Lee Caldwell wondered who his biological parents were for more than 50 years. That is, until he took a DNA test in 2014 that sent him on a journey he hadn't expected.
“All my life I would have liked to tell my biological mother that it is okay. I’m okay and I don’t hold any grudge about being adopted,” Caldwell says. “I knew that every year on my birthday there is a woman somewhere in the world that had to look at the sky and think about this baby they put up for adoption.”
The DNA Test
Though Caldwell took the DNA test in 2014, it wasn’t until January 2018 that Caldwell received notifications about people with a biological connection to him. With encouragement from his children, Caldwell and his daughter started writing letters to those who might be potential family members.
Caldwell’s adoptive mother told him that his biological parents were teenagers and they were no longer dating when they had him. He was put into LDS Family Services for adoption the day he was born. “I felt very special to be adopted by [my adoptive parents],” Caldwell said. “I don't want to do anything that would hurt their feelings. Although I knew I was adopted my whole life, they would have supported me if I would have really wanted to find my biological parents, but I just never felt the need to.”
However, with the new information that came from his DNA test, Caldwell felt the drive to begin searching out his biological family. With the information he had, Caldwell was able to find the name of his potential biological father. One day, while he was sharing this journey at work, one of his co-workers recognized one of the names he mentioned. The coworker called her friend, who Caldwell thought might be his sister, and the two arranged a time for him to meet her family.
But after meeting his “sister,” Caldwell received a call from LDS Family Services and learned that his biological parents were 16 and 19 when he was born. “That meant this lady’s father wasn’t my father. As it turned out, she is my cousin,” Caldwell says. But this new information set him on track to discover his real biological parents.
Finding His Biological Family
Lee Caldwell meeting Matt and Diana for the first time at a restaurant.
On Super Bowl Sunday 2018, Caldwell invited his family to his house. He then announced that he had discovered some of his biological family members, including his father, Rod Romer from Brigham City, Utah. Two of Caldwell’s sons-in-law called their family in northern Utah and asked if anyone recognize the name. The next day, one of Caldwell’s daughters called and told him that Rod Romer had passed away. However, her uncle-in-law happened to work with Rod’s son, Matt Romer. A week later, Caldwell received a text from Matt saying, “You are my brother. We’ve been looking for you.”
Shortly after Rod passed away from heart disease in 2006, Matt and his sister, Diana, started searching for Caldwell after their mother told them they had a brother they had never known.
“At first I was mad at my mom and dad that they didn’t tell us about it until he had passed away,” Diana says. “But then I was excited. We didn’t know what we would find.”
“We had been trying to find him,” Matt says. Using a site that provides assistance for adoptees trying to understand DNA test results, Matt and Diana received the name and numbers of people who were born the the same day as Caldwell in Utah. “We made hundreds of phone calls trying to find him. That is always a weird phone call,” Matt says.
When Caldwell finally met with his long-lost siblings, Matt says, “Nobody knew what to expect. It was like we were brothers and sisters the whole time.”
“We all got along really well. We talked for quite a while,” Diana says. “At first I didn’t think he looks like my dad, but the more I’ve been around him, the more I think he does.”
Caldwell discovered another answer to his questions during this family reunion—Matt knew the name of Caldwell’s birth mother, Cheri Sills, who lives in California. When Matt called Sills on the phone, she immediately knew what it was about. “It’s about the baby,” Sills said.
Sills explains, “When Matt called me and said his name and said, ‘I found your son,’ I was like, ‘Oh, it was a boy.’” Sills adds, “I didn't know the gender of the baby. . . . I always felt that he was a boy, but I didn't know.”
Sills called Caldwell on the phone and she described the conversation as “warm and caring.” “He [Caldwell] said it was so important to him because he wanted to thank me for my sacrifice and to tell me he had wonderful parents and a wonderful life. I was so happy to hear that because I have always wondered for all these years.”
Having Faith in God’s Timing
Lee Caldwell and his wife along with his biological mother, Cheri Sills, and her husband.
“It was an answer to prayer. I have tried over the years a couple times to find him,” Sills says. “You always wonder and kind of look around at people and wonder, ‘Would I recognize him or her if I ever saw him or her?’ Every time I meet somebody around that age or with that birthday, I asked, ‘Where were you born? Are you adopted?’”
Five minutes after talking to his birth mother for the first time, Caldwell received a text message saying that Sills and her husband were in a truck driving to Utah to meet him and his family. “We had a wonderful reunion. Both sides of the family have just been so good, like we have known each other for all our lives,” Caldwell says. “Since then we have been involved in all the family activities together. We've been to family reunions on both sides. We met everybody. We talk to somebody in each family about every day. It's just like we've been family all our lives.”
After many prayers for more than 50 years, Sills described this experience as a “reward” for both her and Caldwell. “Never give up and know that prayers are answered and that miracles happen,” Sills says. “I know that I made a mistake, and because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ, He makes the difference if we repent sincerely, change, and ask for forgiveness. Because of the Atonement, all we have to do is repent and move on. It takes a long time to come to that realization, because I hung on to that guilt for years. . . . Looking back, it is so much better if we do not waste time beating ourselves up for past mistakes and recognize that they have already been paid for if we repent.”
“The Lord’s hand is in all of this. The timing was just perfect for my biological family and for me to have it happen now,” Caldwell says. “They were so accepting and loving to me. . . . I feel that Heavenly Father knew the circumstance of my birth, He just tucked me away where I was taken care of and nurtured, and when the time was right, He hooked us back up together. I think it's miraculous.”
Caldwell continues, “We have a spiritual connection with each other. We don't have to be raised together to have those spiritual connections. I feel so blessed to have this whole world opened up to me later in life. It reaffirms to me that family is divine. It's all part of the Lord's plan. . . . Even if our family situation is not ideal, the Lord will bless us to be able to move past that and to create the family experience that we are looking for if we are patient and exercise faith.”