Sisters Lily and Rose are determined to stay together when they’re placed in foster care but are adopted by different families. Many years later, a familiar woman in a photo leads Rose to an unexpected reunion.
Rose kept a tight hold on her younger sister, Lily, as they entered the foster care home. The building was enormous and run-down, the sort of place that was always haunted in movies. Nonetheless, Rose was determined to hide her fear and be brave for Lily’s sake.
“What if they separate us?” Lily asked. She studied their surroundings through wide eyes as though waiting for something to jump out at her.
Rose shook her head. “They won’t do that. We’re sisters and we’ll always be together, Lily-bug. I always looked after you when Mom and Dad were being crazy, and I always will look after you. That’s what big sisters do.”
Lily smiled up at her. It had been so long since the sisters had a reason to smile, and Rose knew then that everything would be okay. She hugged her sister tightly. They’d stuck together through the bad times, and Rose looked forward to sharing good times with her sister.
A month later, a friendly-looking lady came to see Lily. She and Rose were coloring together at the time. Lily set her crayons aside and hugged her sister.
“This is going to be our new mom, Rosy. I just know it!”
Rose never saw Lily again after that day. She learned that Lily lived in another state now, but not which one. Many days she stared at the map of the USA in one of the shelter’s books and tried to figure out where Lily might be. She imagined her exploring the deserts of Nevada or befriending grizzlies in Washington state.
She pictured Lily dancing in Times Square and wrestling gators in Florida. These daydreams eased Rose’s dark fear that Lily might be in danger or deeply unhappy in her new home. The gap in her heart where Lily belonged remained painfully void, but Rose could still imagine the best for her sister.
“You have to cancel the wedding immediately! You can’t marry Carrie.”
Even after Rose was adopted and changed her last name, she never forgot about her Lily-bug. When she was well into adulthood, she still found herself staring at maps and wondering what adventures Lily would be having if she lived in a particular state or city.
Her husband, Josh, would quietly put his arm around her and kiss her temple when he caught her staring. Josh supported Rose’s efforts to track down Lily, but all were futile. It was a closed adoption, and even the investigator they hired couldn’t find Lily.
Rose never gave up on finding Lily, but when her son, Jeremy, was born, she focused more on the family she had. Ensuring Josh and Jeremy knew how much she treasured them was her priority, which meant she couldn’t stay stuck in the past.
Jeremy grew up with a good ideal to strive for in a partner. He wanted to marry a girl who was just as loving and family-oriented as Rose and looked for these qualities in every woman he dated. Jeremy found his dream woman when he went to college in New York. One day, he called Rose in Pennsylvania with good news.
“You proposed to Carrie?”
Rose leaped with joy. “I’m so happy for you, Jeremy! When do we get to meet her family?”
“Soon, Mom, I promise. Carrie is telling them the news today and then we’ll arrange a big get-together for everyone before the wedding.”
“And when will that be?”
“Also soon. We discussed waiting until after we graduate but decided we’d rather get married as soon as possible. Carrie wants a Fall wedding.”
Rose was over the moon with excitement. Although she was far away, she did whatever she could to help with the wedding plans. She became so engrossed in the work that she ignored the warning signs that something was wrong with her health until it was too late.
Two days before Josh and Rose were due to travel to New York to meet Carrie’s family, Rose was pruning trees when she felt a sharp pain. Shortly afterward, she collapsed. Josh found her in the garden and immediately called an ambulance.
“The doctors say I’ll be fine once the treatment is complete, but you’ll have to meet Carrie’s family without me.” Rose looked at Josh and squeezed his hand. “I want lots of photos!”
Josh reluctantly agreed to go without Rose. On the day of the meeting, Rose lay in bed and scrolled through the photos as soon as Josh sent them. The first showed Josh, Carrie, and several other young adults and kids. According to Josh, most of them were Carrie’s siblings.
The next photo made Rose pause. She zoomed in on a woman standing between Carrie and a teenage boy. Something in her face was eerily familiar.
“I’ve met this woman before, but where?” Rose searched for her face in the rest of the photos. Something in her eyes and the crooked way she smiled nagged at Rose. She searched her memory but couldn’t find a match.
“Maybe I went to school with her,” Rose wondered, “or I’m confusing her with someone else.”
As the wedding day drew closer, Rose forgot about the strange woman and worried about whether the hospital would release her in time to see her son marry. She nagged the doctors every time they visited.
Finally, they gave her the good news. Rose was released a week before the wedding. Since the doctors didn’t want her to fly, she and Josh made the four-hour drive to New York a day before the wedding.
Rose had to rest after the long trip, but she returned to her usual self when they arrived at the college campus the next day. Carrie and Jeremy had arranged to be married in a pavilion on campus. Huge bouquets of russet and golden yellow flowers decorated the entrance.
