While they never married, they would end up sharing grandchildren.

*Featured image contains photo by cottonbro studio

Helen’s mother stopped turning the pages of the photo album and stared down at the page in disbelief. She knew that face.

The woman had travelled to New York to meet her daughter’s fiancé, Stephen Lee. She and her husband, Helen’s father, spent a joyful afternoon with the couple, flipping through Stephen’s old photo albums and sharing their own family stories with Stephen’s mother and stepfather. But they weren’t prepared for the memories that would come flooding back when a family secret was revealed.

When Helen’s mother flipped a page and came face to face with a person who was once very dear to her, her hand hovered above the photo. Stephen told her that the man was his late father who had died when he was just 17 years old.

Keeping a straight face, Helen’s mother asked for the man’s name. When Stephen told her, she nodded slowly before turning the page. The afternoon continued in good spirits, and Stephen and Helen didn’t think much of it.

A Family Secret Revealed

two people looking at a photo album
Photo by cottonbro studio

But later, Helen’s mother called her. She had something important to tell her: the man in the photo, Stephen’s father — she had almost married that man herself.

The story went back decades. When Stephen’s dad was in his twenties, he and Helen’s mother had been in love. They wanted to get married, and Stephen’s dad had even proposed. But the story didn’t have a happy ending.

The two lovers never got married because Helen’s grandfather forbid the marriage. He had someone else in mind for his daughter —the man who would end up being Helen’s father. Both families immigrated from Korea to the United States and soon lost touch. The family secret would remain buried for decades.

That is, until the day when, seated on her future son-in-law’s sofa, Helen’s mother was confronted with an image of the man she had once loved. She was so overcome with emotion in the moment that she said nothing at all.

But, a few days later, Helen shared the story with Stephen; and Stephen asked his mom if she knew about this other woman who had once been in love with his father.

New Connections Made

Stephen’s mother admitted that she did know there had been another woman, a long time before she had met Stephen’s father, and that she hadn’t thought about it too much. She and Stephen’s father had made a life together, and that story was decades in the past. It certainly never crossed her mind that one day, across an ocean, she and her late husband’s former lover would share grandchildren.

While Helen’s mother was still coming to terms with the turn of events, her father was convinced that the connection was no coincidence. “Helen’s father is a strong believer in the idea that somehow my dad, somehow he is behind all this,” said Stephen. “That somehow he’s helped make all this happen.”

Stephen was just a teenager when his dad passed away, so the fact that now he has a connection with someone who knew his dad in his twenties has been a huge blessing.

“I didn’t have the time with my dad that I wished I had had,” he explains. Stephen says that now that he can talk to his mother-in-law about him, it’s as if his father is “an active part of my life again.”

Some things are just meant to be.

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