The Lost Sheep Parable in Living Color

Dear friends through adoption,

Sometimes, when adoptees and birth families finally find one another, it is necessary to soak in every moment because we never know how long we’ll have one another. I have found this to be true. I learned this first through my late birth Uncle Dave Clark, whom I will introduce to you now.

One day I got an e-mail that said, “Welcome to the family…so you’ve written a book?” It was signed Dave Clark. I didn’t put two and two together and thought that maybe it was a fellow author congratulating me on my book—a fellow author I didn’t know. And for some strange reason, I didn’t even reply to the message.

Two nights later the phone rang and a woman asked if I was Sherrie Eldridge—the Sherrie Eldridge who wrote Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. I assumed it was a friendly call from a reader who had been blessed by the book. The woman went on to say that she was my Aunt Marge from Nashville.

“OH, MY GOSH!” I said. “I can’t believe this!”

After talking a few minutes with Aunt Marge, she asked if I would like to talk to my Uncle Dave. Prior to talking with him, my heart was filled with fear that he might reject me as his sister, my birth mother, had years ago.

A hearty voice boomed through the phone lines and there was nothing but pure love and acceptance from the very beginning. He told me that the word “rejection” was not part of his vocabulary.

And in the months ahead, he proved that to me in more ways than one!

Later in the conversation he said, “Sherrie, you’re a Clark and you can’t disown us!” At least twice a week I received an e-mail that said, “Hi, beautiful! Top of the morning to you and Bob!” We talked almost weekly.

During those two short years he introduced me to many more members of my birth family and gave me the wonderful birth history that had been shrouded in mystery for 55 years. He said, “Sherrie, how many women your age can claim that their grandfather and great grandfather were Coast Guard lighthouse keepers on the Great Lakes from the 1850’s to the 1950’s?”

A few months after meet, Bob and I went with Uncle Dave and Aunt Marge on a whirlwind trip through upper and lower Michigan, where he showed me the lighthouses my grandfathers manned. Uncle Dave lived at the Spectacle Reef Light for six years as a boy and when we visited, it was such a joy to see him sit in the room he once occupied as a lad, telling tourists about life at the lighthouse. I was so proud to be his niece.

First light on Whitefish Point Lighthouse. Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Thus, when Aunt Marge called one night and said, “Dave’s gone.” My knees buckled as I said, “No, no, that can’t be.” Maybe it was part of my adoptee fantasy that Uncle Dave would live forever. He and Aunt Marge brought so much joy that I couldn’t imagine life without him. I had grown to love him as a father.

A few hours prior to his funeral, the story about how Jesus left the 99 sheep in order to find the one that was lost came to mind. I pondered the similarities of those words to my adoption story. Uncle Dave, like Jesus, found me, the lost sheep of the family, and brought me into the fold of my birth family. He went to his grave alienated from my birth mother, his sister, because, like the Good Shepherd, he took me up on his shoulders and carried me. Like the Good Shepherd had great delight in the sheep…more than the 99…Uncle Dave delighted in me.

When we entered the sanctuary for the funeral and I looked at the hymns that were chosen, one stood out like neon—How Great Thou Art. Before the people stood, the pastor said that this hymn was one of Uncle Dave’s favorites. It had such a special significance for me, for when we were first reunited, that song blared from his radio as he drove us back to the hotel in his shiny, yellow Cadillac. At that time, my heart felt like a balloon ready to burst with gratitude to God for bringing these dear people into my life.

The pastor then began his message about uncle Dave. How astounding that the text he chose was the same verse about the lost sheep that came to my mind prior to the service. I knew without a doubt that I was the recipient of extra love and care as the one lost sheep.

No, I didn’t grow up knowing him. No, he wasn’t my biological father. But the same blood that flowed through his veins flowed through mine and in the two short years that I had the privilege of knowing him, uncle Dave made me feel like the lost sheep that Jesus tenderly carried on his shoulders. When I later searched for the story from the Bible, one sentence brought me to tears: “And if he finds it (the lost sheep), I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” I knew that in those two years, there was something very special about my relationship with Uncle Dave.

I only hope that I can finish my life’s journey in the same way that Uncle Dave did. Selfless to the end. Always thinking of what others needed. Always giving. Always loving. Always serving his Lord. Always looking for that one lost sheep.

So friends, reunions can be dicey. But somewhere in the dicey stuff, there is one positive, loving relationship we can cherish.

Love to all,

See Matthew 18: 10-14.