Dear Sean


I have no idea what to do. I had never met my biological mother until a couple months ago, and now she’s wanting to be a part of my life now.

I don’t know that I want this and it’s stressing me out. I was adopted, and I’m 53 now, it’s not like I can just be okay with this stranger who didn’t want me 53 years ago, but now she won’t leave me alone.

It’s making me feel really guilty for not being into this whole idea. What should I do?



Let me introduce you to Hubert. After I received your message, I immediately contacted Hubert to get permission to share his story. Hubert is not his real name.

He grew up as an adopted child. His childhood was a normal one. He liked rock and roll, long hair, lava lamps, and ticking off his parents.

When he was in his mid thirties he decided to find his birth mother. Hubert went through a lot of trouble tracking the woman down. And when he finally found her, he discovered that his mother was not exactly what you’d call a model citizen.

What he expected was a sedate older woman with cookies in the oven and scripture embroidery hanging on her walls. What he got was an embittered woman living in a bad situation, in terrible health, with addictions out the wazoo.

But what hurt worst of all was that this woman had four adult children. Children she’d kept.

“I couldn’t believe she’d kept them but thrown me away,” said Hubert. “I mean, I’m grateful that mess wasn’t my life, but why not me? You know, you always wonder.”

So establishing contact with his mother was not the warm fuzzy love fest he’d envisioned. And it got worse when the woman learned Hubert could help her financially. She started badgering him for cash.

The irony is that she never asked about his life, or his job, or whether he had kids, or whether he was happy. She just wanted the cheddar.

Hubert, who has a big heart, helped her with money, but she spent it all on booze and other vices, thereby breaking his heart even more.

After that, Hubert distanced himself from the woman. When she realized the handouts were finished, her calls stopped. Their relationship was dead. End of story.

Except it wasn’t the end. Not by a long shot.

A fateful call came one evening. The call was from the old woman’s daughter who said the woman was dying. Hospice had been invoked.

Hubert totally lost it. He couldn’t explain why he was emotional. Maybe he was weeping for himself. Or maybe he was just crying because life sucks sometimes.

“I had to see her,” said Hubert.

So he drove halfway across the U.S. until he arrived at a dilapidated single-wide. He found her door half open, and she was inside alone.

The caregiving responsibilities were supposedly being handled by her other kids, but this was laughable. Her children had abandoned her. Her utilities has been shut off. One of her children had even stolen her bank card and was robbing the dying woman blind.

Hubert called his wife and announced that he was moving in with his biological mother for the time being.

“This woman needs me,” he told his wife and kids.

Hubert began cooking for her, feeding her, and reading aloud to her in the evenings. He spent his days changing her bedsheets, helping her bathe, and he cradled her in his arms when she used the bathroom.

As if this wasn’t enough, Hubert’s wife and children joined him in the labor. They all moved into her house trailer to help this woman die with dignity.

And as much as I’d like to say this story has a sappy Hollywood ending where everyone hugs and kisses and gets a shiny Oscar, life doesn’t work that way.

Sure, the woman was probably grateful for Hubert’s attention, but she certainly was not vocal about it. She never once told him she loved him. She never uttered anything that remotely resembled an apology.

There was, however, one night Hubert will always remember.

It happened when she was dazed beneath the weight of heavy medication and getting ready for bed. Hubert was beside her, helping connect a CPAP machine. The old woman took his hand and squeezed it.

She said, “Do you know that you were the prettiest baby? Do you know I couldn’t even bring myself to hold you, because if I’d held you I woulda never let you go? If I’d done that I woulda taken you home and just ruined your life like I ruined mine.”

That was all she said. Hubert had wet eyes and a clogged nose. All he could do was respond with a nod.

After her death, Hubert handled the funeral arrangements. And on the day of her ceremony Hubert was one of two who showed up. The woman’s other children did not attend, and nobody sent well-wishes.

But Hubert did. He stood over the hole in the ground and he bid goodbye to the woman because everyone, especially the wayward and hopeless, deserves a proper goodbye.

When Hubert finished his letter to me, he closed with this:

“I didn’t just forgive my biological mom because she deserved it. I guess I forgave her because I would’ve wanted the same done unto me.”

I hope this helps you, Sleepless. Because it sure as heck helped yours truly.


  1. Kat - June 23, 2021 8:36 am

    I am 66 years old and adopted. I to found my biological brothers and sisters. I dealt with the phone calls, the neediness. I decided I had lived without these strangers all of my life so I stopped taking their calls and responding to their emails. I would suggest you do the same. Most of these “feel good” relationships don’t work out.

