Julie Mooney Julie Mooney
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Alone in her kitchen, Julie Mooney cradles her cellphone. 

After 33 years of searching, Julie has finally obtained her original birth certificate, located her birth mother and looked up her telephone number online. Now, the 49-year-old Strongsville mother of three girls has her finger poised over the final digit.

She sits there shaking, not knowing what to do. Armed with a script of all the things she wants to say, Julie waits and waits and waits. 

After preparing for a month to make the call, she’s imposed an artificial deadline of sorts. She reserved a king-size suite at a Red Roof Inn just miles from the East Coast retirement home where her birth mother lives. She plans to make a surprise visit the following week with a couple of friends, just days before Mother’s Day and the start of her new job as the director of residence programs at Brookdale Westlake Village. 

Forty minutes pass before she gives up and goes outside. In the warm May sunshine, she looks for a sign — any sign, really. Perhaps if a red car drives by she’ll make the call. If a red bird flies by, she’ll wait for another day. 

But just as she is about to abandon things altogether, the phone rings.

It’s the Rev. George Vrabel, a former priest of St. Mary Parish in Berea. He’s checking to see if she’s OK. He’d seen her on a Fox News segment the day before the March change in Ohio law that allowed adoptees born between Jan. 1, 1964, and Sept. 18, 1996, to access their original birth certificates for the first time. When Julie explains her dilemma, he offers to help. Come over on Sunday, he says, and they’ll make the call together. If it ends happy, he’ll be there. If it ends in disappointment, he’ll be there. But she won’t be alone. 

His offer also alleviates another of her concerns. She wants to be strong for her kids and doesn’t want to make the phone call in front of them. 

Yet, on Sunday, she doesn’t go. Instead, she resolves to make the call on her own at exactly 3 p.m.

It goes to voicemail, thank God, so she hangs up. But now she has the sound of her birth mother’s voice — old and broken — stuck in her head.

The next morning julie calls again at 9 a.m. only to
get her voicemail once more. But when she calls back 30 minutes later, her birth mother’s husband answers the phone. His voice is lofty and gentle. He noticed she was calling from an Ohio number and thought he should answer.

“My name is Julie,” she says. “If you could please have Lyssa* call me, I have some questions. I got her number through Bible study.”

He says he’ll deliver the message. One hour later, the phone rings. This time, it is the woman she has been searching for.

“I appreciate you calling me back. My name is Julie,” she says. “I have something very personal and private to discuss with you. Is this a good time?”

The woman on the other end says yes, so Julie continues. “Well, recently Ohio has passed a law that allowed me to have access to my own birth certificate, and I’m currently seeking medical records.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the woman responds.

“Well, if you have a moment, I’ll discuss this further with you,” Julie says. “But it’s very personal.” 

“Fine,” the older woman says, her voice hardening.

“My name is Julie, and I was born May 18, 1966, in Cleveland, Ohio, and I was placed for adoption,” she continues.

There is no response. So Julie reads off the script in front of her.

“Ohio law has recently given me access to my original birth certificate. The name Lyssa Marie Kappel* was listed as my birth mother, and that’s what led me to you.”

When this is met with silence, Julie waits for the line to disconnect. When it doesn’t, she goes on.

“If I reached the wrong person in error, I apologize,” says Julie, hoping to dissipate any building anxiety. “If you get any further phone calls regarding this matter, I would appreciate it if you would forward them to me as I continue my search for my medical history.

“I also would like to thank my birth mother for the gift of my life, and if she ever had any doubts about placing me for adoption, she should put that at rest because I was raised in a wonderful family,” Julie continues. “I had beautiful parents, and I have three beautiful daughters to thank her for my gift of life.”

Lyssa begins to cry. 

“That person would be me, but I never wanted to give you up,” Lyssa says. “It was just a different world back then.”

Julie was born at 3:25 a.m. in Cleveland’s Booth Memorial Hospital. She weighed 7 pounds and 7 ounces. She spent the first six weeks of her life at the Jones Home for Children, an orphanage on West 25th Street. 

When JoAnne and Paul Hancy saw her perfect little body for the first time, JoAnne said, “Now, that’s a baby.” They took her home to the new four-bedroom, split-level house they’d built in Berea. 

The grade school sweethearts struggled to have biological children during the first 10 years of their marriage. When the Hancys adopted their first child, Amy, they found comfort in raising a family of their own. Three years later, they found Julie through Cuyahoga County Family and Children’s Services.

