Being away from your kids has to be the worst thing that can happen to a parent. But that was the life of a mother named Lani for the next forty years.
During the Vietnam War, Lani from Thailand met a member of the U.S. Air Force who was stationed there.
She fell in love with him, and they got married and moved to Ohio not long after that. After having a daughter there, they moved to Oxford, England, where they had a second child.
But after a few years, their relationship went bad, and they split up. Lani didn’t speak English very well, so she didn’t understand what the divorce papers said.
She signed them anyway, giving up her right to ever see her daughters again. From that day on, both moms and daughters spent the next forty years trying to find each other.
Finally, thanks to social media, they were able to find each other again.When Lani was separated from her daughters, Starla and Jeannie, it was hard for both the mom and her daughters.
Starla told ABC News, ‘When we asked our dad about our mom, he never said anything bad about her.
He just said that she couldn’t speak English because she was a full-blooded Thai and that, because he was in the military and we were Americans, he thought he could take better care of us.
So, for the next 40 years, each mother looked for the other. When Starla and Jeannie got a little bit older, they ‘helped’ their dad search every database they could, but to no avail.
‘When I think about everything, I think he just tried to look like he was helping. He was either trying to keep us safe or afraid he would lose his baby girls.
People always say that every story has three sides. Jeannie tells ABC News that she knows ‘his side, her side, and the truth.’
As the years went by, the young women thought about whether or not they should give up the search and go about their own lives.
But just recently, Starla got a message she didn’t expect on Facebook. A man named Mark Szarmach sent it.
Mark became Lani’s husband in the end. He had tried to help his wife find her two tragically missing little girls, but for a long time, his efforts didn’t lead anywhere.
Mark says about his wife, Lani, ‘She wanted to find them, but she didn’t know how, and because she didn’t have much information, there weren’t any good leads.’
Anyhow, she has often cried late at night and talked about her little girls and how she needs to find them someday.
Mark thought Starla’s name was ‘Stella’ and Jeannie’s name was «Jenny» because of the way his wife spoke. It’s not a big surprise that he had a hard time finding them.
Mark also knew the name of the girls’ father and looked for him as well. The man’s name was John Thompson,
which is a very common name, so it took Mark some time to sort through all the people with the same name.
At last, though, he found his death notice. He then found out the girls’ real names, went to Facebook, and looked for them again.
This time, Mark saw a Facebook page for a Jeannie Toomey, and when he saw one picture in particular, he was stunned.
‘When I opened an album, a picture of them as babies jumped out at me. I was stunned. I ran out of my room and yelled,
‘Honey, you have to come see this!’ ‘When I showed her that picture, she started crying right away,’Mark says.
Jeannie was shocked when Mark got to her. She and Starla made plans with Lani to get back together after 40 years, and they did so after seven days.
Here is where you can see the amazing event: