It's hard to know when to bless the light and curse the darkness. That's because life so often takes us by surprise. Strange reversals, twists of fate, surprise endings. These things are the stuff of real life, not just fiction. Frequently, a situation that we were so sure was a blessing develops-either suddenly or very slowly-into a veritable curse that we pray will disappear. And the exact opposite holds true as well. Sometimes, the very same set of circumstances that we originally deemed to be a great misfortune turns out to be a gift from God instead. This was precisely the state of affairs that Jean Irish of Welland, Ontario, experienced several years ago.
In the spring of 1997, Jean came home one afternoon and was fumbling with her keys when she noticed that her front door was ajar. Inside, she found her apartment ransacked and all her valuables stolen: her TV, stereo, and several hundred dollars in cash. She felt shaky, vulnerable, and sad. It's all so senseless, she thought. Jean liked to place optimistic spins on mishaps and mistakes, but what possible good could come out of a robbery?
Meanwhile, across the city, Martha Chernis was particularly riveted by an article in the local newspaper recounting the burglary. Robberies-even in smaller, quieter cities such as Welland-aren't uncommon events, and Martha would have quickly skimmed the story and moved on, had it not been for one minor detail: the name of the robbery victim. To see that name in print paralyzed the young reader, because it belonged to the very woman she had been seeking for years-her biological mother, Jean Irish.
Martha tried to maintain her calm, but, in fact, she was stunned. "Mom," she asked her adoptive mother Marie Vollick as she pointed out the newspaper story, "do you think it could be her? I'm scared to ask."
"I'll call," Marie quickly offered. "If we don't try, we'll never know." When Marie couldn't obtain Jean Irish's number through the usual channels, she turned to the local police, who were able to provide the number for her.
"You don't know me," Marie told Jean gently when she answered the phone. "But I believe we may have adopted your biological daughter."
"But how can that be?" Jean's voice trembled in shock. "Years ago, when I tried to find her, I was told by a search agency that she had been killed in a car crash! What was her birth name?" Jean probed cautiously, seeking confirmation.
"Susan Anne!" Marie cried.
"Oh, my God. How did you find me after all these years?" Jean asked.
When Marie recounted the sequence of events that had led to this moment, Jean felt goose bumps break out all over her body. The robbery had seemed so senseless before, but now it was beginning to take on deeper, more profound dimensions. It was going to serve as the poignant catalyst for a mother and child reunion.
That night, Jean and Marie kissed and hugged in a tearful and moving encounter.
"I must be the only person alive who considers herself lucky to have been robbed," Jean said.