The couple raised the girls to understand and appreciate the importance of adoption as well as their own role as adoptive parents.

“My kindergarten teacher called my mom after one of the first days and said, ‘Congratulations, I don’t know how you did it, but your daughter has the whole class wanting to be adopted,’ ” recalls Julie. “I just thought [adoption] was the greatest thing and I made it seem like I was really special, and that’s what my parents made it seem like.”

Paul and JoAnne had each built substantial individual careers. JoAnne spent time as a social columnist for The Berea News, while Paul served as a private in the Army with a two-year deployment in Korea. Upon his return, he got a job in advertising with Dix & Eaton, and eventually became the agency’s creative director and vice president. When he was forced to fire a friend, he left to launch an advertising firm with JoAnne out of the basement of their home. 

“He had a way of reasoning things out that was very comforting, and she was full of spunk,” says 82-year-old Betty Bainbridge-Vitez, a family friend.

An active member of the National Organization for Women, JoAnne was passionate about her beliefs. She often went to marches and returned from meetings with pamphlets for the girls. “She was always quietly trying to make me strong and make me aware of equality of all things,” recalls Julie. “My parents protected the underdog.”

Growing up, the girls were notably different, Julie recalls. Amy was serious and spent hours reading in her room, while Julie was more silly and outgoing. 

“Even as teenagers, we weren’t sisters who flop on the bed and talk,” says Julie.

A carefully woven routine knit the family together. Paul and JoAnne made the girls breakfast and dropped them off at school before meeting friends for coffee at McDonald’s. Dinner was served at 5 p.m. The children were to be indoors before the streetlights turned on. And on Friday nights, the family would play board games in the living room.

Family vacations meant road trips with Julie and Amy huddled beside each other on a crib mattress in the back of their Chevy Impala, while Paul took the wheel and JoAnne rode shotgun. 

“I have seen every monument, museum, ship, historical battlefield,” says Julie. “I’m not kidding, I’ve seen it all.” 

JoAnne brought pillows for the beds and bleach to clean bathtubs when they’d pull over and find a hotel for the night. Paul catalogued their trips with colored twine on a map of the United States he carved. 

“They were very protective of me,” says Julie. “My mom just wanted the best for us, and I think because we were adopted, they never wanted us to ever feel that we wanted to go.”

Julie stares intently at her feet as she falls in line quietly with more than 400 men, women and children marching toward the Office of Vital Statistics just a half-mile east of Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus. She’s holding a polka-dotted umbrella above her head to protect her blond bob while a steady pitter-patter of rain falls around her. 

Her childhood friend and fellow adoptee, Betsy
Gosnell, prompted this journey, urging Julie to come along in this search for answers. Unlike Julie, who carries a slight hesitation in her step, Betsy walks openly in the rain. She wears a leather jacket with her hair gelled in spikes and shouts, “We are adoptees! Hear us roar!”

It is Friday, March 20, the first day of spring. It feels like a new beginning. 

Betsy and Julie are just two of 400,000 adoptees who have finally been granted access to their original birth certificates. For most of them, it’s the first real step in discovering the origins of their birth parents.

“It’s a very personal journey,” says Betsie Norris, Adoption Network Cleveland’s executive director. “For each person, they have to make a choice about how much they want to know and what they want to pursue.”

Norris, who was adopted in 1960, founded the organization in 1988 to help protect the rights of adoptees and assist in the search for birth families. It functions as a support network for birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees working to better understand the adoption process.

“When I started searching, I felt like there was a common misperception out there that some people felt that if my adoptive parents had done a good enough job I wouldn’t need to do this,” says Norris. “I was a happy, whole and healthy person, and I wanted to know the truth of my existence.”

Julie was 16 when she received information about her birth parents. After staying up all night with friends at a slumber party, she came home early to discover the house was still dark. Before she could go upstairs to her bedroom, her mother called her into the living room. JoAnne was sitting alone in the shadows with a stack of papers in front of her.

Back then, in exchange for a private adoption, birth parents were required to do background interviews and provide details regarding their family medical history. JoAnne thought Julie was old enough to know more about her past and sought out Family and Children’s Services to provide a summarized document that detailed non-identifying biological characteristics for both of her birth parents. 

