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"The Records Were Closed, But The Story Was Open"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 16, 2024 3:01 am

"The Records Were Closed, But The Story Was Open"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 16, 2024 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Eddie Willis always knew he was adopted. And, he was fine with not knowing where he came from... That is, until he had his children of his own. He tells the story of the search for his birth parents and an outcome he never could've imagined.

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Connecting changes everything. And we return to Our American Stories. And up next, we have a hometown story. A story from our little town of Oxford, Mississippi. Home to 20,000 people and Ole Miss. Home to SEC Sports, folks.

And we're about an hour south, due south of Memphis, Tennessee. This story is told by Eddie Willis, who's a pastor here in town. Today, he's here to share the story about his adoption and his decision at the age of 40 to search for his birth parents. I learned at the earliest age that I was an adopted child. I had a lot of questions for my parents, and they always answered. They were always open and honest. This was at a time before adoptions were open where you knew your parents. And that in itself was much different than today.

It was almost like a spy movie. They met some of the social workers in a park and had to bring in a brown paper sack, clothing, be very discreet, and they handed me off in a public park in New Orleans. And that's how. Up until about the age of 40, I had the mindset that this is the way it was, and they set me on this path in the adoption process. And my parents that adopted me were the only parents that I had and needed.

I felt like I was fine not knowing where I came from. And so it wasn't until adulthood, marriage, children of my own that I really started having those desires. My wife and I started our family. And then it was during the birth of our first child that I started having these feelings that I never had before that I'm a parent. You know, there there must be an emotional attachment to me from my birth mom is the way it started out. And then as a father myself, there must be these feelings from my birth father. And so all through childhood, I was told that I was adopted out of Methodist Children's Home in New Orleans. And it's one of the last states that has sealed records that just will not be opened and ended up at the door of the Office of Records.

And a sweet, kind lady came outside and I don't think she knew how emotional it was. And she said, your records are probably five feet behind this door. But if I open these records, I myself would suffer consequences legally. I can't let you see these records.

So I had a friend that was in industry of private investigation and tried to go that route, just a dead end. My wife even found the doctor that delivered me, and he's retired and very elderly. And he said, well, the reason your husband was adopted out of the Methodist Children's Home, but was birthed at the Baptist Hospital in New Orleans is that it would have been a high risk pregnancy. And she said, well, that makes sense because his birth certificate says he's a twin. And so I am a twin that survived. My brother didn't make it.

I tried through the legal system and only legally I had written some letters to senators in Louisiana, and I knew some bills were coming before the state Senate. And I wrote several of these people in power that I said, I can know more about my own canine than I can about myself. I could look up my dog's ancestry, but you're stopping me.

Could you please open these records? It's frustrating. And then it's so ironic. One of my best friends from my hometown, he had seen something that I had posted on the Internet, Facebook, about looking for my parents. And he said, hey, my wife's old roommate does this. His wife was roommates with a lady that found her mother on her own and started helping other people as a hobby. She's helped a lot of other people and has used a lot of resources at her fingertips, whether it's actual data or favors from people that can get the data. And those favors are typically from people that she helped them find their birth parents. He connected me with her.

And this kind, sweet lady, I call her my adoption angel. She was reaching out to all the sources that she had during the seven years that she was trying to help me. She said, Eddie, this is the hardest case I go through, dead end after dead end. And she said, my dining room, I have dead end charts with you at the top and it's like CSI. I'm trying to solve this case. And it just I keep hitting dead ends.

Would you please try ancestry? Would you please try the DNA swab? And I just really was guarded about and I still am guarded about my personal information and my DNA. And my wife really was at the forefront of really helping me. She could tell there was a little bit of my heart that needed to be filled, a vacuum that was still empty. And so she had been helping me search and bought me a kit for my birthday. And it sat there on the shelf and reluctantly after about a month, two months, three months, I did the swab, sent it in.

I let my adoption angel, as I call her, have the password and everything to get into this site. And about three months later, she called me and said, are you sitting down? I said, yes, I'm driving. And she said, OK, I know ninety nine point nine percent who your birth mother is. And I just wanted to pull over. And I did. And I just was so happy. And I had this information and I had phone numbers because the resources that the sweet lady that had helped me on this journey found my birth mom.

And so there was this information. So, again, you know, my wife, who had been helping me through all of this, said you need to call her. And I'm like, oh, my goodness, I can't I can't do this.

