I was born in Brazil. As an infant, I was moved from the city of my birth to a children’s home where I was adopted. The beginning of my life was abrupt and unknown and although I was only a few weeks old when I was adopted, I believe it has affected and influenced me in many ways.
Six years ago, my adoptive mother and I visited Brazil to meet friends and reunite with my birth family. We were so very fortunate to have these opportunities and treasure them forever. The reunion was the best day of my life. A few months ago, I decided to work on writing my adoption story. I would include all of the events that happened around the reunion. Then one night, as I browsed the Internet, a life-changing event occurred that altered my story and many of my feelings as an adoptee.
As I began writing a new section of my story, I had a strong and persistent feeling that I should Google my birth father’s name to see if I could find any new or updated information about him. As a public official, it is very likely that his name would appear in an Internet search. Shockingly, only a minute or two into searching for him, I found out that he had died almost a month prior. He was an old man, and I knew he couldn’t live forever, but the onslaught of emotions I felt was overwhelming. My initial feelings were those of vulnerability. This could really happen to ME. I was not safe from experiencing this kind of loss, even on another continent, far away from it all. I felt like a spotlight was shining down on me, asking, “How does this make you feel?” After that, my feelings turned to sadness, confusion, wishing I had known sooner, excitement over opportunities to find new information, and the desire to turn this event into a positive situation. I had no idea how to deal initially because I had never been through this experience and I had no clue how to even begin to approach it. I started with simply telling some people in my life. First, my mom, next, the people who helped me find my birth parents.
Prior to finding out about my birth father’s death, I wasn't clear as to how many children he had, whether they were daughters or sons, or what they did for a living. As a result of vast searches of the Internet for information about him, I was able to locate these details, hidden within an article from many years ago. A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for an information-hungry adoptee. Just merely looking at their pictures through a Google image search or running across a blog that one of them hosts, anything I could find was wonderful.
How do you grieve for someone you only met once for 15 minutes? How do you grieve for this person when his family lives thousands of miles away? When they are grieving together and they don't even know about you? At least I am at an age where I can better understand what is happening as opposed to a younger, less mature age when all of this might be too much to handle. But still, nothing can prepare you for realizing that a part of your DNA has left this planet.
I think about him and miss him every day. I seek solace in the song “See You Again” by Charlie Puth. I remember the way he smiled at me and touched the tip of my nose when we met, confirming to me at that moment that he believed and knew that I was really his daughter.
I feel him around me, I sense his love and tenderness and that he's watching over me. He may not have had the opportunity to parent me, but I believe that now he can see and get to know me. He never had those opportunities when he was alive.
I will always remember when we first met, his quiet, sweet demeanor and the way he initially folded his arms across his chest in a show of self-protection against the weight of the situation. I have always admired his strength, grace, and kindness when faced with the news we gave him that day.
Many adoptees do not meet their birth parents (or at least one birth parent) before their adoptive parents’ death because they often choose to wait to search. If I had waited much longer or hadn't been as fortunate, I may never have met him.
I have decided to move forward by honoring him through a group I want to start for adoptees that have lost a birth parent. I also want to write my adoption story and have him there in spirit as the words fall across the page. I want him to know that I searched for years and years to find him and my birth mother, and that the day I met them was the best day of my life.
The loss of a birth parent is never easy, but the amount of information I've been able to gather about my half siblings has been an incredible blessing during this difficult time. My siblings don't know I exist and I'm not sure when I'll cross that bridge and reach out, but for now I can admire them from afar. They knew him, he raised them, and we are forever connected by our DNA.
Having only met my birth father once, I love him dearly and miss him very much. This is an unmatched life-changing experience and I intend to use it to help others and grow from it as best I can.
---------------------------------------------------Carmen Hinckley lives in Portland, Oregon. She is an international adoptee from Brazil who was reunited with her birth parents in 2009. She graduated from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in 2008. She has volunteered over the past few years with a non-profit in Portland that provides adoption resources. Her interests include writing, hiking, dancing, and meeting other adoptees.