Musician Don Stiffe has opened his heart to the public about his search for his birth mother. He says the reaction has been overwhelming. People have come to him for advice and shared their own personal stories in return. He joined Kathryn Thomas on The Ray D’Arcy Show to talk about how it all came about.
“I was actually in America touring… We were staying in an apartment and there had been this lady over from Ireland, she was a spiritual healer and clairvoyant. I was having a cup of tea before bed and she sat me down and said, what’s your Tipperary connection? I said I have no idea what you’re talking about, and she said there’s somebody looking for you, Kathleen or Catherine.”
The ‘Catherine’ in question turned out to be his eldest sister, but it took a few twists of fate for Don to discover this.
Don was adopted from the Sean Ross Abbey Mother and Baby home, Roscrea, Tipperary. He happened to be passing it and found the courage to visit, coincidentally during a commemoration service where he met Philomena Lee who encouraged him to try and connect with his biological family. It was also there that he met a lady who had been through the process herself and offered to help him with his search. Don contacted the Adoption Alliance and got as much information about his mother as he could and his new friend did the rest, tracking down his relatives. She soon rang with word of his mother.
“She said, it’s not good news. She passed away in February 2014… It’s hard to take.”
That wasn’t the only news that she had for Don though. She had found five siblings and had even traced the address of his sister Marie. Don took a deep breath and sent the most emotionally charged letter of his life.
“It went for a week and I heard nothing. And I said, oh God, they don’t want to know anything about me. About a week and a half later I got a phone call. They had been away on holidays and there was a message left from the post office to go down and collect the registered letter and she got it. She read it five times and then she rang me. It was just amazing.”
Don learned that he was one of nine children and arranged a first meeting with Marie.
“When I got to the door of the hotel, she was at the door waiting for me because she knew what I looked like from looking on Youtube at all the music, but I knew straight away when I saw her at the door that that was her. We had a very special hug at the door and she said I’m sorry that we can’t go to visit our mum’s grave because she passed away a few years ago and she was cremated but I’ve brought a little present for you today. She had a little urn with her ashes. She gave me her ashes and that moment was incredible.”
Don went on to connect with his entire birth family and it has been an experience that has filled a void in his heart that he had lived with for the past fifty years. He is delighted that his own adoptive mother has been an important part of the process, tracking down important information to help him put together the pieces, making it a true family affair.
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