It was just so nervous. I was like a teenager trying to call someone that I was in love with and I just would pick up the phone that I'd hang it up. And then I dialed the number and that closed my phone. And finally, I left a message and my profession is a minister. And I didn't want to think that they were getting this strange phone call from a number. And I was trying to sell something that I'm a minister in North Mississippi. And I was I was trying to connect with you on a situation and I didn't hear anything for a day. I didn't hear anything for a couple of days. And I told my wife, I said, I've heard of adoption stories that just don't turn out.

This is not going to work. And so it was a week to the day that I'd called and I had this this phone call and and it was a Louisiana number. And I'm staring at my phone.

I'm so nervous. And I answered just so intrepidly. And I said, hello, my name is Eddie and I'm a minister from North Mississippi. And I was born in Louisiana in 1968. And she said, Eddie, it's me.

And just stopped all of this jargon that I was spewing out of my mouth. It was my birth mom. And so calmly, she said, I just have two questions. Have you had a good life?

Have you had good parents? And I said, yes. And we just both broke down on the phone and we we wept.

It was a joyful, joyful moment. And she said, I wondered if this call would ever happen. She told me about the process and about how this had been a relationship in high school. And she and my birth father did not get married. But she remembered even so long ago, 50 years ago at the time, she said, I just remember your feet, your small little feet. And evidently at the time, adoptions were closed and they limited the time that the birth mother would have with the baby.

And she said, I didn't really I didn't really get to hold you very long. And then the process started where your adoptive parents were able to take you home just a few days later. And you've been listening to Eddie Willis's story of the search of his birth parents. He hadn't given it much thought until he was 40 years of age. My parents who adopted me were the only parents I wanted or needed, he said. But then came the birth of his child and he started to have these feelings and the search.

Well, it started for his birth parents. And 10 years later, after that search commenced, came that call from Louisiana and he heard these words from his mom, Eddie, it's me. When we come back, more of this remarkable story. We love adoption stories here on this show, as they are the ultimate act of human love.

More of Eddie Willis's story here on Our American Stories. I bet you're smart. Yeah, and you like to hold your own in the group chat. We can help you drop even more knowledge.

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See website for details. And we're back with our American stories and with Eddie Willis' story. When we last left off, Eddie, at the age of 50, had finally connected through a phone call with his birth mother.

Let's return to Eddie for the rest of the story. After that beautiful conversation, I called her back and there was a no dial tone. It said, this number is no longer in service.

And I was thinking, this is terrible. She's disconnected her phone and doesn't want to hear from me. And I was so sad. She called me back in another day and was panicked.

They had installed a new phone line in their house and they didn't know when the company would cut their old line. And she was trying every way she could to contact me, but couldn't. And she was nervous thinking that I was thinking she didn't want to ever hear from me again, which is what I was thinking. And again, you know, she was overjoyed that I had found her. And she had wondered most of her life, even having three kids with her husband. And she married a gentleman named Ed. My birth father's name is Ed.

I'm Ed. It's just, you know, there's so many ironic things, but she couldn't wait to come up with her husband. And she came to our town and we just had this wonderful reunion and she had gifts for my children and just instantly fit into the grandmother role. So we had a great relationship. And then through this DNA company, through Ancestry, Elise, my adoption angel, had called and said, I just noticed your account, you have somebody looking for you and it's on your dad's side. And if I were you, I would call your dad before they get to him and tell him all this information about you've been found and that you found your birth mom. So I had a half sister that was looking for me. So what I wanted to do, I could have reached out to him, but I told my birth mom I wanted to give her the opportunity to reach out to him and say, hey, our son is looking for you.

He found me because they see each other unions and functions. They have an admiration for each other, even though the relationship didn't continue. But he had really been very, very quiet about it on his side. I mean, you don't really talk about, hey, I had a relationship in high school and my girlfriend had a baby.

And, you know, he didn't say much, if anything, about it. She had called me back and said he definitely wanted to find me when I reached out to him. His first words were, why did you wait so long?

And, you know, we talked about sports and we talked about life. Then he really started wanting to get into things deeper. And so then he called me the next day and then he started calling more and more.

We became deeper and deeper. And, you know, we've become very close, just like my mom and I. And so he wanted to meet. And he said, why don't we meet right north of Jackson at a steakhouse? He probably wanted to make sure I was normal. I assume he had been there a lot longer than I had.

