… Winding down my day at work, I had decided to do another internet search for my father’s name. Every so often, I’d have the impulse in seeing if there was any new information listed, if there was a message for me. Or, perhaps, it was just my way of keeping the thought of him real. With granny gone, I was feeling melancholy. I started thinking about the family members that I had lost. One after another, they were all finally gone, including granny. She had been gone for over seven years and my heart missed her so much.
As I type my father’s name… C-h-a-r-l-e-s R-a-y L-a-m-b-e-r-t… I hit the search button, waiting for the usual results to appear on my screen, which time after time they were always the same. However, this time, they were different. This time, my search revealed news that would make this my last internet search for my father. Because there, directly on the screen, was my fate staring right back at me. This was the day that I had learned my father had died, passing away on October 30, 2010.
Mr. Lambert was born on January 13, 1934 and passed away on Saturday, October 30, 2010. Mr. Lambert was a resident of Atlanta, Georgia at the time of his passing. Funeral services will be held November 2, 2010 at 11:00 AM from Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta with Rev. Rusty Couch officiating. Interment will follow in Rest Haven Garden of Memory in Decatur, GA.
Letting out a gasp that filled the office, my co-worker, Sheri, asked if I was okay. I remember taking several moments to answer her, as I said, yes, I was fine, but I knew that I wasn’t. I felt as if I just had the wind knocked out of me. I sat there, watching the name on the screen before me, just knowing that it was him. I began to get emotional. I had never met my father and it was now apparent that I never would. I started to tear up, as I knew that I would never ever have the opportunity to meet the man who was known as my birth father. I was actually saddened to learn of his passing. A rush of loneliness came over me, a sense of desertion. I always had in the back of my mind that even though I lost my grandparents, my uncle, my mother and, to some extent, even my brothers, I always felt that I still had a parent figure still alive. Even though I never met him, I had a bizarre comfort knowing that he was always out there in the world, that I still had one elder family member left in my life. However, reading his obituary, made my feelings of comfort turn into a sense of emptiness. I know that I had Frank and his family, as well as my children in my life, but somehow it’s different. I was longing for a connection with my side of the family, my own blood relatives. Losing my father made everything that much more final, there was nobody left.
“I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.” ~ M.A.S.H.
Studying the date of my father’s death, October 30, 2010, it dawned on me that he had died on the evening of my annual Halloween party just months before. Believing in the spiritual world, I was trying to think back to see if I had noticed anything different that night, something odd, a sign of his presence, his soul perhaps. I wondered if his spirits stopped by to say good-bye. If so, did he leave this earth feeling comforted, content knowing that he had left his one and only descendant behind? He was only 76 years old.
I had made the decision that I was going to request his death certificate. I wanted to know… I needed to know more about his death and what he had died from. It was not only for medical reasons, but for the curiosity of what secrets that I may find written within the words that lie on his death certificate. I was actually hoping it would offer me some sort of additional information, clues, and answers. Did he have other family members? Did he remarry? Did he have other children? Even something simple as what his race was, as my mother told me she never knew if he was German, Irish, Norwegian, which seemed rather odd to me. How can you be married to a man and not know what nationality he was? Although I was sad about my father’s demise, it gave me new hope. Instead of searching for the man himself, I was now searching for the man he was, the man he use to be.
Going home that evening, with credit card in hand, I went onto the Georgia government website and requested Charles’ certificate of death. Going through the application process, I was asked every question imaginable. It appeared that the Georgia government wanted to make sure that I said who I said I was. Showing me the questions, with multiple answers to chose from, they asked me questions, verifying old street address of places where I used to live back in my twenties, addresses that I long forgot about. They confirmed who we bought our current house from, how long have we lived there, etc. I must have passed because within the next 10 days, I received my official certified copy of my father’s death certificate.
If I smoked, I would have had a cigarette, but I opted for a glass of wine instead. I sat down, holding the envelope from the Department of Health & Wellness in Atlanta, Georgia in my hand. My family was all around me, as I held in front of me what could change my life. I told myself that this could be another beginning. I was eager, with a hint of apprehension as to what information was inside, what I would learn.
I slowly sliced the envelope open with a butter knife as to not tear the paper inside. Sliding it out of the envelope, I unfold the death certificate and begin to read the words that are before me. Seeing his name on top of the report, I confirm that it’s my father by the date of his birth.
My eyes move down where the report stated that he had an 8th grade education or less, confirming what my family had always told me. His occupation showed that he was an engineer in the automotive business, far more prestigious than a “spotter” at a laundry mat I thought.
My father had Leukemia Chronic Myelogenous, which is a cancer of the white blood cells, a cancer that I immediately looked up and, thankfully, family history is not a risk factor, meaning it isn’t hereditary. However, his immediate cause of death was emphysema, one of the same diseases my mother had listed on her death certificate. Question number 35 on his death certificate: Tobacco use contributed to death? YES. It was now apparent that my father smoked and very heavily, too. My father died at a hospice facility due to his lungs deteriorating from smoking for over 15 years. Time of death 11:30 p.m. My heart suddenly fell knowing that my father died in hospice. I was starting to hurt for a man that I never even knew. Did he have loved ones around him? Did he die alone? It was then that I began to pray to the Heavens above that he didn’t die alone, that someone was there with him, holding his hand as he went home to God.
“I say to people who care for people who are dying, if you really love that person and want to help them, be with them when their end comes close. Sit with them – you don’t even have to talk. You don’t have to do anything but really be there with them.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Question number nine – Marital Status. Never Married. A statement that I knew was absolutely and completely false. I thought, was he portraying himself as a single man? If so, surely a secret of his own.
