The queen of the confessional and the tearful, televised reunion found herself in the middle of her own unexpected surprise
Monday, much like the scores of those she's facilitated for others over the years. Her fans held their breath as the promos ran and the tidbits leaked out -- Oprah Winfrey has a long lost sister that she only learned about a few months ago.
In light of the timing of her announcement -- this is Oprah's 25th and final season of her syndicated show before heading off to oversee her Oprah Winfrey Network
) -- we could be jaded and say this was somehow a stunt for the last season of Oprah's show, but it's hard to imagine that even she would stage manage such an emotional reunion for ratings and hoopla.
Oprah had two siblings she knew about, but they are both deceased. On her show, Oprah shared the entire story of her discovery, calling the news of an unknown sibling a "bombshell" that "shook her to the core" and left her -- the undisputed queen of talk -- "speechless."
Of course, the other side of the story is that of the new-found sister, Patricia, who coincidentally has the same first name as Oprah's deceased sister. Patricia, whose mother is also Oprah's mother,
was placed for adoption as a baby and never knew who her birth family was. Only a small handful of people in Oprah's family knew about this baby and Oprah, who was about 9 years old at the time and living with her father -- wasn't one of them.
While Patricia dabbled with the idea of looking for her family in her 20s, she didn't really start her search in earnest until several years ago. When she finally received the documents about her birth and adoption, a series of coincidences, including seeing a television interview with Oprah's mother, Vernita Lee
, on the day she received those files, ultimately led her to Oprah and, finally, Lee -- her birth mother.
Aside from the shock of Oprah's revelation of a sister she never knew she had, the announcement will resonate for thousands of adoptees
and those who spent time in the foster care system. Because as wonderful as many adoption stories are, they are still, by definition, stories of loss. Many adoptees struggle with the unknown aspects of their lives and wish they could find the information that Patricia has been lucky enough to discover to fill in the blanks of their lives.
Patricia's happy discovery particularly hit home with me since I'm a mother by adoption.
From the time our daughter could comprehend what her adoption story was, she's struggled with the fact that because she was adopted from China
, there are things about her life she'll never know and pieces of her story that will remain missing. She often wonders about whether her birth parents are still alive and whether she might have siblings. So while I could relate to the unexpected joy of Oprah's reunion with her sister, it made me sad that, odds are, my daughter will never have that kind of moment.
If Oprah lives up to her reputation, my guess is that she'll use this very personal experience to facilitate similar discoveries and reunions for other domestic adoptees who are searching for their birth families but have yet to make a breakthrough in their search like Patricia.