  2. Steve McCaleb - June 23, 2021 8:36 am

    Because life sucks sometimes says it all.There are times when the most simple statements are the most profound. I believe this is one of them.

  3. Trey - June 23, 2021 9:08 am

    “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” // Jesus // Matthew‬ ‭7:12‬ ‭KJV‬‬

  4. Amanda - June 23, 2021 10:29 am

    Thank you for sharing Hubert’s powerful and inspiring story.

  5. Vanessa - June 23, 2021 11:05 am

    Sean — what a powerful story about forgiveness in your beautifully crafted words! Thank you for this and for continuing to be a bright spot in my world!!! I know it’s been hard for you to write recently. Please know what a blessing you are to your devoted readers!

  6. Jo Ann - June 23, 2021 12:09 pm

    Thank you for his story. For the letter-writer, it perhaps wasn’t because your birth mother didn’t want you, but couldn’t give you the care or life she felt you deserved. She may have felt you could have had a better life than she could provide. Good luck whatever you decide. Thank you, Sean.

  7. Nancy Crews - June 23, 2021 12:25 pm

    ❤your writing. I wonder if I would have had it in me to do what Hubert and his family did. Just how far does my grace extend. Thank you for the story.

  8. Ann - June 23, 2021 12:37 pm

    Thank you for this!!! I have a niece that is adopted into our family and now three grandchildren (full brother and sisters) into ours.

    Every life has a story. An adoptee lives above muddy waters. And they can’t help but wonder what’s there. I would be the same. But you have to be prepared for what lurks there.

    I told my niece as she searched for her birth family. It’s ok to want to know where you came from. But that’s only a teeny bit of what makes you who you are. We are right here on the shore holding your hand as navigate those murky waters. We will support you and remember it’s ok to just look and see. You don’t have to live there. You are ours!!!!

    • Viann Augustine - June 23, 2021 6:47 pm

      That’s the most beautiful way of describing the situation of adoption as muddy waters & being on the shore w/ someone as they explore the ‘what if’ in their life. We’ll put!

  9. Bob E - June 23, 2021 12:44 pm

    Who are we to judge?
    Hubert and his family did what they thought and felt was the proper thing. Others chose not to participate.
    We can think and feel what we may however
    each will be judged at his appropriate time.

  10. joan moore - June 23, 2021 12:55 pm

    I love how you humbly sneak in a profound truth: you have to do what you can live with.

  11. Lynne Fulmer - June 23, 2021 12:58 pm

    Sleepless, I am 53 years old, not adopted but lost both my parents by the time I was 21. I lost my mother to cancer when I was just 10. I can honestly say that I hunger for a parental relationship, knowing that I will never get the chance to have that as an adult. My husband grew up never knowing his Dad. He was told by his mother that his father had died many years ago but the truth is that she was just 18 years old when she gave birth to him and she was wild as a buck and didn’t have what it took to be a good Mom. He was raised by his grandmother most of his life, except for the few years his Mother put him in a boys school 2 hours away from anyone he knew and loved. He was an only child because she had aborted the only sibling he would have had when she was 20. He and I married in 1996 and had a beautiful daughter that we raised together until she was 12 years old. I say until she was 12 because that is when our marriage took a turn in the wrong direction. Our daughter played travel softball and we were on our way to Florida for a week long tournament when we got the called that forever changed our lives. The call came in from his Mother and we gladly accepted it over bluetooth so all three of us could hear the conversation that was about to take place. His Mom said hello and made small talk for a minute, which she never did, then said I have someone here that wants to talk to you. He said OK, thinking it was his uncle or a cousin or someone he had not seen or spoken to in a while. He was right, it was someone he had never seen nor spoken too in 43 years, it was his “dead” Father. You see, his Mother was getting older and realizing it was time to right all of her wrongs so she searched high and low until she found the man who fathered my husband. The man she never gave a chance to know his son. The man who would have been a great father to him all the years he needed a Dad in his life. The man that could have possibly changed his life and prevented the things that happened to him from happening. Now, after 43 years, she expects my husband to welcome him with open arms and immediately “love” him because he is his Dad. Well, unfortunately for my family, it didn’t work out that way. It brought out a lot of unresolved issues he had never dealt with because he didn’t know he had them because as far as he knew, his Daddy died many, many years ago. Long story short, today my husband is dead. My daughter lost her Daddy when she was 19 years old because of alcoholism and drug addiction that he did not have prior to finding out his Father was alive. So, my advice to you is that if you are not sure you want this, then pump the brakes on her. Let her sit idly by and wait for you just like you have for her for the last 53 years of your life. Forcing yourself to be involved in a relationship you are not 100% committed to could bring up a lot of hurt and anger you don’t need in your life. If you are confused about some things and think that talking with her will help you resolve those issues, then you get what you need from her. She made a choice 53 years ago without caring how it would affect you so don’t sacrifice your feelings and emotions for someone just because they need forgiveness. Hope this helps. I am just someone on the outside looking in with experience in dealing with what could come from it.

