The Reunion Day
February 4, 2009 - Jackie Drenth-Nachazel had hoped that someday her daughter would find her way back to her. She placed her daughter for adoption 35 years ago, on the advice of her parents. Jackie said the decision was tough, especially for her father.
"My dad always wondered if he did the right thing," she said.
Last September, after Jackie went through a long process to finally meet her daughter, she said she definitely made the right decision.
Jackie's daughter Sally Soffredine, 35, of Traverse City started that process 10 years ago when she first started looking for her birth parents. Sally said she looked for information in Petoskey, where she was born, as well as looking with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians because she knew her birth father was a native American. Sally said she had no luck finding leads in a process that wasn't always easy.
"Don't be afraid to find your parents," Sally said. "My fear was that they wouldn't want to see me."
Meanwhile, her mother Jackie, of Ellsworth, was praying she would be able to meet her daughter some day. Although Jackie could not find her daughter on her own, she helped the process along when she made an important discovery in 2007 that some of the information in her file was incorrect. She said the information was corrected, but all she could do was continue to wait and pray.
She wasn't alone. She said her church was very supportive of her, and her pastor Michael Arp even wrote a song called "Reunion Day" in 2007 about them meeting someday. Pastor Arp said he wrote the song in only 10 minutes, and had it recorded even before Jackie and Sally met. Eventually Pastor Arp was able to play the song for both of them together.
"We've been praying that God would give her daughter to her," Pastor Arp said. "It has been one of the highlights of being a minister."
A month before their reunion day, Sally made the first big break in the process. She said she called Child and Family Services in Traverse City again and they were then able to give her the non-identifying information they had.
Following the breadcrumbs, she went to East Jordan, where her parents went to school. While searching through the library, Sally said the librarian gave her a tip about a man who might know about her parents. The man happened to be coming in with his son to the library that day.
Sally said she talked with the man at the library about his guess her parents' identities. He also told Sally that her father had passed away in 1996. Finally, after receiving the detailed description of her parents and the baby they placed for adoption, Sally had enough clues to make a good guess about the identity of her mother and father.
"I was standing there a little dumbfounded," Sally said. "That baby was me."
Sally said she called Child and Family Services back, and they were able to confirm Sally's guess was correct. The agency offered to call Sally's mother for her. On that same day, mother and daughter were reunited in a park halfway between Traverse City and Ellsworth. After 10 years of waiting, Jackie quickly whisked Sally away to meet her other family members, including her two half-brothers, Jackie's other sons.
"Part of my heart would be fulfilled when I met my daughter," Jackie said. "It was closure for me."
The next day, Jackie was able to meet Sally's daughter and three sons – four new grandchildren. Soon the rest of the family was introduced, Sally was able to get in touch with her father's family, and Jackie met Sally's adoptive parents.
"Her adoptive father Tim told me 'Thanks for the baby,'" Jackie said.
Even after only knowing each other a few days, Jackie and Sally quickly found out just how much alike they are. They both work at Mary Kay Cosmetics and have very similar personalities.
"We both leave our lights on and we get sidetracked really easily,"Jackie said.
"Both forget to put their gas caps back on their cars," Pastor Arp quickly added.
Both said they look forward to spending more time together after the reunion day they were never certain would happen. Jackie said prayer helped her through the process that seems like providence in the end.
"People don't realize the chain reaction of their decisions," Jackie said.