Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.

By Sherry Collins

I was fifteen, pregnant and unwed. My mother immediately sent me away to Atlanta to make me give my daughter up for adoption.  With no support from my mother or from the father of my baby, I felt I had no choice.

Four months later, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. To leave that hospital was heartbreaking. I would later — as my mom called it — “spiral out of control” with drinking, drugs and not a care for my self worth.

I did, however, from the very beginning keep my information open in case my daughter ever looked for me. I called yearly to the Atlanta Reunion Registry to make sure they still had all my correct information.

Although the adoption was closed, I did want to be found. Back in 1984, I believe most adoptions were closed. So I just did all I could do.

I got married in 1995. I immediately told my soon-to-be husband that I have actively been looking for my daughter for years and that I would never stop. I wanted him to know that if he did not support me in this, then marrying would not have been right. He fully supported me and knew how much I loved her and wanted to find her.

Fast forward to December 26, 2015. I called the agency like I had so many times before. This time, they actually said that maybe they could help me. My daughter was now thirty-one years old, and the agency assigned a caseworker to me.

At 9:20 a.m. on February 19, 2016, I’ll never forget, I got the call I have been waiting for my daughter’s whole life!! They found her!!

BUT — my heart sank — she was deceased. I could barely catch my breath, I went from ecstatic to devastated in fifteen seconds.

The lady on the phone said how sorry she was and asked if I wanted her name and town and the state she was from. I waited to hear the beautiful words of my daughter’s name…Maron Elizabeth ahhhhh Maron Elizabeth, my God the most beautiful name I’ve ever heard!!

I broke down and sobbed; my husband ran in, he knew it was bad. I told him and he just held me as I made a sound that was just God-awful. I had to sit and take it in.

My daughter is dead, I’ll never get to know her, I’ll never get to see her, hug her, smell her hair, kiss her cheeks, hear her laugh. I’ll never get to tell her I love her. I’ll never get to tell her MY story.

For the next two weeks, I went into detective mode. I needed to find all pictures, all info, anything! Everything! I stayed up till 2 a.m. or so and I’d wake up and go right back at it. I found my daughter’s Facebook page and saw her face.

Oh my God, what a beautiful girl I had. She had two little girls of her own. Now I was on a mission. I’m going to find these babies!! They are going to know I care; they are going to know I love them and that I loved their mommy.

I looked at Maron’s obituary and found the names of the girls’ father and grandmother. I found Facebook family members and I reached out to everyone; I wrote letters, and sometimes didn’t know if I was writing to the right family or not, but I was going to knock on every door possible. I had to.

Then one beautiful day in June, I got a phone call from the girls’ grandmother!! She said, “I have your grandchildren here and they would like to say hello to you!!”

I thought I was dreaming. Is this rea!?!? I’ve always had to prove I was worth living, and here is a family willing to give me a chance.

Now here we are a good sixteen months later, and we are fixing to have our fifth visit at Thanksgiving.

My grandchildren have been calling me Grandma for all this time, and I never knew I could be so happy!! I have a whole new family thanks to my girls, their wonderful father – who, by the way, had just as much to do with allowing me into the girls’ lives as his mother — all for loving me and giving me a chance.

I now have a piece of my daughter in them, and they have a piece of her in me. We have just instantly bonded. It’s so very sad that I was too late in finding Maron, but I’m so very thankful I get to be a grandmother to her children. Her girls have helped heal my heart. I just am so blessed to have them in my life. I never knew so much good could come out of some much heartache and bad – but it did!

sherry-and-grandkids sherry-with-8-yr-old-grand sherry-with-grandkids-2 sherry-with-grandkids-and-new-fam-1 sherry-with-grandkids-and-new-fam-3 sherrys-daughter-maron-1 sherrys-daughter-maron-2

Sherry and her husband Alan Collins love life and living in Savannah, Georgia. They have been married for over 23 years. Sherry has been in home health care for over 30 years and her husband has been a charter captain for over 10 years. They anxiously wait to make visits to see the grandchildren every three months or so, loving any chance to see Maron’s kids grow up! They are not going to miss not one single minute of it.

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter.