Man misses out on meeting birth mother
Friday 03 December 2010
It’s hard to imagine how a man feels when he's about to meet his birth mother for the first time in 50 years.
But it becomes near on impossible to imagine how he felt learning she had died just hours before he could meet her.
Michael Sheard was put into foster care as a baby and spent his adult years desperately searching for his mum. But a few hours after he located her -and before he could make contact– she died.
Michael says: "I had been on such a high at finally finding her. To go from that to hearing this bad news was devastating.
"I could hardly believe that, after looking for her for all those years, she had died on the very day I'd found her without even knowing that I had found her at all."
But in a strange twist of fate, his mother Nora managed to comfort Michael from beyond the grave.
In Nora’s notebook, she had written: "I've been looking for my children. I regret giving them away and moving around my entire life. I've been looking for them ever since."
Michael, 53, was placed in foster care at around one year old and was later joined by his brother David, now 48. At nine, he was sent to live in a children's home in Brighton.
On learning of his mother’s troubled past, Michael began searching for her at 19. In the process he discovered a sister, Annette, who had also been put into care -but there was still no sign of Nora.
He says: "The problem was then that there were few electronic records.
"I later understood that because she never married, her name didn't pop up on any official registers. There really seemed to be no way of finding her."
Every few years Michael would attempt to find his mum, but each time he would get nowhere. However, when a friend used official records at the British Library, she was able to track down Nora within a few weeks. Michael learned she was living in a retirement home near Victoria station in London.
The home staff told Michael that Nora had often spoken about her three children – but she was currently in hospital with pneumonia. Hearing it wasn’t serious; Michael chose to wait until Nora was back at home
He says: "I was imagining what it would be like when we met. I wondered if we would hug and what she would say.
"I didn't have any hard feelings. I just wanted to meet her."
But just seven hours later, the manager of the home called to tell Michael the devastating news: his mother had suddenly passed away.
"It was unbelievable. I had been robbed of the chance of finally meeting my mum,” he says.
"Reading about her regrets was a huge relief. I'd spent my whole life fearing she had forgotten about me. It helps that, thanks to her notes, I know the answer to the most important question I had - whether she had ever thought about us too.”
Due to complications with paperwork, Michael is hoping to organise his mother's funeral. He hopes to plan the perfect day to say goodbye to the woman he never met.
He adds: "I still feel very upset about what happened and wish I'd had a chance to meet Nora. I'll have unanswered questions for the rest of my life.
"But I just have to remind myself that at least I know the answer to the most important question of all - she hadn't forgotten about us.
"That knowledge will bring me a great deal of comfort."
By Ruth Connors