And I think he was anxious. And so we met in there and he said, reach out your hands. And I reached out and he grabbed my hands from across the table. And he said, our family has this line in the palm of our hands. And I have the same line, just like his in both the palms of my hands. And he said, my daddy, your grandfather, has that line.

And my brother has that line. And he just got really teary eyed. He's holding my hand and the waiter comes. And we're these two men holding hands in the restaurant. And I said, I'm so glad we found each other. And I'm not sure what all I said, but I said, since I'm a surviving twin. He said, what?

I said, since I'm a surviving twin. And he just wept and just wept. And he said, my father was a twin. After that, he said, we've got to get our families together. And it was time to connect with my father's side of the family. And so they threw a crawfish bowl for us.

They invited relatives far and wide to come. And I mean, it was so neat. It was like a movie. The sun's going down. And my dad said, Eddie's a guitar player. And my half brother said, well, I've got a guitar upstairs. And a cousin sings real well.

And I mean, it was a movie setting. We're having crawfish. The sun's going down. We're singing James Taylor songs and songs from the 70s. And the family's joining in.

It's like a campfire scene. It was just a wonderful, wonderful reunion. It brought a lot of good memories.

And I want to say it brought a lot of healing because it was such a time of angst, swirling around the relationship that my mother and father had and then my birth and then the ending of that relationship and I guess not knowing where I was. My father's children, which are my half siblings, were saying he would never talk about it. And it just was a closed and shut story.

And I think it was breached once or twice. And the family understood that they shouldn't bring that up again. So it was almost a biblical homecoming story for me and my family. And my children were just welcomed in. And I think he's so proud of our family. You know, we walk into a restaurant and he'll see his friends. This is my son. He has mentioned, you know, we've got a lot of living.

We've got a lot of living to do. Even though the records are closed, it was an open story for my parents and the way I was brought up. And my mother and father were just overjoyed that I had found my birth mother. And shortly after that, my father passed away. And shortly after is when I found my birth father.

You know, nothing could take the place of him. But it's interesting how finding my father after my father passed away and just so many things in my life have fallen into place. I wonder what my children think that, you know, for a while it was like, Hey, you have a new relative. You've got another relative. Here's some grandparents, more grandparents. They've been on quite a ride with me.

I mean, not even bouncing back. They just were very forward and just the way it is. So we trade off with all sides of the family, making trips down there and up here. Our initial reunion in Louisiana with my mother, I was able to go see my grandparents. They were still living in their 90s. And my grandmother, who probably was four foot four, she leaned up and I leaned down and she said, I always knew this day would come. And my grandfather was so happy to see me. And they were always the volunteers at their Methodist churches. They always volunteered in the youth department. And they knew someone at the Methodist Children's Home through their United Methodist Connections in Louisiana. And every Sunday at my local church, a tradition that was started before I came to that church, I say, and now the children are going to walk around and take up the change.

This goes to the United Methodist Children's Home. I could look at my personal story negatively, but I don't think I've even chosen it. Just the way I think about it is so positive. As a pastor, I talk so much about being adopted into the family of Christ. And I've had a great life to answer my birth mom's question.

It's been wonderful. It just was very natural. The way my parents packaged it, it was that my birth mother loved me so much that she chose to allow someone to take care of me. And, you know, every now and then people would say, well, you're adopted?

And I'm like, yes, aren't you? And a great job on the production by Madison. And a special thanks to Eddie Willis for sharing his adoption story. And my goodness, what a story about love, about sacrifice, and what a gift Eddie is to this community. And what a choice that young couple made to let this young child get adopted. This community would not have Eddie Willis but for that decision, and he's been ministering to thousands of young men, young women, and students here at Ole Miss and contributing in ways that are unimaginable and incalculable.

The story of Eddie Willis here on Our American Stories. Stay with Hip Hop Beats and more on the iHeartRadio music channels. No logins, no signups, no accounts, no hassle. So what are you waiting for? Start streaming at play.xumo.com or download from the app and Google Play stores today. All you can stream with Zumo Play. With dozens of streaming services, box office films, and content to choose from, people are spending over two and a half years of their lives searching for what to watch. But The Hollywood Reporter brings you THR charts, one place for you, your family, and friends to find the most watched TV shows and movies every week. THR charts is a guide to help you spend less time scrolling through platforms so that you can spend more time watching and binging the content everyone is talking about. All supported by data and trusted sources like Nielsen, Comscore, and Para Analytics.

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