98: A Family Miracle

98: A Family Miracle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

A Family Miracle

Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!

~Albert Einstein

One October, while traveling in Italy, my husband and I were seated at dinner next to a couple from California. During our conversation, I happened to mention my interest in genealogy.

“It’s fascinating that you enjoy tracing your family roots,” said Annette, a petite blonde with sparkling hazel eyes. “I know nothing about my biological father or his family, including whether he is alive today.”

Annette confided that when she was twenty-six she examined her birth certificate and noticed that her father’s name was not the father she had grown up with. Tearfully, Annette confronted her mother, who told her there were some things that she didn’t want to talk about. “Even when I sat on the end of my mother’s bed while she lay dying,” said Annette, “I was hoping she would tell me something about my biological father but she never did.”

“I was very lucky,” Annette continued. “My mother and stepfather loved me very much. They were good parents . . . but I still wonder about my biological father.”

When Annette told me her birth father’s name was Virgil Ferren I was sure I could help. Unusual names are a genealogist’s dream. When we returned to our hotel room, it took about ten minutes to find the initial information I was seeking.

The next morning I caught up with Annette to tell her that unfortunately, her father had passed away in 1975. He had married in 1947, about ten years after Annette was born.

I explained that I would continue the research after the tour and would order records and his obituary through the mail. It was Annette’s gratitude, combined with my own curiosity, that spurred me to dig deeper into this mystery.

When Annette arrived home she sent me a copy of her birth certificate. There it was in bold letters, “FATHER: Virgil Ferren, clerk for the railroad,” next to Annette’s mother’s name. We knew Annette’s mother had gone away to school and returned home pregnant. But that’s all we knew of the story, other than the fact that she married her husband when Annette was two years old.

The following weeks were busy ones. I researched the Ferren family five generations back and also received some results from my inquiries. Virgil Ferren’s obituary revealed that he was survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter. A devoted husband and father, Virgil Ferren was active in both the community and his church.

Virgil’s wife had passed away in 1998. But oh, the wonders of the Internet. It took two minutes to find Virgil’s son Larry and his daughter Terry on Facebook. Larry’s profile revealed he was a college chemistry professor who lived with his wife in Chicago. Terry was married to a pastor and lived in Alabama.

Annette now had answers to questions concerning her biological father and information about her half-siblings. I assumed my genealogy work was coming to an end.

Every once in a while I would ask Annette how she felt about making contact with her brother and sister. “Scared,” was her usual reply. “What if they don’t like me? Is it morally right to intrude on their lives with information like this?”

“I know what you mean,” I replied. I was having similar thoughts as well.

One day I woke up with an idea. “Annette, what if I write a letter on your behalf? I could be the go-between. I won’t include your last name, and I’ll tell them about how we met in Italy and how your story unfolded. They can contact me if they would like to know you.”

Although Annette said she would think about it, I was already composing a letter in my mind. I had decided that my first contact would be with Terry. I wanted to make sure I included everything, especially how special Annette was. I e-mailed the letter to Annette. “This is a beautiful letter,” she responded through tears. “But I’m scared.”

A week later Annette called and said she would like the letter to be mailed. “I’m seventy-four years old; let’s go for it,” she said. So I mailed the letter, including Annette’s birth certificate and a photo I had taken of her in Venice.

For all the confidence I had that we were doing the right thing, as soon as I mailed the letter I started to have doubts. What if Terry threw the letter in the trash? What if she thought it was some kind of joke or worse, what if it made her angry? I found myself checking e-mail every hour.

Eight days later I logged onto the computer and there it was . . . . an e-mail from Terry. The subject line was “My Sister!”

Everyone has moments in life when time stands still. Reading Terry’s letter was such a moment for me. Her letter was warm and welcoming, sweet and kind. I knew instantly that everything was going to be okay. No, much better than okay. I couldn’t wait to call Annette.

Terry wrote that the letter came as a big surprise, but a wonderful one. She did not know the circumstances of Annette’s conception and birth. She had always wanted a sister, and she wanted me to convey that to Annette right away. She also wanted to talk with Annette, but first she needed to talk to her brother.

When I read Terry’s e-mail to Annette on the telephone we both cried. Annette was so happy she told me later that she slept that night holding a printout of Terry’s e-mail.

A few days later I received my first e-mail from Larry. He was as warm and welcoming as Terry had been and wanted to arrange a conference call as soon as possible. He said he couldn’t wait to talk to his big sister!

On a beautiful June morning Annette called with exciting news. She and her husband had been invited to visit Larry and his wife in Chicago. Annette asked if I would be on the cell phone with her when they arrived. “You’ve been with me all the way through this,” she said. I replied that I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

A few weeks later Annette and her husband Joe flew from California to Chicago. As they exited the plane and walked up the ramp, Annette described seeing her brother and sister standing together arm in arm. Terry was holding beautiful flowers and Larry held a sign that read, “Welcome to Our Family.”

Today Annette and her new brother and sister have a wonderful relationship. They e-mail and talk on the phone regularly. After the initial trip to Chicago, Annette invited everyone to their home in California and last summer they all met in Chicago again. They are making up for lost time and enjoying every minute of it.

Sometimes at night I look up at the stars and say thank you to Virgil Ferren. He must have been a special man to have produced such extraordinary children. Annette’s sister Terry believes that God had a hand in placing us next to each other that evening in Rome . . . and I have to say I agree. Their story is a testament of faith, love, and the irresistible urge we all have for family connections.

~Pamela Chaconas

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners