She waited 70 years for this moment. And when it came, it was oh-so-sweet.
Elizabeth Pullen of Lafayette, Louisiana, had a daughter when she was 20 years old. It was a secret she kept her entire life. In those days, if a birth mother was going to place her child for adoption, she was not allowed to meet the child.
And so that’s why, 70 years later, she was meeting her daughter in a park in Lafayette for the very first time.
The decades-old story began to unravel when Pullen’s granddaughter, Wanda Leblanc, took a DNA test. Her closest match, the test said, came from a woman whose name Leblanc had never heard: Lynne Wray.
“I thought maybe she was a cousin. I wasn’t placing her as my aunt,” Leblanc told “Good Morning America.”
Leblanc said she reached out to Wray and found out she was from the same town in North Carolina where Leblanc’s family was originally from. “She said her mother told her that her birth mother was part Indian. I had been told all my life my grandmother was part Indian.”
Still, Leblanc said, “it was hard to wrap my head around.”
Leblanc’s mother takes care of her grandmother, and so she drove to her mom’s house to start asking questions.
“My grandmother answered the door and I told them the story. My mom said ‘have her send a photo,'” Leblanc said.
Wray sent a photo and Leblanc said “she looked so much like my family.”
Her grandmother, Leblanc said, was “not saying much. Then she went to lie down.”
Leblanc left her mother’s house and later that day, got a call from her grandmother. “‘Lynne is my daughter,’ she said. ‘Get her on the phone,’ she said, ‘I’ve been waiting for 70 years to talk to her.'”
“My grandmother told me she always thought about Lynne. She would be at a birthday party or walking down the street and wonder if the people she saw could be her,” Leblanc said.
The two planned to meet on May 6 in Louisiana. Leblanc, who is a photographer who often captures “first looks” between brides and grooms, thought it would be a perfect way to capture the moment between mom and daughter.
There were practical reasons for the “first look” as well as artistic ones. “My grandmother cannot see very well, I wanted to be able to see her face to be close up to her,. If she [Lynne] was coming from across a field, I knew she could not run to her. I thought she might pass out and if she does, Lynne would be there to catch her.”
On the ride to the park, the appointed meeting spot, Leblanc said her grandmother went through a series of emotions: perfectly calm, highly anxious, disbelief.
“The only way I can describe the moment they met is magical,” Leblanc told “GMA.” Particularly touching, she said, was how her grandmother touched Lynne’s face and played with her hair. “It’s only a mother who touches their children like that,” she said.
Wray spent eight days with her newfound family in Louisiana. She shared her life story and lots of photos. She had grown up in a loving family who were thrilled for her to have found her birth mom.
Wray’s adopted mother had not lived to see the moment her daughter was reunited with her birth mom. But according to Leblanc, she would have been thrilled for her daughter.
“Lynne told me that her mom always said ‘if you ever meet your birth mom, please thank her for me. She gave me the greatest gift of my life,'” Leblanc said.