Adoption story takes a serendipitous twist

Shelly Bray, of Big Piney, is united with her biological mother Marian.

After 50 years, parents and daughter reunited

BIG PINEY – Marion was 23 years old

in 1967, pregnant and unmarried. She had

just graduated from the University of Wyoming

and had a teaching contract, but had

to resign.

Bill, the father of the baby, and Marion

were longtime friends. When she told her

parents about her pregnancy they demanded

that she have the baby and give it up for

adoption. They told her that they would disown

her if she kept the baby.

Marion was taken to Denver, where she

lived for four months in the basement of a

stranger’s home. Her only family support

came from her older brother. The baby was

born Dec. 22. She overheard some nurses

saying that all the births that day had been

girls, so she knew the baby was a girl.

She was not supposed to see her baby, but

by mistake the Ladies’ Auxiliary brought

the child to her in a Christmas stocking. It

was agonizing for her to give up that sweet

baby. Marion’s parents came to Denver to

visit after she went back to the basement, but

they made no mention of the baby. She was

expected to move on with her life.

For the next 50 years she thought about

and prayed for that baby girl every day. She

eventually married and had another daughter.

Marion and her husband, Chuck, live on a

ranch near Douglas. She was a music teacher

in the Converse County School District until

her retirement. For 35 years her husband

watched as she silently suffered, especially

around the holidays.

Shirley and Frank Bray from Big Piney

were told they couldn’t have children. They

adopted a baby boy, and then a couple of

years later around Christmas time they

adopted a beautiful baby girl they named

Shelly. They were overcome with gratitude

and joy when baby Shelly came into their

life. A few years later they were blessed with

a biological daughter.

Shelly always knew that she was adopted.

She grew up in a loving home, had a

happy childhood and finding her biological

parents was never important to her. Sadly,

her adoptive parents passed away when she

was in her 40s. Last year a friend encouraged

Shelly to look for her birth parents.

After much thought, she began the search.

The following are text messages between

Shelly and a person that turned out to be her

half-sister.

On April 9 Shelly wrote: I know this is

a really strange request. I was adopted and

I just did the Ancestry DNA and it linked

me to “close family,” which named you,

Misti. Do you know anything in your family

history that might point to an adoption? It

names you as a sibling or first cousin.

Misti: I do know of an adoption. May I

ask how old you are?

Shelly: I just turned 50 in December. I

can’t stop thinking about the connection that

we have with our DNA. I am really excited

to see where it might go. I hope that with

love and open arms we can see what can

come of it.

April 11, Misti wrote: I’ve shared this

with mom, and she is thinking about it. A

conversation quite possibly could happen,

but she would like a bit of time to process it

all. Excitement and anxiety both play a part.

We realize that the timeline is right and the

DNA makes it pretty clear. I hope you have

had a wonderful life. I think that is what

mom wants more than anything!

Shelly: Thank you for sharing. I have had

a great life! I will just wait until she decides

what she is ready for. Thank you, thank you,

thank you!

April 14, Misti wrote: Good morning,

Shelly. I have a serendipitous story for you.

Four days before you sent me the very first

message, I was home visiting my folks. It

was just the three of us, which never happens

and mom included “the baby” in her

dinner prayer that night. God works in mysterious

ways. She has realized this and welcomes

the opportunity. She said she is ready.

Shelly: That sounds great! I am so grateful

that this has worked out. I still can’t believe

it is happening. You have a great day

and can’t wait to get to know you!

Shelly lives in Big Piney and works as a

certified nurse’s aide at Legacy Lodge, an

assisted-living facility in Jackson.

The following is a portion of the first

communication between Shelly and her biological

mother, Marion.

Marion: Hi Shelly, I asked Misti to send

your email address because I’m not a Facebook

fan. This is our story right now. I don’t

want the whole world intruding. We together

should have the opportunity to share as we

see fit. When I first heard from Misti that

you had contacted her, the tears flowed.

Shelly: I totally agree with you. It is a

very exciting time and it’s just for us right

now. I have had so many happy tears in the

last couple weeks. It just seems so surreal.

Marion: It sure does. You have gone from

my baby to being a grandma. I have a feeling

– no, an understanding – that our first meeting

will be lots of tears. I’m looking forward

to June. BTW: How does your mom feel

about this? I don’t want her hurt.

Weather for Sublette County, WY

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Shelly Bray is pictured with

her biological father, who did

not know he had a daughter

50 years earlier.

Adoption story takes a serendipitous twist

After 50 years, parents and daughter reunited

By Connie Owen, For the Sublette Examiner

Shelly: Honestly, I wouldn’t have done

this if my mom and dad were still living.

They wouldn’t have cared because they always

told me that if I wanted to find my biological

parents they would help me. I can’t

wait to see you and hug you and cry with

you. June seems a long way away.

Marion: I know it is. I just don’t want our

time to be rushed. I’m sorry your parents

are gone. I’m so thankful for them. I wish I

could have met them and said “thank you.”

Shelly: I thank you from the bottom of

my heart, and I wouldn’t have changed one

thing. You allowed them to be parents. How

is all of your family handling this? Misti

seems very happy.

Marion: You’ll love her. My husband,

Chuck, said this morning. “Looks like you’ll

be going to Big Piney.” He has always been

very supportive.

Happy tears

When June came, Marion made the trip to

Big Piney. They spent hours trying to catch

up on 50 years. Lots of tears, mostly happy,

were shed.

A couple of weeks later Shelly traveled

to Douglas to visit Marion and meet other

members of her family. Shelly visited Bend,

Ore., with Marion and Misti to meet even

more family. She has spent time with Marion

almost every other weekend since June.

Shelly also located her biological father,

Bill, through Ancestry DNA, after being

connected to her cousin Kathi. Shelly wrote

to Bill, who lives in Cheyenne, introducing

herself as his daughter. Kathi hand-delivered

the letter.

Shelly traveled to Laramie in September

to attend a University of Wyoming football

game and meet Bill and Kathi. Marion

was seated just a few rows away. She and

Bill have had season tickets to UW football

games for years, always just rows apart, but

never realized it.

Shelly went to Texas with Bill and a halfsister

to meet another half sibling.

“We feel blessed to have Shelly with us

now,” Kathi said. “It feels complete.”

Coincidentally, Shelly has an adoptive

cousin who lives in Lusk. He has sung in

the church choir and played pinochle with

her biological aunt every week for years. Of

course, they had no idea what they had in

common.

A sense of healing

“I always thought I was complete and

whole until I met my biological mom and

dad,” Shelly said. “My life has changed

more than words can explain. We serve an

awesome God, and He serves the greatest to

us, and that is love.”

“The crack in my universe has been

sealed/healed,” Marion said. “I’m so thankful

for Shelly and our wonderful God who

has led me down so many paths I thought

were wrong. He knew what was happening

all along, and I am grateful beyond words.

“I’m also thankful for my wonderful family.

Everyone of them has been so supportive

and loving to both Shelly and me. Without

their love and support all of this could have

had a different outcome.”


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