According to the records, her mother had been 22 years old, born of Canadian and German descent and raised in a strict religious family. She was brought up with a strong emphasis on education and went on to become a teacher.

Her father had been 23, the records said. He became a mechanic and put aside his education to help out on the family farm. According to the document, their relationship had formed from a casual friendship, but they were unable to assume responsibilities of parenthood.

“I was so intrigued with it, but I didn’t want my mom to know how obsessed I was,” says Julie as she shuffles her feet in the slow-moving line outside the Vital Statistics office. “As you get older, because it is a closed thing and you can’t talk about it, you almost feel guilty for your adoptive parents if you show any interest.”

After she presented the information to Julie, JoAnne hid the document in a metal lockbox on the shelf of her bedroom closet. When her parents left the house, Julie took it down to study it more closely and discovered small white envelopes addressed to each of the girls. 

Julie opened Amy’s first. It contained a notecard with the name Paul and JoAnne believed was Amy’s given name at birth. Excited, Julie opened her own envelope. A different message was scrawled on hers: “To my knowledge, we do not know Julie’s birth name.” 

She was crushed. But still wanting to respect her adoptive parents, Julie resealed the envelopes and put them back where she found them.

“Had I known it was because of the law, I might have been OK with it,” says Julie. “But I didn’t know that.”

Since Amy was born before the law that kept adoption records locked, her adoptive parents had access to information they were unable to retrieve for Julie.

“[Amy] chooses not to discuss it,” says Julie. “She was always very closed and private, and she didn’t want to offend our parents. I felt that way too, but I also had such a huge curiosity.”

What little she knew fueled Julie’s imagination for years. 

“I always pictured my birth mother being blond,” she says. “I remember we’d go to restaurants, and with every blond woman I’d think, That could be my mom, not knowing how vast the world is and how many people are out there.”

As the line begins to snake through the back door of the building, volunteers start passing out numbered tickets to people eagerly waiting their turn in line. Julie had filled out her paperwork the day before and receives a yellow ticket. She squeals with excitement when she notices the number listed on the ticket is 44.

“It’s my favorite number,” she says, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Even numbers are always a sign. There are four people in my family.”

The silver bangles on Julie’s wrists clink against each another like tiny wind chimes. Slumped in a pale blue and fuchsia pinstriped armchair of her adoptive parents’ home, she wrings Kleenex between her palms. Her shoulders are visibly shaking as she cries softly.

The house has been empty since her father died shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer of the lungs, brain and adrenal glands nearly one year ago. Any items that have been left behind — the foot-tall Frederick Remington bronze cowboy statue, the yellowed globe on the end table, the floral love seat — are marked with blue and yellow sticky notes, divvied up between the sisters for when the house is sold.

“It breaks my heart,” says Julie, sniffling. “To let this house go is going to be really hard.”

It marks the end of a difficult era. In 2009, Julie lost her adoptive mother to lung cancer. It started in JoAnne’s colon before spreading to her lungs. Cancer also claimed the lives of her grandmother and both of her aunts. 

Around the time of her mother’s diagnosis, Julie had a routine mammogram and discovered a lump in her right breast. When asked for her medical history, Julie had to refrain — she didn’t know.

“It’s like a stab in your identity,” she says. “Having three daughters, I feel it’s not fair we don’t know our story.”

A lumpectomy revealed that Julie’s tumor was benign. But her mother’s death and lack of medical history spurred Julie to pick up the search for her birth mother again. As she sifted through a backlog of emails, she rediscovered a paper trail her best friend, Leanne Esch, started in 2005.

“Julie has such a vibrant personality,” says Leanne. “I figured I have to meet whomever created her to thank her for bringing her into the world.”

Leanne found a website where anonymous individuals called “birth angels” helped people struggling in their search for their birth families. On Julie’s behalf, she contacted an angel by the name of “Marge,” who accessed the Ohio Birth Index — a registry for babies born on any given day based on the county in which they were born. 

Knowing Julie was born within the city of Cleveland, Marge narrowed down the list to 44 names of women who gave birth within the city limits on May 18, 1966. When Leanne gave the document to Julie, the two went through line by line. They made note of all those listed without a father and with babies left unnamed — since those characteristics increased the possibility that the baby would be put up for adoption. They then looked for any names that would indicate the German origin referenced in Julie’s non-identifying information. “Kappel” was among the names listed.

“I always had a feeling that was my name,” says Julie.