  12. Bob - June 23, 2021 1:01 pm

    Amazing, beautiful humanity at its best.

  13. Cat - June 23, 2021 1:02 pm

    The epitome of a story of forgiveness and redemption.

  14. Linda Elaine Kerr - June 23, 2021 1:10 pm

    My story is close. Given away straight from the hospital. Five years later she married and had a boy – my precious brother who is the lead singer for a famous oldies band. Turns out we both were fathered by the same man. She kept her son. She was an epileptic from childhood and a morbid embarrassment to my brother, who was raised in an ethnic neighborhood different from his. Our father died young from a blood disease. I found her when I was fifty-ish. Her son had married for the first time, with three more marriages to come), and began building his broken life, as well as his singing career. When I met her, she had emphysema, smoked, had remarried many years earlier, and had been abused for years. The husband’s latest threat was he was going to kill her with his shotgun. I had contacted the newspaper in her major city one year as Mother’s Day was approaching. They were, indeed, interested in a reunion story. My mother and I had written letters and had spoken on the phone only. So I flew to her and our reunion was the lead story on the front page. Shortly after, I realized her home situation had to change. After consulting with professionals, I had to place her in a home for the elderly due to her disease and the home danger. That day, it occurred to me the irony of her turning me over to an institution and lo, these many years later, I was forced to repeat the unthinkable. No fairy tale ending here either, like Hubert. I tried to focus on her earlier comment of how she had loved my big, brown eyes as her cries of abandonment echoed down the halls. We all do the best we can, and so did she. And so did I.

  15. Suellen - June 23, 2021 1:17 pm

    Maybe giving up Hubert for adoption is what changed her into the woman she had become. Repressing her feelings, addictive behaviors, sounds to me like she was hiding a powerful lot of hurt. I got goosebumps reading this. We need more Huberts in this world who can step up and do the right thing even when they aren’t paid back or maybe not even appreciated.

  16. Lulu - June 23, 2021 1:43 pm

    Thanks for this, Sean. I know someone very close who was adopted as a baby. When he was a high schooler he found his birth mom. While he had romantic thoughts of a star mom he found one in the garbage and it changed his life to become something like hers. He never recovered.

  17. SilkPurseProductions - June 23, 2021 1:46 pm

    This popped up on my facebook feed late last night and I wanted to comment but preferred doing it here as opposed to there. The bottom line is…it’s complicated. No one person’s story is the same. I met my biological father when I was 27. Not by choice. I had found out I had sisters and I wanted to meet them and was tricked into meeting him. We developed a very rocky relationship (full disclosure…I threw most of the rocks). I can remember watching Opra, Dr. Phil, and many more of the “reunited children and parent” stories on TV screaming at the screen, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it! It is not a fairy tale ending. The last thing my biological father said to me was, “I love you”. It was also the first time he ever said that to me. The last thing I said to him was, “Are you drunk?”. The next day he went missing and then was found murdered a few days after that. He wasn’t a drug addict or a criminal or anything like that you might think would get you killed. He was a man who wasn’t perfect and made a hell of a lot of mistakes. I often run that last conversation in my head and wonder if I could have ever found it in my heart to be kind to him. It turns out we had quite a bit in common. Both just flawed human beings.

  18. Marilyn - June 23, 2021 2:15 pm

    Every situation is different. Therefore, how it is handled depends on those involved. Pray for help in your decision “Sleepless”, He can help you make wise choices.

  19. Bob Stewart - June 23, 2021 2:56 pm

    This touched my heart. My wife and i have an adopted son. He into our lives as a 3 week old infant
    He is now 30 years olld and a true blessing. We have never met his birhmother. He has on 1 occasion

  20. Linda Moon - June 23, 2021 3:53 pm

    Whew….as a mom of adult children, this brief letter to you tugged my heartstrings. I was anticipating your answer as I read further. And then I met Hubert. My heart cracked a little more there, too, in his story. Hubert did unto another what he would have wanted for himself. So, you’re right, Sean. Sometimes life sucks, but we CAN make it better for each other. You’ve made my LIFE better for a couple of years now. Keep writing for us others, Sean.

