how i found you


How I Found: My Family
March 14, 2009, 6:10 pm
Filed under: my family | Tags: , , , ,

This is the story about finding family; rather, family finding me.

Just two weeks before my wedding, I received a call from an unknown Florida phone number. I was in the middle of picking out a necklace for my ceremony, so I let the call go to voicemail. Once I left the shop, saying goodbye to my girlfriend who had just graciously gifted to me the perfect accessory for my wedding day, I sat in my car and called the number to listen to my voicemail. But before I go any further with this part of the story, I need to go back about 9 years, to the year my mother passed away.

I had been living in Japan with my first husband for 8 months when I received a call from my mom, whose voice was shaky and less energetic than it had been just days before. Without going into the heartbreaking details, I knew from the sound of her voice that something was wrong, very wrong. We talked to each other for a bit. She, avoiding my concerns, told me she was just having a bad day, that she was going back to her doctor the following day and, of course, for me not to worry. I caught her up on my life, and expressed my concern about being so far away from her before we ended our call. It only took me seconds after I hung up to realize that I ended the call without saying, “I love you,” so I called her back to tell her. That was the last conversation we had. Less than 24 hours later, I was on a plane flying back to Philadelphia to spend my last night with her. She was on life support, and it was my responsibility the next morning to approve the doctor’s recommendation for taking her off, and letting her go.

Let me step back 9 months from this point in time to the last time I actually saw my mom. I was leaving my grandmother’s funeral, driving back to Delaware to leave for Japan the next day. The image of her, the healthiest I had seen in years, standing outside of our church, waving goodbye, is so vivid. She wore her dark blue dress with capped sleeves, her face was full and her posture strong. The fact that she appeared so healthy influenced my decision to move to Japan as planned. I thought she was on the path to recovery.

At both funerals I reconnected with extended family and close family friends. In fact, had it not been for my mother’s best friend, my Aunt Helen, I truly would have been at a loss when I was arranging my mother’s funeral. My Aunt Helen held me up through the entire process, when all I wanted to do was fall down. Two weeks later, I was back to my life in Japan.

Over ten years passed before it dawned on me to use the internet to get contact information for Aunt Helen. I knew her personal contact information would be difficult to find because she’s a singer with a popular R&B group from the 60’s and 70’s whose fans would love to know that kind of information. I had tried a few times looking her up by name in directories, but for some reason it took me ten years to realize that there was probably a website for the group or at least a fan page that could get me her management’s information at least. And in a matter of seconds, I was on her group’s webpage, completely surprised by what I found.

Like the next clue in a treasure hunt, my first cousin’s e-mail address was staring at me, showing me how to reconnect with my family. My relationship with him dissipated after my grandmother and mother passed away. His mother, also deceased, completed that trio of women who raised us, loved us, and kept us together. With each of them gone from our lives, we were gone from each other’s lives. I e-mailed him immediately.

He wrote back within a day or so, and I shared my story about wanting to get in touch with Helen, and how I found his e-mail address on her website. We caught each other up on our lives, sharing photos over the internet, vowing to stay in touch and staying a family. He had also been in touch with Helen and promised to get me her number as soon as he could.

Months later takes us to the two weeks before my wedding and this phone call from Florida. The voice on the end of my phone was my mother’s half brother, leaving me a message about how he had been looking for me all of this time, how he had gone back to Delaware searching for me, and how he couldn’t wait to tell me how he finally found my number.

My uncle was enjoying his birthday party where a friend of his introduced him to his wife, who happened to be from Philadelphia, where my mother grew up. This woman was around the same age as my mother and, oddly enough, had attended the same all girl’s high school. With all of my uncle’s efforts in describing my mother and her sister, his friend’s wife didn’t remember either of them, but she thought her close friend, who still lives in Philadelphia, might. So, they gave her a call. This woman’s close friend turned out to be Helen’s sister. Within 24 hours we were all reconnected.

I had been going through the days of planning my wedding with a little sadness because I would have no relatives attending—my dad isn’t healthy enough to travel, and my cousin had a previous engagement. All of that changed with these phone calls. My Aunt Helen was going to try, but she was scheduled to be in Holland for work. My Uncle Bobby called me the week of the wedding to tell me he wouldn’t miss it for the world.


Stefni Bell is originially from Wilmington, Deleware and now lives in Minneapolis.

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1 Comment so far
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Hey Stefni! It’s been a few years and I hope you get this…please email me. Then we can write about “how i found you”….

Comment by Kim from Okinawa




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