But they had no way to verify it. So for two years, Julie and Leanne put their search to rest, believing they had exhausted all the leads available to them. 

Then Julie reconnected with her friend Betsy Gosnell last summer at their 30th high school reunion, the same day Julie’s father was buried in Woodvale Cemetery in Middleburg Heights. 

“I had lost my dad four years before, so I understood the grief,” says Betsy, who grew up three blocks away from Julie. As kids, they bonded over their common experience as adoptees, and now Betsy promised to help Julie if she wanted to search. 

Betsy introduced Julie to Adoption Network Cleveland, where she learned about the upcoming changes in Ohio’s records law.

“We all have our own book of life, and everything that goes on is all of our chapters,” says Julie. “Every time I went over my book and started to write a new chapter of my life — the birth of my kids, the death of my parents — I would open that book and my first page was always missing.”

After her father’s death, she felt it was finally time to look again. “It’s a new chapter,” she says. “I have to move on.”

Julie Mooney at her wedding

“We all have our own book of life, and everything that goes on is all of our chapters. Every time I went over my book and started to write a new chapter of my life — the birth of my kids, the death of my parents — I would open that book and my first page was always missing.” — Julie Mooney

Julie Mooney and her grandmother

Reporters and local television crews swarm Betsie Norris in the lobby of Vital Statistics as adoptees pick up their receipts for their birth certificates from the call windows. Each and every one stops, gives Norris a hug and thanks her for all she’s done before they head home to wait for their birth certificates to arrive by mail. 

Wearing a bright yellow Adoption Network Cleveland shirt, Norris smiles continually as the hours slowly roll by. She’s like a savior to them, helping them in their search for truth.

Most hope to be reunited with the parents who gave them life, although more than a half-century of darkness means many could discover their birth parents have long been dead or moved on. A select few also face the possibility that they will still be denied access to any information — in the months leading up to the release of adoption records, birth parents wishing to conceal their identity were allowed to remove their names from their childrens’ birth certificates. More than 250 birth parents have decided to keep their secrets safe.

In the ‘60s, there was a huge stigma regarding adoption, says Norris. “Women would be seen as loose. Nobody would ever marry them,” she says. “The whole family’s reputation would be tarnished.”

Unmarried women who were pregnant were often forced to give up their jobs and sent away to homes for unwed mothers or forced to live with extended family throughout the last months of their pregnancies. In unwed mothers homes, a woman might take on a pseudonym to further hide her identity. 

Once a child was born, the birth mother returned home just days after recovery — presumably back from a long vacation — and coached to forget about the experience and carry on with her life.

“You kind of give up everything and it stunts emotional growth,” says Norris. “For a lot of birth mothers, getting this contact from the adoptee — on one level they’re happy and it’s a relief because it’s something that they’ve maybe secretly hoped for — but it brings them emotionally right back to, ‘I’m a horrible person. I’m not worthy. People are going to hate me if they know about this.’ ”

Betsy Gosnell’s birth mother was sent to a Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers in Cleveland five months before giving birth. Betsy began looking for her in 2006.

“My dad said to me, ‘If you’re going to search, you need to search now because we’re not getting any younger and neither is your birth mom,’ ” she says, while standing in line at Vital Statistics.

Betsy’s adoptive father worked for Summit County Children Services and raised her to be proud of her adoptive heritage. While most kids had posters of teen heartthrobs on their bedroom walls, she had posters and coloring books on the history of the adoption process.

“When my mom was getting ready to bring me home from the adoption agency, the neighbor ladies threw my mom a baby shower,” says Betsy. “It was very open.”

With the help of Adoption Network Cleveland, Betsy obtained a copy of the Ohio Birth Index and discovered she was the only female born on Feb. 7, 1966, at the Cleveland Clinic. The Adoption Network identified her birth mother and found an address for her in the Deep South. Thereafter, Betsy sent a series of letters every couple of months with pictures that covered her childhood and some of the major events of her life.

“I figured it’s easy to throw a letter away,” says Betsy, sharing her story with those around her in line. “But it’s hard to throw a face away especially when you’re looking at yourself.” 

After two years without a response, Betsy sent a final letter. Like a grade school questionnaire, it asked the recipient to check “yes” or “no” for whether she was Betsy’s birth mother.