  21. Tom Wallin - June 23, 2021 4:19 pm

    Great story with a moral, Sean. I had to learn many years ago that a grudge only hurts yourself not the person you are mad at. It is a huge weight taken off your life when you can forgive even though you may feel the other person does not want or deserve. Life is way too short for such silliness. Forgive and get on with your life if the other person still does not want to have anything to do with you. Thanks.

  22. MAM - June 23, 2021 4:46 pm

    Beautiful story, beautifully written, as always, Sean. I’m blessed that no one close to me has faced such decisions. I thank God, for that!

  23. Ron Mahn - June 23, 2021 5:06 pm

    I was adopted at birth, as was my half brother, by awesome parents who, while not perfect, that did their very best to love both of us and provide for us.

    There were three other siblings that my bio-mother decided not adopt out … indeed she kept and raised them as hers. Five kids by five different men … none to who she was married.

    In 1988 I spent a weekend with bio mother and met my half sister. As my sis said that weekend, “Ron you didn’t get the short end of the stick!”. Truth is my sis who was raised by this woman indeed drew the short stick, given the care-taking my sis was called upon to deal with our Bio mother’s mental health issues.

    Over the years I didn’t pursue relationship with the bio mother for many of the reasons noted above. In hind sight I regret that decision. Oh it was cleaner for me, in the way boundaries were implemented, and chaos was minimized. However, in reflection I I have concluded I owed her some things I failed to show to her for her decision to place me up for adoption. That failure on my part that would have been a higher road with a perspective of humility and gratitude.

    Tho I can’t tell her now, I would have said to her: I am thankful that my bio mother who had the courage to say “no” to the offer of a Canadian abortion in 1953. I am thankful she had the courage and wisdom to seek prenatal care in 1954. I am thankful for her resolve to offer me up for adoption tat same year. I am thankful that over the following year, when she had the legal right to have disrupted the adoption according to her option under Florida law, she decided to leave me with my adoptive parents, in 1955.

    My Sis was right I didn’t get the short end of the stick … for tall hat I am humbled, and grateful to my parents, Mary and Don! I am grateful a stability of home and opportunity for growth and blessing to spread my wings to pursue and move when I needed. fI am thankful for giving me my middle and last name that held family legacy that spoke to inter-generational inclusion ,,, and that I have extended to mine and have seen extended unto a fifth generation … Mostly I am thankful for a deep Faith in The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; their abiding love for each other; and the life defining commitment offered both myself and my brother.

    It was indeed God’s provision offered without my merit … I hope at the end of the day it can be said that I have done well with that opportunity.

  24. Leesa - June 23, 2021 7:36 pm

    “Hubert’s” parents raised him right. But, what he did for his biological mother was his choice and not necessarily the correct one for everyone. God bless the person making their own choice also.

  25. Jean - June 23, 2021 11:41 pm

    Sean, thank you for your beautiful telling of Hubert’s story.
    For Sleepless, I’d like him to know that 53 years ago many girls were forced to give up their babies. It wasn’t that they didn’t want them. I know several such women, some of whom have found or been found by the son or daughter they gave up. Sleepless doesn’t say if his birth mother seems to be a rational person but if she is I hope he can be honest with her about how he feels and keep up some kind of contact, even if infrequent. Ghosting her would be cruel.

  26. Patricia Gibson - June 24, 2021 3:29 am

    What an amazing guy❤️❤️His story is a blessing!

  27. Patti - June 24, 2021 1:18 pm

    What a beautiful example! Greater love has no man than this….
    I hope Hubert is reading this.

