She took a leap and got a DNA test, betting on the probability that her son would do the same.
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It had been 33 years, but Melanie Pressley had hope in that thin thread that binds a mother and child. She wondered how many times might they have found themselves on parallel paths, even at the same crossroads, but going in opposite directions, without really meeting.
It started with one certainty: “no” to abortion
Pressley was 18 years old and had no certainty about the future—not her own future, nor much less the one she’d be able to offer to the child she was carrying. Would just a little more help have been enough? An outstretched hand?
Pressley was young and felt alone, with a partner who suggested abortion as a solution to the “problem” she was carrying. In the maze of roads she could have taken, instead of that dead end (for the baby, but also for her), she chose life.
She gave birth to a baby boy, and decided to make an adoption plan for him thanks to the support of her family and the services of an adoption agency. It was June 1988.
She surrendered her son without giving him a name. She told News 5 Cleveland that she wanted his adoptive parents to have that honor. Perhaps she also realized that she’d already given him what mattered most: the gift of life and the possibility of having the love of two (adoptive) parents.
The nurse allowed her to hold her son a few moments despite protocol not allowing it, and Pressley’s sister snapped a photo. It would be a memory she would cling to even after she was happily married and the mother of three other children. Life went down unexpected paths, but she always kept that thread tied around her heart.
Thirty-three years have passed and that child today is named Greg Vossler, and he has known he was adopted since he was 9 or 10.
He never wanted to ask too many questions, “I’d always joke saying, you know, ‘I don’t see a celebrity that looks like me,’ or, ‘No one who’s a king or queen in some faraway land resembles me,’” he recounts in the News 5 Cleveland interview.
One day, having become a dad himself, and perhaps with newfound courage to look deeper into his past, he decided to try to follow that one thread that was left to him. He didn’t know if it had been broken over the years, if there would still be someone on the other end, or if he would be able to find the end of the thread.
He bought a “23andme” genetic test on sale. It was the same brand of test that Melanie took two years after he did, in May 2021, when one of her daughters bought her the test for her birthday.
Rewinding the ball of yarn
Thanks to the company’s database, which allows you to find DNA matches and discover your family and ethnic background, Pressley and Vossler found each other. After an initial contact via messaging, they met and hugged this summer.
“I believe we’re related,” was Melanie’s first somewhat hesitant message. Soon after, she was more concrete, writing confidently, “I believe I am your birth mother.”
Vossler’s wife snapped the photo of them together 33 years later.
Our body is a living memory—not only of somatic traits, diseases, or predispositions, but of the choices of many people. We are a series of unique chromosomes, but above all a series of “yeses” which are all equally unlikely to be lined up if we look at them now, from where we find ourselves at a point in the labyrinth of choices and unexpected events, with the end of an unraveled ball of yarn in our hands. Our very body reminds us that we are not just the result of pure luck, but more a tangled story of salvation which, if we could rewind it to the end, would lead us all to a first great love for life.