Joanne and her mom were reunited—after 79 years apart!
Adopted as an infant, Joanne Loewenstern was told her biological mother had died a few days after she was born. But Joanne had a powerful feeling that her mom was still alive. For 60 years Joanne searched and held out hope, then at age 79, she got news that proved that love makes anything possible
Am I…adopted?” 16-yearold Joanne Loewenstern asked her parents as her stomach knotted with shock. Her mom nodded, and swallowing hard, explained that Joanne’s biological mother had passed away two days after giving birth.
Joanne’s mind reeled. She loved her parents, and she couldn’t have asked for a happier home. Still, the moment she discovered the truth of who she was, Joanne felt a strange stirring in her heart…that her birth mother was still alive.
This is crazy, she thought. Yet the feeling only grew stronger with time.
Love will travel as far as you let it. It has limits.” no — DEE KING
Joanne had been born on December 9, 1938, in Bellevue Hospital in New York City to a young woman named Lillian Feinsilver. Lillian Feinsilver. As the years passed, that name whispered like music in Joanne’s heart. And when Joanne got married and had four sons of her own, she realized
just how strong and special the bond is between a mother and her child. “She’s alive,” Joanne told her husband, Kurt. “I have to find her.” She searched for many years with no luck and finally hired a private detective…but even he came up short. It’s time to let go, Joanne realized, and with a heavy heart, she gave up searching for Lillian. After retiring, Joanne and Kurt left New York to spend their golden years in Boca Raton, Florida, near their son Elliot and his wife, Shelley. Having family close by helped ease Joanne’s loneliness when Kurt passed away in 2003. One evening last May, Joanne flipped to a TV show called Long Lost Family, which shares stories of reunited loved ones. Her tears blurred the screen as the deep longing to find her birth mother bubbled back up in her heart. “I’m 79, and I still want to know more about her,” she told Elliot and Shelley. Seeing the pain in her mother-in-law’s eyes, Shelley asked Joanne to take an Ancestry.com DNA test, explaining it can help adopted children find family members.
Joanne sent in the test and was genetically matched to a man named Sam Ciminieri. She immediately contacted him to ask if he knew Lillian Feinsilver, and his reply rocked her to the core…lillian was his mom.
“She was told you had died; she never got over it,” Sam told Joanne after she shared her story.
And then Sam revealed more astounding news: Their mother was still alive— and lived only 80 minutes from Joanne!
A bond unbroken
Last June, Joanne, Shelley and Elliot, met Sam at the assisted living facility where Lillian resides. Before they went in, Sam explained that Lillian, now 100 years old, had dementia and may not remember having Joanne.
With tears of joy in her eyes, Joanne sat down beside Lillian, introduced herself and shared her birth date, searching her mother’s face for recognition. But Lillian stared blankly. Joanne’s heart sank and she broke into tears. Hoping to lift the mood, Shelley Facetimed with her children. “These are your great-grandkids,” Shelley said, showing Lillian the screen.
“Hi,” Lillian said softly, and then she looked at Joanne, and with a joyful twinkle in her eyes, blurted, “This is my daughter!”
Joanne embraced her mother and felt peace fill her heart. “I love you,” she said. And as her mom smiled, Joanne knew that her heart had been healed, too.
The two women spent the day together and took their first mother/daughter photo. Today, copies of the picture sit beside both of their beds, and Joanne visits often. “I thank God every day for leading me to my mom,” Joanne beams. “Always trust your heart—it’s never too late for love.”
“I am so full of joy,” Joanne, left, says of reuniting with her mom, Lillian, after 79 years.