FOR far too long, sisters Helen Young and Cheryl Lawson had no idea each other existed.
Cheryl understood that she had a biological family she had never met, but what she didn’t know was her biological sibling was living just around the corner.
Last Wednesday — 66 years after older sister Cheryl was born and adopted out, she met her 65-year-old sister Helen for the first time.
Emotions were running wild in an arranged meeting at the Kyabram Club on January 24 — the two sisters embraced each other as if they had both been waiting for this moment for decades.
The desire to find her biological family has always burned for Cheryl and drove her to this moment — she had never met the people who gave life to her, and in her words she “always wondered where she came from”.
As Cheryl grew older that fire became more intense and her good friend Susan Fulton finally convinced her to search for her long-lost family.
“Chery and I had spent a lot of time chatting about her being adopted, and I said to her, you know you should do something about this, why don’t we have a bit of a look,” Susan said.
So Cheryl and Susan embarked on what they thought would be a long journey through family records, internet searches and never-ending phone calls.
At first the pair hit a bit of a wall — they didn’t know where to start.
Cheryl found her way to an online family tree website and put her trust in the world wide web.
“So I went on to a ‘find my family’ website and sure enough we located what we thought was a picture of my birth mother,” Cheryl said.
“I thought you know this sort of thing can take years and years but it honestly took a couple of weeks.”
“It really was incredible how quickly it happened,” Susan said.
Susan said the breakthrough kickstarted a fast chain of events that neither of the ladies could have imagined.
“Through that we were able to track down some other family members and that led us to a great niece of Cheryl’s mother,” Susan said.
“Then we forwarded a photo of Cheryl and that photo got passed on to Kevin — who turns out to be Cheryl’s brother — and he apparently took one look and said, ‘yep she’s one of us’.”
Cheryl’s biological family made contact with her after this and had some incredible news for her.
“So then I got the call from Cheryl saying I have exciting news, and I thought she was finally getting her foot fixed,” Susan said.
“She said, I have a sister in Kyabram. I just couldn’t believe it to be honest and I said, well, what’s her name? When she told me Helen Young. I thought, fair dinkum, it can’t be the Helen Young I know, surely.”
Helen was contacted by her family about the news and couldn’t believe what she was hearing. However, just like her brother Kevin, she needed only one glance at a photo of Cheryl to know that she was looking at her sister.
“I had absolutely no idea, I was gobsmacked to find out I had a sister that I didn’t even know existed — and she was living in Kyabram,’’ Helen said.
‘‘When I saw the photo I thought, oh my God that is my mother — well our mother — all over,” Helen said.
The fact that both of the sisters are now based in Kyabram is purely coincidental, with Cheryl only moving to the town from Gippsland midway through 2016 and Helen spending time in Toowoomba and then Tongala.
“There’s no doubt that they have had some close encounters; I was with Cheryl once and Helen dropped off some cards for us to play — it’s all just very weird,” Susan said.
Susan then organised a meeting for the sisters, and Helen said it was tough to abide by the rules.
“I haven’t slept over the last few days — I’ve been a bundle of nerves. It has been hard not to just track her down and knock on her door,” Helen said.
The pair walked into the Kyabram Club from opposite sides of the building and once the tears had slowed, they began sorting through some old photos and memorabilia. Helen and Cheryl worked through their family tree and posed for family photos.
The sisters said they wouldn’t waste the time they have together.
“I always wanted a sister, my adopted family had a brother but I just always wanted a sister and now I have one,” Cheryl said.
“It’s incredible, it really is,” Helen said.
- Michael Mattingly