It seems impossible that we are coming up on our five-year anniversary of We the Lees. It feels like just yesterday that we launched the blog. I never would have thought it would have grown the way it has and given me connections and friendships that will last a lifetime. For that, I am eternally grateful to each one of you.
Before launching the blog, I remember the first time I ever heard Whitney and her birth parents communicate in person. It is a memory that I will never forget. Up until that point, almost three years had passed since the last time Whitney had seen them in person. I could not understand a word they were saying, but it sounded like they picked up right where they left off.
For me, that first time meeting them went by so quickly. I remember thinking to myself how messy and beautiful a birth family reunion really could be. Whitney did such an awesome job communicating with her family and translating for me. I knew she was exhausted at the end of it, but I also knew she was probably torn having to leave a family yet again on the other side of the world.
Since that first meeting, we have gone back to see her birth family and extended family only twice. Once was for her brother’s wedding and the most recent time was to meet her nephew. Both of these times definitely had their moments that we will cherish, but then there has been all that time in-between when they are in Korea and we are in the States.
I have been thinking a lot about just how short life really is and how quickly it can just pass you by. I have not really talked much about this until now, but back in the Fall, my uncle died suddenly of an accidental fall from a tree stand. Before the accident, I saw him and was very fortunate to catch up with him at my brother’s wedding, which happened just three weeks before his sudden accident. I never thought in a million years that this would be the last time we ever spoke. My last memory of him was playing on his team against my cousins in corn hole and us almost winning. He said, “We’ll get them next time!”
My uncle loved his family and always went out of his way to help others. He never focused on his own problems, and cherished every moment he had on this earth. This is probably why you couldn’t even find a parking spot at his viewing and why you had to wait hours to pay your respects. He touched the lives of everyone he came in contact with.
When we moved to Maryland just a little bit over a year ago, I knew the transition would be difficult for both myself and Whitney. She is a lot better at adjusting to change than I am. A few months before leaving, she had just started a Korean adoptee group in Tennessee, and we both started forming bonds with the members. This adoptee group was a dream of Whitney’s ever since I knew her and I felt terrible for making her leave it.
It has been just a little bit over a year since Holt emailed me telling me that a birth family search is possible if I want to proceed. I have had the opportunity to see other Korean adoptee searches, other than Whitney’s, over the past several years from start to finish. Some have turned out positive, while others not so great. I know I talk about it a lot and it is because it crosses my mind a lot. For me, different things trigger the thought of doing a search. It could be a picture I see online of an adoptee with their birth family or it could be a selfie that Whitney shows me that her Appa sent.
Every adoptee reunion or non-reunion story is unique. I give a lot of credit to adoptees that jump into searching right off the bat. For me, this is one area that I have not been in a rush to complete. I feel such a mix of emotions every time I think about it, including: fear, disappointment, sadness and happiness.
In a perfect world, a birth family search which leads to a reunion looks great. Your agency sends out your information, which is then matched with your birth family, who’ve been waiting for you to contact them for years. You meet and then everyone lives happily ever after. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works and I know this. It is confusing, messy, sad and happy all at the same time. Many times for an adoptee, it does not even reach the stage of a potential reunion because the agency cannot find your family, your family is deceased, or they want nothing to do with you and reject you.
Even if somehow my story continues to a reunion, is this something that I want to put myself through? I am so fortunate to see what a positive reunion looks like with Whitney’s birth family. But there are definitely times where this positive reunion is not so positive and even the strongest person could not deal with the hurt and emptiness that comes with it.
Fast forward to today. Life unfortunately does not stop for anyone; it is always moving forward. We have to move forward with it and remember to take in those moments which are gone before we know it. Over the past five years, so many things have happened, good and bad, but hopefully we can do our best to focus on the positives. Remember those small moments, because they are the ones that will stick with you for years to come.
I guess I do wonder a lot what family I have on the other side of the world? Do some or all of them know I even exist? The answer is probably no, but without searching, it really is just a guess. Up until now, I have done the best I could to cherish the moments that I have had with family, friends and loved ones. My hope is that these moments will continue and that I’ll live each day with no regrets, because we are definitely not guaranteed a tomorrow.
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