The rest of the story: Flemming and Britta

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The rest of the story: Flemming and Britta

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Posted: 2/12/2009
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

/images/stories.asp?i=20110523132425.0.jpgAs people grow older, we recognize that sometimes seemingly random events happen for a reason, and even if we don't understand why we're being compelled to follow a particular course of action, it does appear as if fate or a higher power guides us on a certain path we normally may not have otherwise chosen.

One of those moments happened for me in March of 2003 when I received an email from a gentleman in Denmark who had a technical problem registering at the Registry. In an attempt to ensure that every registrant supplies a valid zip code, the site design had inadvertently prevented people living outside of our country from registering. Flemming was determined to make one last run at finding his own birth mother, whom he knew had immigrated to the USA in 1949 and was hoping to register on a US based site in case she was looking for him.

In a subsequent e-mail response I asked him a little bit more about his search, and since Denmark unsealed their own records in 1997, Flemming knew her name, her date of birth and had even been able to locate her immigration request, but the trail went cold at that point. He and his wife, Elizabeth (a nurse), had traveled all over the world, serving in Nigeria and Viet Nam as members of an international care organization before finally settling in Denmark so their sons could attend school. He works in the Social Worker field with the law enforcement body in that country. An acquaintance there had given him information on our site, so he asked for help.

His birth mother's name is Britta. He had her date of birth. I figured it wouldn't hurt to check an investigative database to see what I could find. Imagine my surprise when I immediately found Britta living not more than 2 hours east of our office in Tamarac, Florida. I quickly e-mailed Flemming and asked him how he wanted me to proceed, or if he wanted to handle making contact himself. He asked me to call her for him and see if she'd be willing to talk to him.

I called Britta, who was less than pleased to be contacted about her son at that stage in her life. She was born in 1925. For some reason, and I have not figured out why, statistically older birth mothers as less likely to want to disrupt their lives or open old wounds when it comes to reunion. However I did speak to her for an hour and she was willing to talk about it, so I asked her if she would just talk to Flemming just once, hoping that would open the door to more interaction between them. She agreed. Flemming called her the next day and they spoke for about 2 minutes..and agreed that he would send her a letter so she could think about things. Flemming wrote her a loving, warm letter, sending pictures of the family and the children, and then he waited...and waited. No response. He tried calling her back and her telephone number had been changed and was now unlisted but he didn't know that. He contacted what he thought might be her church, and asked the Minister to go check on her. When they arrived at Britta's house, she was angry and sent them away, but did take their 'card'.

Flemming pretty much gave up on any kind of contact with Britta and gave up his dream for a meeting. But something funny happened. Britta was so angry about the church folks coming to visit, she called every relative in Denmark she was still in contact with and told them that if Flemming were to call them, they were to have 'nothing' to do with him.

Well..that was enough to make them curious, so THEY looked for Flemming, who was much surprised to be welcomed by his Danish relatives with open arms. They explained that Britta had been working as a Nanny for a well to do family in Denmark. The 'master' of the house took an interest in her, and a relationship developed. Britta became pregnant. The mother of the house suddenly passed away during her pregnancy and Britta envisioned marrying the father, but his family would not allow it. She had Flemming, and then went home to her family who immediately insisted she place him for adoption. Broken hearted, she did, but angry at her fickle x-employer and angry at her family who did not support her, the day she placed her son for adoption she boarded a ship for the USA where she worked for many years as a Nanny to 'other' people's children when her heart was breaking for her own son. She had raised him for 4 months. She wrote home rarely, but did have some contact with her 10 siblings, and when in the states she would welcome them to visit.

So why, if this all happened in 2003 and I telling you this story now? That's the 'rest' of the story, which follows.

While at work on Friday, I discovered that one of my Registry e-mail addresses wasn't working in Outlook mail, so I asked Lane to fix it for me. Much to my disgust, I had 487 spam e-mails AND one legitimate message from Flemming in Denmark which said...

