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How discovering who her dad was, and meeting his family, gave one Latter-day Saint woman greater confidence

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Photo courtesy of Kat Ferrin, design by Holly Robinson

The following story originally appeared on the Magnify blog as part of its Mighty Women series. The series aims to tell the stories of Latter-day Saint women who are normal yet extraordinary. This profile piece is republished here with permission.

Kat Ferrin was driving home from prom. She had just turned 17 years old, the age of legal emancipation where she lived in Colorado, when she had a very clear impression from the Spirit, “Kat, your grandpa is not going to be here at the end of the summer.”

She describes her grandpa as her safe place—the place she’d called home since the 8th grade.

“We needed each other,” she says. “I didn’t have the typical nuclear family that most people had or that I thought everyone had and that I really wanted, but my grandpa … I always knew that he loved me. I never once in my life questioned whether or not I was enough, whether I was worthy. I had none of those questions, even as a teenager.”

A Grandpa for a Dad

Kat was 8 when she first asked her mom where her dad was. When her mom started to cry, Kat quickly reassured her that she was just curious. Having become pregnant at 16 years old, Kat’s mother never personally told Kat’s father that she was having his child.

Kat has memories of the Church being in her life from a young age. She remembers wearing a dress with a bell on it to Primary and getting a temple picture for her birthday as a sunbeam, but her mom and her grandmother didn’t go to church. It was ultimately her desire to attend church that led her to move in with her grandpa.

“He was trusting, he believed in me, he forgave me,” she says describing her grandpa.

She recalls being a freshman in high school and saying to him, “Hey Grandpa, should we say prayers together or something?” She had seen her friends praying in their families and wondered if they should be doing the same. Her grandpa had grown up in Jackson Hole. He always went to church and even served as a temple worker, but would sometimes quip that he could talk to God on a mountainside, so he didn’t need to go to church. He’d always taught Kat that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but before long, he was the one reminding her to pray.

Two weeks after the prompting on her drive home from prom, Kat took her grandpa in for an MRI where he was told that the cancer he had battled off and on for years had metastasized throughout his body. By the beginning of June, he was on hospice and Kat’s goal was simply to make him comfortable. She didn’t want to go on her stake pioneer trek in June because she didn’t want to leave him, but she relented and while she was gone, he fell down the stairs.

“He said he had a moment that … he saw Heavenly Father [and Jesus] and they said, ‘If you’re ready, let’s go.’ And he said, ‘No, I have a few more things I need to do.’”

A month later, Kat found herself in a hospital courtyard praying. “What do I do?” she asked. “You need to tell him that you’re going to be okay,” came the reply. She went up to her grandfather’s hospital room and said, “Grandpa, I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be taken care of. It will all be fine.” He passed away 10 days later.

“Spiritually, I felt like Heavenly Father prepared me for it and I had the opportunity to be at peace with it and be calm about it. Of course, I don’t love it but the whole experience in itself I feel like I was very prepared and calm. But I do miss him,” she says.

Finding a Family

Years later, after returning home from serving a mission in Latvia, Kat was filling out student loan information and mentioned to her classmates that she didn’t have a dad. “Everyone has a dad,” they said and encouraged her to look her dad up. She googled his name—the only thing she knew about him—and a picture came up on findagravestone.com. Her father had passed away.

She’d never had a desire to know her dad; she had her grandpa, but she did want to know her father’s medical history and what he looked like. However, as the years passed, Kat began to feel a desire to do her dad’s temple work. It was only after a friend spoke in her young single adult ward sacrament meeting that she decided to give family history a shot. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, a week that had Kat mourning the “normal” family she never had, Kat met her friend at the family history library. When the obituary they needed was behind a paywall, Kat’s friend volunteered to pay $70 of her own money to access it, refusing to let a seemingly-sketchy website stop them.

“The website was made in like 1995 and you would never want to put your credit card information on it,” Kat says, recalling her gratitude for her friend’s dedication. The obituary eventually led Kat to connect with some of her cousins on her dad’s side who showed their father a picture of Kat. Initially, he didn’t think it was possible that his brother had a child they didn’t know about but when he saw the picture there was no denying that Kat was his niece.

On the 2nd of January 2016, Kat pulled up to a house she had never visited previously. She was nervous.

“I was like, ‘This could go wrong on so many levels.’ I felt very vulnerable because I also had a lot of high hopes that it would be a really cool experience but it’s also kind of strange. ‘I’m 29 years old, I don’t need a kidney, I don’t need money. I really just want to know who you are.”

And yet, as they approached the house, her uncle stood on the porch with open arms, “Hey, buddy! You found us!”

Kat realizes that her father’s family’s response could have been very different—they could’ve wanted nothing to do with her. “Instead, he was pulling out pictures and telling me stories—giving the best that he could even though it wasn’t a perfect story, which I also appreciated.”

She learned that her father’s family had grown up with very little. In fact, he and his brother grew up stealing milk cans off people’s porches and, at one point, the two brothers lived with a motorcycle gang. She also heard stories that helped her understand herself. She listened as her uncle told of a time when her dad pushed him through a window and then said, “Us Lynns, we just get back up swinging when we get pushed down.”

“I’m actually really happy I know that because I get that now, I understand why I’m a fighter, it’s a Lynn thing,” she says.

A few months later, Kat’s uncle flew her to Tennessee so that she could meet more family members and when her wedding day came a few years later, he came just to support her.

Confidence in Knowing Who You Are

While she doesn’t have daily contact with her dad’s family today, she found that simply knowing that she had a family and a group of people she could rely on gave Kat the confidence to do things she had never done before.

“Oddly enough, meeting them and knowing them also gave me this extra confidence to travel abroad that I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t met them,” she says. The decision to travel abroad is ultimately what led Kat to her now-husband, Oliver Horak. The couple now lives in Oliver’s homeland of Austria.

She says that for those who are also seeking answers about their identity and heritage, her advice would be to approach their family history with curiosity.

“Approach it not so much with an end goal in mind but with a curiosity of, Who are they? What could I learn from them? How could I get to know them? You often think you know all the things. For me, I thought I knew before I talked with [my friend]: ‘I’m never going to be able to do my family history because I don’t have my dad on my birth certificate, so it’s over.’ And I was wrong.”

Read profiles of other Mighty Women on the Magnify blog.

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