  28. Bill Harris - June 24, 2021 4:34 pm

    Thank you Sean

  29. Linda - June 24, 2021 9:16 pm

    My eldest daughter had to give up her baby for adoption when she was 16. She didn’t want to. The boy she loved was whisked away by his mother when we, her parents, insisted he tell his mother of their plan to marry-just as he was about to enter college on a basketball scholarship. She never saw or heard from him again. My husband and my father would not allow my mother or me to keep her baby. With no other options, I contacted a lovely Christian woman whose Bible studies I attended. It turned out her brother & his wife had been trying to have a baby for 13 years, given up & told the Lord if He wanted them to have a baby, He would have to provide it. Long story short, a private adoption was arranged, my daughters cries as she put her beautiful infant boy into the arms of his adoptive mother (who looked uncannily like an older version of herself) still reverberate in my memory. She also sent a letter they promised to give her boy when he turned 18. They did as promised. They were/are a loving Christian couple. They ministered to her, my mother & me the days we spent together following the baby’s birth. We needed it. He was raised in a wonderful loving home. His parents were rich & he had everything any child could want. She eventually married & had two other children – but none could erase the pain in her heart. She knew it was for the best, he had what none of us could have given him. She became ill at age 36 & was hospitalized. When her condition became critical I contacted my Bible teaching friend & told her my daughter’s dying wish was to see her son one last time. By that time he was 19. His father & he flew from California to NC. He sat with her alone & wrote her a beautiful letter thanking her for giving him up, telling her of his loving, great parents & the blessed life he’d had with them. She was in a medically induced coma but I was sure she could tell he was there by the tears seeping under the tape holding her eyes closed. She had tubes & monitors running her body, bloated & not recognizable as the tiny beauty she had once been-but I’m forever convinced she could feel the love bathing her from the child she never wanted to give up but bravely did-for his sake. She died a few days later. I know every adopted child is not as blessed as this one was-but each should be grateful their mother chose life & adoption & didn’t keep them & raise them in chaos. My daughter had many issues & life wasn’t easy for her other 2 children. Alcohol & illicit drugs she used to ease her internal anguish was the course she chose to self medicate. Her second son died from a heart attack at 42 probably caused by alcohol abuse. He could never replace son #1 & was treated badly despite efforts of my parents, my 6 other children – and my own, as my 7th child was born only 17 days before my daughter’s second baby. Fortunately her youngest was a daughter whom she adored & miraculously-because of genes she inherited from her father & her incredible wisdom at an early age, grew into a beautiful young woman-highly educated and a shining light to her husband, her two little boys and all who know her. There isn’t a moral to this story. Life, love, fate, faith all play a part. I would encourage anyone who has to give up a baby to write her/him a letter to be delivered when old enough-explaining the circumstances. Regardless-especially now, with abortion such an easy option, it’s clear that it’s an act of great love to give a baby to people financially & morally able to raise a child rather than taking the easy way out. I hope that thought brings comfort to anyone searching for a bio parent – or the converse. I’m grateful “our” baby had such a fabulous life, it soothes the empty place he left in us to know he totally filled that place in his adoptive parents & extended family’s lives.

    Linda Hill, NC

  30. Linda in Texas - June 25, 2021 2:44 am

    Dear Sleepless in Buffalo – I’m adopted and have met my birth mother and one other sister who is also adopted (different birth mother) has met hers – we have both had entirely different experiences; mine very positive and hers not so much. But bonus, she was able to then meet her birth father and they have a wonderful relationship. Our third sister adopted from yet a different birth mother was contacted by a half sister by the same mother a few years back and learned their birth mother is deceased but also learned of two other half-brothers their mother kept. The half sister is needy and pushy and my sister has had to set firm boundaries. I will add that our adoptive parents were a gift from God. Now that we know the circumstances we were all born into – the greatest gift our birth mothers gave us was an opportunity at a better life. Our parents took in two sisters and were foster parents to them for many years (they never adopted as they had parents they kept in loose contact with and didn’t want to be adopted), they adopted us three girls, then at 40 Momma got the shock of her life and found out she was pregnant, and sister #4 arrived. They loved us all equally and we sisters have a very close bond; we range in age from 50-60 today.

    I could write a book here, but I will just leave it at this – you are a grown adult, and you now can control the situation and direction you take. You should not feel pressured to rush into anything you are not ready for. Follow your heart, but also trust your intuition. Have an open mind and heart, but be prepared to set firm boundaries and to not let someone ‘toxic’ in to your life if that is where this ends up. You will be in my prayers.

  31. Carol Watson - June 26, 2021 5:49 pm

    Beautiful story of forgiveness Sean, thank you for sharing, it certainly was thought provoking! I have a story I will share one day, nothing as moving as this but a story nonetheless, here is a hint….it’s about your book “Will the circle be unbroken “ which I preordered and waited patiently for, received it but never got to read it. One day when I have enough patience to sit and type I will share. Your Tennessee friend, Carol

  32. Rosalind Brymer - June 28, 2021 5:10 pm

    Sean, the site tells me I have already subscribed to your column but I am not getting them in my email inbox. I feel I am missing out on something awesome.
    Please help.


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