In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage-to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. – Alex Haley, Roots
It was a cold January day with snow on the ground and ice on the roads when I drove to the small rural Indiana town where my birth mom lived. My adoption file had just been opened by the State of Indiana upon the discovery of her death. After 36 years I finally knew her name. I had the address where she grew up and where my grandmother still lived. A two year search with fake names, road blocks, and closed doors culminated in this moment.
My first stop was the local library where I piled old yearbooks high on the table to look for photos of my mom and her siblings. The first book I grabbed was from 1965 because I knew that was the year she graduated. I flipped the pages, scanned last names, and ran my finger down the page until there she was. It was the first time I looked into my mother’s face. I just sat there staring into her eyes. My eyes. My face. She looked so much like me at that age. It was just crazy. Finally, after a lifetime without mirrors reflecting back at me, I was able to see myself in someone else’s face.
One by one I opened the books until I had senior pictures of my mom, her two brothers, and seven sisters spread across the table staring back at me. It was like seeing kaleidoscope pieces of me falling into place.
I left the library with a photo copy of my mom’s senior picture and headed for the cemetery where she was buried. As I got out of my car and looked around the cemetery, I began to realize what a bad day I had chosen to make this journey. There was snow on the ground, and the headstones were piled high.
Walking up and down the aisles brushing snow off one headstone at a time I knew it would take forever to find her. My walk turned into a jog. Breathing became faster and harder, and I could see my breath in the cold air. Tears formed in my eyes, ran down my face, and froze on my cheeks. Suddenly, I stopped and looked around. It was a gray overcast day and the snow had begun to lightly fall again. I yelled at the top of my lungs “where are you” then turned and behind me saw a heart shaped stone. Every other stone in that cemetery was covered with snow, except hers. Amazing!
The scene played out in slow motion like something out of a movie. It was a surreal feeling. I walked over to her grave and dropped to my knees in the snow. The cold and wet seeped through my jeans as I kneeled there sobbing my heart out. I had found my mom. As I knelt on my mother’s grave with the tears freezing on my face, suddenly the sun began to break through the clouds and shine brightly. I looked up and felt the warmth on my face. It was as if the Lord was looking down and blessing the moment. A part of me likes to believe that she was allowed to be there in that moment as well. Did He part the clouds and make the sun shine so that I would look up and she could see my face? It’s a nice thought anyway.
There are no words to describe what a lifetime of questions and years of searching feels like when it leads to a grave. My purpose in life has become making sure no other adoptee ever has to know that kind of pain. I have an archaic adoption system of closed adoption laws to thank for the fact that I was unable to find my mother before she died.
My search is a very long and twisting tale which ended kneeling in the snow on my mother’s grave with tears freezing on my face, but the story didn’t end there. It was just the beginning. Thirteen years post reunion with my birth mother’s family; I am now an adoption reform activist and adoption blogger. In March 2015, Ohio (where I was born) will become an open records state, and Indiana (where I was adopted) is currently taking up the fight for open records.
My story is one of beauty from ashes and how God redeems all things. I began my search running from God and totally excluding him from my life. Little did I know the search for my heritage wasn’t just about finding my family and my roots. It turned out to be a search that lead me straight to Him. Looking back I am amazed at the ways He guided my every step, opened closed doors, and was with me every moment despite the fact that I was totally and completely ignoring Him.
The lost were found in the end. As it turns out I was the one lost. A journey unfolded where I was healed and made whole through finding my identity not in my birth name, not in my adopted name, but through my identity in Christ alone and who I am through Him. This experience also showed me how it’s possible for a child to love more than one family just like it’s possible for parents to love more than one child.
This journey taught me the way He brings all things full circle in His time. There is purpose in the pain. In fact our deepest pain and wounds in our lives just might be the very thing He uses as part of His plan. The reality of this still hasn’t quite sunk in with me. To think that God could somehow use all the messed up, broken pieces of my crazy life and entwine them with His divine purpose just leaves me speechless.
Adoption reform and the fight for open records is a modern day civil rights issue in our nation. Fourteen states have won the fight for open records, and the battle continues on a state by state basis. Every human being should have the right to know their history, roots, and origins in life. The Bible shows how important these things are to God by the emphasis He places on genealogies, history, and roots. In fact this issue is so important to God that even Jesus Christ was given a genealogy. If it’s important to God then it should be important to us as well. Whether or not an adoptee chooses to search or not, the ability to do so is a basic human right.
I’ve barely scratched the surface in writing all I have to say about adoption, but it is my deepest desire that my story, experiences, and path to healing can be shared with those who are about to receive their records for the first time through open records legislation. There are so many adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents about to embark on this journey. Those of us who have gone before have a responsibility to share our story.
The truth shall set you free. John 8:32
Laura Marie Scoggins is an adult adoptee from Evansville, Indiana. She was adopted through Catholic Charities in 1965. Upon discovering her mother died of breast cancer, Catholic Charities petitioned the State of Indiana to open her adoption file. Her mother had nine siblings, and once the adoption file was opened and identities revealed, a reunion began to unfold with the large family. She is now thirteen years post reunion and at the moment does not have contact with her mother’s family. She has still not been able to obtain the identity of her father and plans to pursue DNA testing in the future.
Laura is a Jesus girl who loves being a grandma and spoiling her precious six year old granddaughter. In her spare time she enjoys being a bookworm, gardening, serving at her local church, and writing on her blogs www.lauramariescoggins.com and www.survivingadopted.com. She believes in the power of story telling and the healing it brings to both the reader and the writer. She proudly labels herself an adoption reform activist.
Parts of her story have been featured at HEAR (Hoosier for Equal Access to Records) www.indianahear.org .