The report held a social security number. Ironically, the same exact number that I had submitted to the online search center 13 years earlier. The same number that I was told was inactive, due to incarceration or death. Obviously, my father worked, collecting a paycheck, having his social security number within the system. Why was it that they couldn’t find any information on him? Did they try hard enough, were they just taking my money? What would have happened if the search center did locate my father? Would it have been the most opportune time to reach him in my life? Was there a higher power intervening?
Looking to see what race was mentioned on the certificate, it stated that my father was white, not Hispanic, Spanish, or Latino. I surely thought, perhaps, because of my deep love for hot sauces, foods and peppers that he may have had some sort of Spanish bloodline in him. I guess I must have acquired my hot palate all on my own.
As I finished scrolling through the remainder of my father’s death certificate, trying to find some sort of relevant information that would open my father’s life to me, giving me some sort of answers, there, in box 14a, was a “friend” listed on his certificate. Scrolling my eyes over, I discover that this friend had a name. As I read her name, Trenna Robinson, residing in Waco, Georgia, I started to feel my heart pickup a few beats, wondering whom she was. My heart pumped even faster when I realized that there was also an address listed for Trenna, offering me a rejuvenation of hope and, possibly, a new avenue to pursue to learn about my father and the man he once was.
Sharing this information with Frank, we had a million and one thoughts running through our minds. Playing every scenario, we tried to figure out how my father new this Trenna… Could this be a family member? Could she be his daughter, even though she was listed as a friend? Could she be listed as a friend due to legal reasons? Was Trenna a girlfriend, a common law wife to my father? Farfetched, but I even thought she could be my sister. I decided to do a search for Trenna, wondering if I would be able to find out additional information. Searching online, I learned that she lived in a small town, population under 500 people. The town actually sounded quaint. According to searches, Trenna was approximately 42 years old. I also learned that she seemed to be married, ruling out that she could be my father’s significant other. It also appeared that they had a roofing company. I rolled all this information around in my head. What was I going to do now? I knew in my heart that I had to move forward with this new information. I had to see if there was anything further I could learn. I was curious. I had to know who this Trenna Robinson aka “Friend” was. I made the decision to write Trenna a letter.
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell
I started to place my thoughts onto paper, carefully selecting each word appropriately as to not shock or even offend. This would be one of the hardest things I would ever do is to write and mail this letter. My thoughts were that I’m treading on ground that I have no right to tread, as I don’t know who these people are or what they are all about. I was in such fear that I would be disrupting their lives, which weren’t my intentions whatsoever. All I knew, this was another opportunity, a second chance at discovering new information about Charles Ray Lambert. Besides, what do I have to lose, I thought… absolutely nothing! It took me several weeks to prepare and mail my letter to Trenna and, once I did, it was all a waiting game…
“Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life. Work’s important, family’s important, but without excitement, you have nothing. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming.” ~ Nicholas Sparks
May 17, 2011
Dear Ms. Robinson,
I know this letter may come as a surprise to you. For that, I want to apologize for any intrusion, disruption or insensitivity that I may cause. Sincerely, this is not my intention. I’m not sure if you know about me or have even heard about me. Please allow me to introduce myself and explain. My name is Jackie Rae Morin (Lambert) and my father was Charles Ray Lambert. It was recently that I had learned about my father’s passing.
My mother, Elvera Lee Lambert, and my father were married in 1960, and my mom was expected to give birth to me in 1962. Shortly before I was born, my parents decided to part ways, with my father moving from Wisconsin back home to live in Georgia. My mother shared with me that my father did know of me; that I was a girl, my name and where I lived, even him sending me a pair of baby pajamas when I was born.
In the past, I have written my father a couple of times, in hopes to learn more about the man who shared my mother’s life. But, I’m not sure if my letters were ever received, as they were never returned to me.
Recently, within the last month, I learned about my father’s passing via an internet search online. On occasion, I would do internet searches with his name, hoping to find any information on the internet about him. I’m not sure what I was always expecting to find, but the usual search would come up, which was his name and where he lived in Georgia. Regrettably, my last search left me somewhat saddened and shocked when I learned of his passing last October, 2010. I tried doing additional searches for other family members, but did not have any success. Therefore, not knowing how he had passed and, for medical reasons, I requested a copy of his death certificate from the state of Georgia and this is where I came across your name and address.
Please, let me express again that my intention with this letter is not to upset anyone, but merely a means of wanting to know more about the man who gave me life; what type of man he was, whether good or bad. Did he have a sense of humor, was he a happy person, was he artistic, did he have a happy life, etc. I no longer have any elder family members left; everyone has passed on. Learning about my father’s passing finalized that.
To share something about myself, I’ve been married for 21 years to my husband, Frank, and we have two beautiful children, Arlaraye and Tanner. I lived mostly in Illinois, but did live with my grandparents in Wisconsin when I was young. I feel very fortunate to have what I have in my life today, although parts of my childhood life were quite challenging. When living with my mother, it wasn’t a very pleasant upbringing but I have learned to find the positive out of every situation. What I went through growing up has only made me stronger today. Knowing this, I realize how important family really is. When my family was alive, I tried in every way to learn about my father, but rarely received any information.
One of the hardest things I’m going to do now is mail this letter and, if you are willing, I would love to hear from you and, possibly, learn about the man I never knew, whether pleasant or not. I have listed my correspondence information below, in hopes that you will write or email me. Also, I will be more than willing to answer any questions that you may have, as I’m sure my correspondence to you may have been somewhat of a surprise.
I want to thank you very much for your time and reading my letter and pray that it has not been a disruption to you or your family.