Friday, December 11, 2020

The Story of Bernadette: Part 4 - A Deathbed Confession

hands of the elderly
At times during our email conversations, Bernadette reflected that she never fit in or was accepted by her two siblings. Her older brother was born in Europe. At the age of two, he and his mother immigrated to the United States, joining his father who had arrived two years prior in 1921.

Bernadette was born in 1924, just nine months after her mother reunited with her husband in the coal mining region of central Pennsylvania. Three years later, Bernadette's younger sister was born.

Of course a birth nine months after reuniting with her husband is perfectly feasible and it would seem that the mother who raised Bernadette was certainly her mother. But another strange occurrence in 1989 again pushed Bernadette to question her ancestry.

By this time, Bernadette had two adult children, was divorced from her husband and lived near Philadelphia. Her sister and brother had moved to another state many years before, married and had families of their own. By the mid-1960's, their mother also relocated in order to live closer to her youngest daughter and son.

When Bernadette's mother became seriously ill in 1989, she traveled to her bedside. According to Bernadette's memory, her mother made a deathbed confession on the October day of her passing - stating that she was not Bernadette's real mother!

Obviously this was a disturbing admission, one that left an unforgettable impression on Bernadette. However, her mother offered no details or clues before she died to support this claim of misrepresented birth identity, leaving Bernadette confused and again questioning her own parentage.

Many years passed, allowing the questionable baptismal issue and the troubling confession to take root in Bernadette's psyche. She was clearly searching for answers when she found me in 2016.

It had taken months via email for Bernadette to relay her entire story to me as she remembered it. Was her memory clear enough to recall accurate details? Or was this a clouded story based on hearsay and the daydreams of an elderly person? It was hard to tell fantasy from facts. Had Bernadette's mother been telling the truth about a family secret hidden for decades? Or was her mother's confession nothing more than the confused meanderings of an eighty-nine year old person close to death, unaware of what she was saying?

At the age of 92, Bernadette was searching for the truth. Were her father and mother actually her birth parents or was she an NPE?

It was a mystery with virtually nothing to provide a starting point for research. Plus it was my first NPE case - and proved to be my most difficult to date, taking four years to solve.

The Story of Bernadette - Part 4


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