. I'm a Heister? Okey dokey! I also found out the time I was born- 5:35am, that I came 2-weeks early, and that my grandfather on Robert's side was a professional photographer and commercial artist- go figure.

After I got off the phone with Brydon, I went straight to the computer and typed in their names to Google. First, a Rob Heister came up, directing me to his Facebook page. I clicked on the link and was now staring at middle-aged man with a gentle smile and soft blue eyes kneeling by his tent, with a camping light strapped onto his forehead. Could this be him, I asked myself? Who knows? Looks like he's about the right age-50...hmmmm. So I sent him a message...

Next I found Sandra- now going by Sandi. I didn't send her a message that evening- I was too terrified of rejection. I also wasn't positive it was even her, but I gazed at her picture until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, I mustered up the courage and sent her a letter somewhat similar to the one I sent Rob. What a letter to send and even more so, what a letter to receive, whether I was right or terribly wrong. Looking at this first picture of her still gives me goosebumps. Here is the letter I sent her:

Hi Sandi,

I'm not sure where to begin, so here goes nothing. I was born July 1st, 1981 at Foothills Hospital in Calgary to a Sandra Palmer and Rob Heister.

Its sounds crazy, but your profile picture is like looking in the mirror at myself. Ha, ha, right. What an email to get on a Tuesday morning. Maybe I'm way off here, and I can't imagine getting a letter like this if I'm terribly wrong, and if so, I apologize for the confusion.

I just entered my name in the Alberta Adoption Agency over a month ago, searching for any info on my birth parents- a part of me that's always been missing. I've just received the documents in the mail and I'm overcome with excitement and a heap of fears, of course. You share the same maiden name, home and age as my birth mother, so I thought I'd give it a try.

If I am right, my intentions are to first to THANK YOU for giving me my life, something I've wanted to say to you since I was a little girl. Second, to get an idea of where I've come from.

I have no idea if your family knows about me, or if you are interested in any kind of contact, or if you've been looking for me... I've been curious about you my whole life- my mother explained to me at a very young age- "You weren't born in my tummy honey, you were born in my heart."

I know a few things about you (the info you left me- thank you for that) like you love reading and writing poetry (so do I), enjoy swimming and canoeing, and were in university at the time of your pregnancy, and that I came 2 weeks early.

I can't imagine what you went through to give me up. Your strength has always inspired me. Again, my apologies if you are not the Sandi I'm looking for. I don't want to write a novella to the wrong person!

If you are the Sandra Palmer I am searching for, I am thrilled you are well and just as beautiful as I imagined.

Looking forward to hearing from you either way.

Thanks so much,

Lane Edwards

First Rob responded, and it turned out that I DID have the right Rob Heister- go figure, but he didn't even know I existed. Rob and Sandi were members of the Calgary Canoe and Kayak club and had a summer romance. Rob didn't even know that Sandi was pregnant, so I came as a enormous shock to say the least. Sandi went through her entire pregnancy with no one knowing. Regardless, he took it with amazing grace and getting to know him has been better than I ever could have imagined. He's gentle natured, a deep thinker and emotionally attuned to himself and the world around him. He has an unending passion for the outdoors, and he's an incredible athlete still at 50-years old. He also has 2 kids- so I was thrilled to learn that I have a half brother and sister- Mattea and Kaja.

Only an hour after I sent Sandi my letter, she responded. I just glanced at it before fully reading it and began to ball my eyes out. It began with, "Dearest Lane."

Dearest Lane,

My heart is pounding and my hands are shaking –not from anxiety but from an overwhelming sense of joy as you are indeed the beautiful little baby girl I gave birth to. I have thought of you so often over the past 29 years and have always prayed that I made the right decision to give you up for adoption. Your mother’s explanation that you were “born in her heart” eases my mind as that is how a loving mommy would explain adoption to her little one.

I am sure that you must have countless questions to ask and so do I! Briefly - I am married and have two other daughters (17 and 13). My husband has always known about you and will be thrilled to hear that you have contacted me. My parents are both alive and living in Calgary and I have two older sisters.

Lane, I don’t know what relationship you wish to have with me and I will honour whatever decision you make – my heart hopes that it will be more than information sharing.


After reading this letter, I was an ocean of tears. I was in shock, but also feeling complete elation. I found her, I really found her! The feeling of her loving acceptance and excitement was the biggest relief of my life. I danced around the room like a crazy woman and twirled Morgan around in my arms. And two sisters? What an awesome surprise. The letters that went back and forth after this were amazing. Our writing was so similar, my husband and her family had a heck of a time telling who was writing- her or me. This weekend, we planned the reunion. She would bring her family to Edmonton to meet us for the first time. To see her face for the first time was the most blissful feeling. We held each other tight, soul-gazed, snuggled and cried. Oh, we cried.

To learn about my family history, to understand my roots, to fall in love with her and her family so easily, for it to be that comfortable, was more than I could have ever asked for. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have another family on top of all the loved ones already near and dear to me, three sisters, one brother, aunties and uncles, cousins and grandparents is a dream- all who can't want to meet me. Life is full of surprises but this one takes the cake- I am so blessed. Here are some pics from the reunion!