Jeremy rushed to greet his mother as they approached the venue. “I’ve been so worried about you!” he exclaimed.
“It’s good to see you looking well. Come, there’s somebody here who’s dying to meet you.”
Rose followed Jeremy inside. He led her up to the familiar woman from the photos.
“Finally the mothers get to meet!” He said to her before turning to Rose. “Mom, this is Lily Norris, Carrie’s mother. Mrs. Norris, this is—”
“Rose, is that you?”
Rose stared at the woman approaching her. She did know her from somewhere! Rose was quiet as she took in the woman’s features, the disbelief on her face, and the tears welling up in her eyes. Recognition hit her like a train.
“Lily?” She could barely squeeze the name out as she clutched the woman’s hand. “It can’t be! I searched everywhere for you, everywhere!”
“I searched for you too, Rosy.” Lily threw her arms around Rose and hugged her tightly.
“I was so worried when you didn’t come back. I imagined you having the most fantastical adventures all across the country,” Rose admitted between sobs as she hugged her long-lost sister. “Riding bears in the Rockies, surfing in Alaska, all sorts of crazy things.”
Lily laughed. “They didn’t let me say goodbye! I missed you so much. I thought of you every day, and every night I prayed that you were safe and happy, and that one day God would bring you back to me.”
“Mom, Mrs. Norris, what’s going on?” Jeremy asked.
“Do you know each other?”
Rose cupped her palm to Lily’s cheek. She didn’t have words to describe to her son how much this moment meant. She’d finally reunited with her little sister almost forty years after their separation!
“Your prayers have been answered, Lily-bug. I’m here now, and I’ll never let you go again. From now on, I’m going to keep my promise that we’ll always be together.”
“Jeremy,” a young man rushed toward them. “It’s time for you to get up there and wait for your lovely bride.”
“On my way, Max,” Jeremy replied. “I don’t know what’s going on between you and Mrs. Norris, Mom, but I hope we can sort it out after the wedding.”
The wedding! All of Rose’s delight at reuniting with her sister turned to horror. She turned to Jeremy, grabbed his arm tightly, and refused to let him leave.
“Even though we were apart, you always were my big sister who only wanted the best for me.”
“You have to cancel the wedding immediately! You can’t marry Carrie.”
“Mom, what’s going on?” Jeremy looked at her with confusion and concern.
“Lily is my sister, Jeremy. That means Carrie is your cousin. You can’t marry her.”
“It’s not that simple, Rose.” Lily stepped in. “They aren’t blood relatives. When I found out I couldn’t have children, I immediately approached child services about adopting.” The woman gave a sad smile. “I specifically asked for any siblings they couldn’t place together because I didn’t want another child to bear the same pain of seperation I endured.”
“Still, they are cousins, Lily.” She put her hands on her son’s shoulders and looked him in the eye.
“I’m very sorry, Jeremy, but you must cancel the wedding, or at least postpone it until we all figure out what to do now.”
Jeremy had a dazed expression on his face while he nodded. “I agree. We need to sit down together as a family and figure this out.”
Carrie, Josh, and everyone else in the two families was amazed when they heard Rose and Lily’s story. It was such an astounding twist of fate that it took many hours of conversation for the family to understand all the implications.
Eventually, Jeremy and Carrie announced they needed time to sort out their feelings for each other and decide what they wanted to do next. They needed to pay a fee to cancel their honeymoon plans, so they decided to use the trip to work things out instead.
Many years later, Lily and Rose retired to the same town with their husbands. They bought neighboring houses and tore down the fence separating the properties. They spent every day together.
“Tell me again about the adventures you made up for me when you were little, Rosy,” Lily said while the sisters sat together on the porch one evening.
Rose smiled. This had become a game over the years and a way to share their childhood, although they were apart.
“Well, quite a lot of them had bears in them, but I don’t think I’ve told you about the one where you became a cow girl, did I?”
“Doesn’t ring a bell. Tell me?”
“I saw a TV show about the mustang roundups and decided right then that you were living in Wyoming. I pictured you breaking into the pens and leading all those horses back to freedom, so they could reunite with their families.”
Rose sighed deeply. “I longed so much to see you again.”
Lily reached out and took Rose’s hand. “Even though we were apart, you always were my big sister who only wanted the best for me. I wish we’d found each other sooner. None of that mess with Carrie and Jeremy would’ve happened.”
“They’re happy now, and that’s what counts.” Rose smiled at her sister. “And you and I will never be parted again.”
What can we learn from this story?
Never stop believing. Lily spent years praying to find Rose and never gave up hope that she’d find her sister. Eventually, those prayers were answered in a way nobody could’ve expected.
Trust that events will happen as they are meant to. Although it was heartbreaking for Rose and Lily to separate at a young age, if they’d never parted, then Lily might not have been willing to provide a home for Carrie and all her siblings.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.