“She checked, ‘I am your birth mother,’ and she wrote, ‘I might be your birth mother but don’t ever contact me again,’ ” says Betsy, tearing up at the memory. “She might not be ready or willing to come to terms with what happened 49 years ago, and I feel bad for her, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s my birth mother and I have a whole other family out there that I would really like the opportunity to meet someday.”

When Betsy leaves the line to go to the call window, Julie deflates and starts to cry. 

“All of a sudden, something just hit me,” she says, struggling to pull Kleenex out of her purse and cover the small black tears that are streaming down the sides of her face. She looks at her friend, who’s also crying, and tells her to stop.

“No, I’m not going to stop,” Betsy says loudly, her voice gruff and stern. She has been emotional all week, already coming to terms with the enormity of the adoptee’s journey. Julie, however, is still awakening to the idea.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Betsy says, placing a warm hand on Julie’s arm. “Yesterday morning, my husband said to me, ‘Are you happy?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Then they’re happy tears. Cry. Go ahead. Let it out.’ ”

Julie’s birth certificate arrives in a small business envelope nearly one month after her trip to Columbus. When she sits down in her chair in front of the living room window, she’s alone with her 12-year-old daughter, Jordyn. The two had been lying in bed watching the news when they announced a year and a half ago that the adoption law would be reversed, so they wanted to open the birth certificate together. 

As Julie opens the envelope, Jordyn records video for her two older sisters, 18-year-old Madelyn and 20-year-old Megan, whose middle name was taken after JoAnne Hancy’s mother. 

When Megan was born, Julie invited JoAnne into the delivery room. “I wanted her to experience the whole thing,” says Julie. “I wanted her to be there.”

As Julie reads the information, she discovers just as many questions as there are answers. Her birth mother’s age and length of pregnancy don’t match what was contained in the non-identifying information provided by Family and Children’s Services all those years ago. Although the certificate verifies Julie was born in Cleveland, it lists her birth mother’s place of residence nearly 80 miles away from the hospital. And while Julie’s initial assumptions regarding her birth mother’s name is correct, there is an additional surprise.

“She didn’t name me,” says Julie.

“That was very hard for me to read,” Julie says, one week after receiving her birth certificate. 

In the days that followed, Julie conducted online searches that revealed Lyssa was married less than a year after Julie’s birth. Julie also had two younger siblings who both live in New England.  

“I’ve always wanted a big family,” says Julie. “I wanted that Norman Rockwell painting of Thanksgiving where you’re all around a big table.”

The possibility of having such an end is there, but she’s still hesitant given how things turned out for Betsy. 

“I’m not looking for this joyous reunion where we’re going to run into each others’ arms in a daisy field crying, ‘I love you,’ ” says Julie. “Wherever it falls, it falls.”

Julie stands impatiently in her living room in white pants and a bright pink floral shirt, looking out the front window with Leanne and her two youngest daughters, Madelyn and Jordyn. They’re waiting for Lyssa’s arrival. 

When Julie spoke to her on the phone for the first time 48 hours earlier, she offered to meet Lyssa in New England. Lyssa agreed, but later that day decided she and her husband would come to Ohio instead.

“She wondered how I was [doing] her whole life and she can’t wait to see me,” says Julie. 

Outside, the sky is the deepest blue they’ve seen in months. The trees are finally budding. While the four wonder what Julie’s birth mother will be like, Julie keeps her adoptive parents in the back of her mind.

She spent all morning preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal to make up for all the holidays she missed with her birth mother. But she cooked it how her parents always did, right down to the Amish-style stuffing made with butter-soaked sourdough bread and the green bean casserole with frozen French-cut green beans, Swiss cheese, cream cheese, white pepper and corn flakes.

When a silver sport utility vehicle pulls into the driveway, Julie can’t wait any longer. She heads straight for the front door with Leanne and the girls right behind.

Julie walks down the small sidewalk toward a slightly wrinkled woman. She stands tall in black denim jeans, black tennis shoes and a gray vest over a thin baby blue long-sleeved sweatshirt. Her steps are small and careful. A tiny silver cross graces her neck. Her hair is no longer red but has a faded honey wheat hue, cut short and windswept like a modern day Farrah Fawcett.

“You must be Julie,” she says, when she’s within arms reach.

The two pause for a moment, studying the other’s face for the first time. They then lean in as if to kiss, and Julie throws her arms around her mother’s neck. Lyssa slowly lifts her hands to rest gently on Julie’s shoulder blades as she nestles her face in the crook of her neck. Behind them, Lyssa’s husband looks on, smiling. 