My dad and I before everyone arrived. At this time, the butterflies were trampolening in my tummy. The support and love I felt from my family was just awesome. I am forever grateful. It was very hard not having my mom there due to being very sick and immobile with MS, but her strength was there with me. I felt every ounce of her love and support inside of me- giving me the courage to have such a wonderful experience.

I have always been very close with both of my parents. They have loved and cared for me since day 5. He, he. They are the only mom and dad and I know! God, I wish she could have been there. I wish we could have shared in such a moment together.

Without they're support,this wouldn't have been
nearly as special. I just love Bev,
and was so happy she could share in this experience.

I couldn't even wait for them to make it inside. In this pic, I'm hugging my sister Kenzie for the first time. She's an absolute love bug, just like I am.

Morgan meeting Kenzie for the first time.
She reached right out for her.

Morgan's new aunties- Taylor and Kenzie

Us girls together- at last. It feels so good.

Sandi- my beautiful mama.

Finally, together again.

My 14-year old sister who has such an old soul. What an amazing young woman. I can't wait for many nights of sharing stories, our lives and chick flicks!

Looking into Kenzie's eyes for the first time.
She made my heart sing!

Big, BIG hugs.

Sandi's lovely husband, Cordell. He had a reoccurring dream about me for years. In the dream, I knocked on their door, he answered and without me having to say a word he said, "I've been waiting for you for a very long time sweetheart..."

Me- absolutely thrilled.

Ohh-la-la. How did you know?

Gorgeous little charms for my charm bracelet. A cupcake for Morgan- 'Our Little Miss Cupcake Sugarpants', and a Tiffany gift box for me- Sandi explained that she didn't feel she could give me the life I deserved at 19- so she gave my parents the gift of me.

As soon as Morgan saw this fabulous gift bag, she new it was for her! She was on a mission to see what was waiting for her inside.

Linda- the ladybug (Brydon named her), that turns into a cuddly pillow.
She was nuts for it, and its just as big as she is!
Their thoughtfulness was so appreciated.

Giving Linda a very big squeeze.

Wow- my sisters. What an instant connection.

Morgan giving her Grandma a good snuggle.

Before the riverboat cruise we had
a yummy Sunday brunch at our place.
We had to whip this cream by hand,
but it was well worth it!

The Queen Edmonton.
Talk about having the perfect weather for the perfect weekend.
Thanks universe.

My brother also loved meeting everyone.

Brydon was such a HUGE support in this. He was just as emotionally invested as I was. I am so thankful he was by my side through every step of the way. And man, did he cook up a storm! He is truly the love of my life, my very best friend.

Buyer's remorse? Absolutely not! These folk are the salt to the earth. As my dad said, "These are the kind of people that make the world go around honey." Their intentions are pure and unwavering. I am so lucky...this could have gone so sideways. I have SO much to be thankful for and look forward to. I'm so glad I leaped off that cliff. There's no going back now, and I couldn't happier about that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A week in the mountains, adds a year onto your life.

It's been awhile since my last post. Life has taken me for a very busy ride. So much as happened, and I'm not sure where to begin. How about my divine trip to Jasper...

The air smelled like pine needles, glacier water and sweet sweet Jasper.

We had to deglamorize our sweet-pea
into a mountain trekin piglet.

My dad's fiance is working in Jasper for the summer for a white water rafting company. She is renting a fabulous home nestled right into a mountain. A perfect getaway haven for rest and play.

Sun, bugs, dirt, and grass- Morgan's favourite combination.

Pretty, pretty poppy.

Daddy arrived on Grandpa's bike.
Morgan was thrilled to see her motorbiking papa.

Looking G.O.O.D babe.

'Brrrrrr, daddy.

Now that's what I call a backyard.
There's nothing more grounding or life-affirming
than immersing yourself in nature.

May the trees and mud feel your love. We sure do!

After a good ride, a dip in the creek is all
you need to refresh those hot toesies.

Crystal clear, liquid heaven.

Feel the earth beneath your soles.
Sink into its strength and surrender all your tension.

This is the path right outside Bev's back gate- truly magical. Every time I opened that gate, it felt like I was stepping into Narnia- so beautiful.

Home sweet bliss for the week.

Morgan relaxing after a big, fabulous hike.
All that fresh air is the perfect potion for a very sleepy baby.

The colours in nature always astound me.
The contrasts are magnificent,
and I just love all that restorative green.

The views were just awesome.
I'm seriously considering the big J for retirement.
Although, that's just 'a little' ways away.

'Hello friend.'

Reaching out for Grandpa's oh so loveable lips.

The wicked abode of my dear friend, Woody-woody-wood-pecker.

This rock spoke to me.
It said, "Look at me, I'm beautiful!"

Ah, the healing creek.
This picture incapsulates my stay in Jasper.

A little golden nugget that Bev shared with me- "Don't be like a river. They usually take the path of least resistance and end up quite crooked." Done. Normally we romanticize rivers in quotes and poetry, but this insight is a little different. Sometimes, falling flat on our face is just what the universe ordered.

This week was exactly what I needed. I went for some serious RnR, but the universe had quite a different plan in mind. The biggest surprise of my life unfolded very quickly one evening, which was totally unexpected but very welcome indeed. My life drastically changed in only a few hours. I'll fill you in on my next post. Stay tuned, this one will knock your socks off!