The Infinite Worth of a Nickel

The Infinite Worth of a Nickel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

The Infinite Worth of a Nickel

Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.

~Author Unknown

I looked at the clock as the phone rang. Who was calling so early on a Saturday morning? The caller ID provided no help. “Private.”

It was probably a sales call.

“Hello?”

The woman on the other end said, “I’m looking for. . .”

Listening, impatiently, as the caller mispronounced my name, I readied myself to give a polite, but firm, “We’re not interested.” I was barely paying attention to what was being said when I heard “Chicken Soup” mentioned.

“Did you have a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul?” she had asked.

My curiosity was piqued. “Yes.”

“Well, there was an article about you in the paper. . .”

“Yes,” I said again, not sure where my anonymous caller was going with this, and still a bit annoyed by the early morning call.

And then she said: “I think I’m your daughter.”

Twenty-three years had gone by since I held my baby close, sang lullabies to her, prayed over her and kissed her sweet face, trying to pour as much love into her as possible in a few short days. Not a week passed I didn’t think of Meagan and long to hold her again. As a twenty-three-year-old myself at the time, I carefully weighed my options when I discovered I was pregnant. I decided adoption would be the best option, not only for me, but for my child as well. It was an excruciating choice.

For nearly twenty-two hours, I had struggled to bring this child into the world and as the pain intensified, so did my doubts about my choice. Finally, I had delivered the most beautiful baby girl. Although I had loved her throughout my pregnancy, it was only when I looked into her brown eyes for the first time that I felt in love with her. My heart sang with praise for the miracle of her. Tears ran down my cheeks as she was placed into my arms. Meagan Rae, my sweet baby girl.

Three days later, I handed her to a nurse and walked out of the hospital, leaving a large part of my heart with her as I drove away. Everything in me wanted to turn and go back, but I knew it wasn’t a time for selfishness. This wasn’t about me; it was all about her.

Having two more daughters never took away my grief over losing my firstborn. My children grew up knowing about their half-sister and prayed she would find us someday. On that early October morning, she did.

“Did you ever think about me on my birthday?” Meagan asked. That was an easy one to answer. Every September, I mourned. I bought birthday cards, wrote in them, sealed the envelopes and put them away, hoping that someday I would be able to share them with her. Candles were lit on a yearly birthday cake as my husband, children and I would sing to her empty chair. It was a ritual.

“Did I ever think of you on your birthday?” I repeated her question. “Any number of my friends can answer that one for you.” Recounting our yearly tradition to her made all of it worthwhile, no matter how painful it had been.

After being on the phone for nearly an hour, we agreed to meet that afternoon. Raised only ten miles away and in search of me for years, Meagan didn’t want to wait another day. Neither did I.

The night before that early morning phone call, I had spent hours searching a birthparent/adoptee reunion website. I kept my updated contact information on the site, making it readily available in case my daughter was searching for me. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I cried, “Meagan, where are you? Why can’t you find me?” I prayed for God to bring her to me. More than anything else in my life, I wanted to see my little girl. Crying myself to sleep, I wondered why God wouldn’t answer my prayer.

At the same time, Meagan’s adoptive mother was up late working on the computer. Suddenly, my name flashed through her mind. She had seen it, upside down, on the adoption papers twenty-three years earlier, but could never remember how to spell it. However, clarity hit at that moment and she typed it into a search engine. A link for a newspaper article appeared on the screen.

Earlier that year, “The Nickel Story” had been published in Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul. It was a touching story about love, loss, and a very special nickel. I wrote about my friends, Frank and Susan, who lived close by and worshipped at the same church as my family. After being published, someone on the staff at Chicken Soup for the Soul suggested I send out a press release about being included in the anthology. After mailing it to several area newspapers, I was actually surprised when one contacted me for an interview, complete with a photograph.

“You have to come home,” Meagan’s mom had nearly shouted into the phone the night before. “I found her! I found your birthmother!”

Meagan had stayed up all night with her mom, waiting for morning to come so she could finally call me. They read the article, talked about the two sisters she never knew, and discussed her fears. She had no way of knowing I’d been praying for this reunion, nor that her sisters were praying for it as well.

The moment arrived. My heart pounded as I watched Meagan’s parents emerge from the van, followed by her brother and his wife, and finally, my daughter — my baby girl. I wasn’t prepared for her to be a couple of inches taller than me, filling my arms quite differently than the last time I’d held her. The two families were immersed in hugs and tears — sisters, brother, adoptive parents, birthmother, my husband, Meagan’s sister-in-law — all rejoicing in this reunion. We shared pictures and stories. And more hugs. And more joyful tears.

Earlier that morning, Meagan dialed my number.

“Hello.”

She heard a stranger’s voice, yet somewhere deep inside, there was a familiarity. Who says a nickel can’t buy you anything?

~Hana Haatainen Caye

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