When they’ve finished hugging, introductions ensue — first Leanne, then Madelyn, then Jordyn. Lyssa takes each one into her arms and hugs her however briefly before going on to the next. Julie embraces Lyssa one more time and tells her she’s beautiful before following everyone inside.

“You’ve got my eyes,” Lyssa says, as she looks at Madelyn, Julie’s middle child.

“Stand next to her,” says Julie, placing them side-by-side. “My mom always said, ‘I bet Maddie looks like your birth mother.’ ”

Lyssa tugs Maddie by the arm and pulls her across the living room to an ornate silver-lined mirror hanging beside a black baby grand piano. They stand and study each other in the reflection. Their faces are heart-shaped. Their eyes are only a half-inch apart. Their smiles begin at the corners of their lips and pull upward and out, although the smile lines in Lyssa’s face are like small ravines that have carved their way across her skin over several decades.

“With my oldest grandson, people said we looked alike,” says Lyssa. “So he took me in front of the mirror like this, and he said, ‘We do look a lot alike except for the wrinkles.’ ”

Everyone laughs as Julie sidles up on the other side of Lyssa and pulls Jordyn in front of them. Lyssa’s outstretched arms hold all of the girls close while they size up each other’s features — the wisplike crows feet at the corners of Julie’s eyes, the small but sturdy hands of the girls, the tufts of hair that threaten to fly from Lyssa’s head. 

“You’re right, you are young,” says Julie, turning back to look at Lyssa’s husband and then turning to her girls. “I spoke with [him] yesterday and he said, ‘Well, we are in our 70s, but we’re really young. People think we’re in our 60s.’ ”

“I’m young in spirit,” says Lyssa, her voice cracking as she speaks. “My spirit will never get old.”

Lyssa and her husband spent five hours at Julie’s house that evening, sharing stories from their lives and perusing photos of Julie’s
childhood.

Sometime during dinner, Julie felt a change. She looked over at her daughters and realized they were sad and confused by the presence of her birth mother, sitting where her adoptive parents should have been.

When Julie showed Lyssa the Fox News segment that aired in March and explained that Cleveland Magazine was following Julie’s journey to find her birth parents, she was noticeably shaken and concerned. Lyssa had only ever told three people about the circumstances of Julie’s birth — her husband and one other couple. 

She claimed to not know much about Julie’s birth father and explained how she had to wear large coats during her pregnancy to hide it from her family, friends and co-workers. She desperately wanted to keep her story private.

“Pregnancy is hard enough,” says Julie, as she recounts what happened during their dinner. “But then to have to hide it and be alone, it broke my heart for her.”

Lyssa told them that when she gave birth, the nurses pleaded with her to look at the beautiful baby girl she’d just delivered. But Lyssa couldn’t. She was petrified that even a glimpse would convince her to keep the child. She couldn’t take that chance.

“She said, ‘I never named you because it was so hard for me. I just couldn’t do it. I walked away and never looked back,’ ” says Julie.

Still, she says, Lyssa tried to find Julie — a year after Julie was adopted and again a few years ago when she hired an Ohio attorney to track her down. But Ohio’s adoption record law also made it impossible for Lyssa to find Julie.

The meeting was emotional for everyone. “My goal wasn’t to re-create this mother-daughter relationship,” Julie says. “I just wanted her to know that she made a good decision, and don’t ever feel bad about it, and thank you for life because that had to have been so hard.”

Julie told her, “Every child I had, I thought about you after I had them.”

But she also didn’t want to push too hard. “You need to process this,” Julie told Lyssa. “If you decide to do nothing for awhile, that’s fine. If you decide to never do anything, that’s fine, but this part of the story is over.

“She said, ‘Well, I can’t imagine not having those beautiful little girls in my life now,’ and she looked at [her husband] and she said, ‘Maybe we’ll have two lives now. I don’t know.’ ”

Julie understands that their meeting is only half the story. 

While Lyssa helped fill in the details of Julie’s blank page, Julie has opened a whole new chapter for Lyssa.

“She’s got a real burden,” she says. “I helped lift a huge part of it, but I felt by lifting that, I opened up another big hole for her. She’s got to deal with that. She’s got a huge journey ahead of her.” 

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