Joanie Harrison, 81, thought she would never live long enough to know what happened to her daughter Kathy, whom she placed for adoption in 1957 in hopes of offering her a better life.
The Montreal Gazette recently featured the reuniting of Harrison, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with her daughter, Kathy Kirkley, after 60 years.
Kirkley, 60, said she began to search for her birth mother after the death of her adopted mother and her retirement from teaching.
“This fact, in combination with my increasing curiosity about my origins and my birth mother, urged me to move forward in a search for the missing pieces in my life,” Kirkley said, according to a prior story by the Montreal Gazette.
The article explains how Kirkley located her birth mother, who was found in May 2017, with the help of an adoption agency. Kirkley reached out to Harrison by letter and received a reply a week later.
“Dear Kathy,” Harrison wrote in her response, according to the Gazette, “I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to say hello — much harder than saying goodbye to you all those years ago. … I held you and told you I would love you forever and asked you to forgive me. … You were beautiful and perfect and I knew that somewhere a special family needed a beautiful and perfect little girl to make their family complete.
“I have often thought that I would never live long enough to know what happened to you and here I am, just turned 81, and I have lived long enough for a miracle.”
After the two corresponded through letters and emails, Harrison, who now lives in a retirement home in Cedar City, Utah, called Kirkley on her 60th birthday.
“It must have taken courage for her to make the first call — a call for which I will be eternally thankful,” Kirkley told the Montreal Gazette.
As Kirkley and Harrison shared stories and developed their relationship, they planned a 12-day visit in September of last year.
“What I did not know then, but would soon come to learn, was that strength comes in many forms. My mother was indeed strong,” Kirkley said of the first time she saw her mother in the airport. “Her body had started to betray her as she battled Parkinson’s disease; her mind and her spirit, however, were truly strong and resilient.”
The entire account of Kirkley and Harrison’s reuniting can be read in the Montreal Gazette.