"Coming to the USA (Florida) on Oct. 10 will be there till Oct. 23, would like to come to Ft. Myers to see you and buy you lunch'. Britta has not been well and I got a call from a friend of hers that went to visit her and discovered her in a nursing home. While going through her things she found my letter with my phone number in it and called me. She asked me to come take care of things, and she was much surprised to find out I was Britta's son since she's known her for 35 years and she never mentioned she had a child. I have contacted the Lutheran Minister (gave her name) and she is helping me. Here's my cell # please call. Flemming

Given the fact that Friday was the 20th, I called immediately but didn't get through. I then looked up All Saints Lutheran Church and called Diane, the minister in the hopes that she would know 'how' I could reach Flemming and Elizabeth.

When she came to the phone and asked if she could help me, I told her my name was Susan, lived in Ft. Myers and was trying to reach Flemming. She said, "Please let me ask you a question. How do you know Flemming?" When I replied that I had helped him find Britta , she then asked if I was aware that Britta had passed away on the 18th. I said, "Oh no, that is so terribly sad, I had no idea." She then said, "Please, don't be sad. Britta had the most incredibly 'happy' week in her entire life, and I feel privileged to have been there to witness their joy and discovery in each other, but I will let Flemming tell you about it. You will come the the services tomorrow, won't you? Britta had acquaintances here, but no close friends. She was very private. Will you come to support Flemming?" I said, "Of course, I feel like I have to. It's like a circle closing."

So Saturday Lane and I went to Tamarac/Ft. Lauderdale to the memorial service for Britta, a woman I had only met once by phone in a life altering phone call. They had pictures remembering her life, and one of those pictures was of a very pretty young woman who was lying in a hospital bed beaming at the newborn son she held in her arms. The next picture was of a frail, bent elderly woman sitting between Flemming and Elizabeth in the hospital, and she was proudly smiling for the camera.

You'd think that with all the reunions, and all the joy and all the sadness that I've seen, I'd be somewhat toughened up emotionally, but I have to tell you, as I watched Flemming's tearful tribute to Britta during the ceremony, and then listened in amazement when Diana told the whole reunion story (including my small part) to the 30 or so people who were with us, people must have wondered why I was crying so. My tears were for all the mothers who gave their children into the void of adoption, and I was crying for Britta...who finally, at the end of her life, found the love she had longed for.

After the ceremony we had coffee and cookies in the hall, where I overheard one man tell another, "You know, their story was amazing. We only read about stories like this in the newspapers. How incredible is it that we were able to be here to see this unfold personally, and to share it with Flemming." I thought, if you only knew how many times this happens that you 'don't' read or hear about it, THAT would amaze you.

After we left the services we followed Flemming and Elizabeth back to their suite on Ft. Lauderdale Beach. There was some humor in the day. Elizabeth insisted we stop at the underground for some sandwiches to take back to eat while we talked. Lane looked and me... I looked at Lane. "Underground?" She said, "Yes, you know, the train that goes underground, it's like that name!"

The light dawned. I asked, "SUBWAY?" So we did...4 sandwiches to go.

In going through Britta's things after her passing, Flemming found a baby picture of himself. On the back of it Britta had written, on the occasion of his first birthday, "My son, my heart breaks with longing for you on this, your special day!" He also found his original letter to Britta and the photos that he'd not known she received. In the envelope was tucked the card from those pesky church folks she initially sent away, who were also there for her in her last days.

I said, "Flemming, she loved you. Even though you had one short week together, she loved you your entire life." Elizabeth said that when they got that fateful phone call from Britta's friend, she was much surprised that Flemming 'insisted' they come to the US to 'take care' of things given their lack of communication. I said, "Elizabeth, he had to.. had he not he would have not been able to live with not being there for her." I was looking right into his eyes when I said those words and saw the light dawn when he knew that I understood, one adoptee to another, why he'd come at the end of Britta's story.

Before you wonder why I shared these private moments with you, Flemming told me explicitly that I was to tell their story. I told him we'd wait to publish it on the site until he gets home, but in the meantime, I wanted you to hear the rest of the story.

SuZ - who almost deleted all 488 messages without reading the one 'intended' to reach me for reasons only God knows.

(Written by Susan Friel-Williams)
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