Tragic Crash Ends Adoption Search of Lehigh Valley PA Girl Born March 26, 1988
I know quite a few adoptees from Pennsylvania, but I didn’t know Alyssa Rachel Toner. I only learned about her today, as yet another news article with adoption as a keyword passed through my alert system. I read an article about her, then her obituary, then I watched her video and then I cried. I didn’t know her at all so I can’t miss her, or mourn her in any right way, yet still her sad passing just strikes deep horrible fear and makes me imagine a loss, a future, so horrific that shivers are sent down my spine.
I am sad for her tragic death, I am sad for her parents, I am sad for her fiancé and friends, but I cry for her mother. Somewhere out there, another birthmother has just had one of the worst tricks of fate played upon her.
Saddest Adoption Searches: Finding a Grave
Alyssa had been adopted at birth. She’s a PA adoptee, so her records were sealed and even though she registered at the state adoption registry, it’s a mutual consent registry and her mother did not also sign up. Like so many adoptees who have turned to social media in the recent weeks in hopes that the viral share component could mean a successful reunion contact, Alyssa made a video.
- On February 13th, she uploaded to YouTube.
- On February 20th, she spoke to a reporter about her potential viral adoption search.
- On March 2nd, she was in the fatal car crash that took her life.
Her search is over. If her mother is to look for her ever, she will find a grave.
This Birthmothers Worst Fear
Easily, the worst fear of any mother, any parent. Probably the worst fear of almost all birthmothers, dare I guess? I know I worried about it, but it was that deep dark silent worry; the kind you dare not talk about least the God’s hear you and think you are testing the fates. It’s so dark that you really can’t talk to anyone about it if you even have someone that you can talk honestly about the relinquishment experience with. It’s so awful to even entertain, that I know I don’t even allow myself to think about such things. Not only, do I fear the God’s retribution, but the waves of pure emotion if I even allow myself to even “go there” are too intense. I shield myself from that thought, but I will admit now, I feared it.
What if something terrible had happened to Max and there was nothing left at the end of 18 years?
Proof of Life, End of Fears
Yes, that fear was so there for me that on that night, July 7, 2004, when I found that final listing that confirmed that THIS was my child. When I read the online running stats from his high school listing recent dates and had strong proof of life; the mantra I sung to myself as I finally went to bed that early morning was:
He’s alive. He’s OK. I know where he is. He’s OK. He breathes. He’s alive.
The nightmare fantasy was only needless worry, and thankful does not begin to describe the relief and gracefulness. Hands down, it was the worst fear of them all; to find out that the child you had placed for adoption had died before you ever found them again.
The passing of Alyssa Toner has that tragic irony as she had just really actively started searching for her birthmother again and now this. I am actually torn as I write this.
Is it honoring to talk about the death of a young woman I did know because I am so moved by emotions? Alyssa is very close in age to my Max; a mere 4 plus months younger. Her birthmother and I had overlapping pregnancies, though we are supposedly three years apart in age. It is normal for me to imagine a similar fate , remember the fear, and know she will be denied that sweet relief. Identification is normal, but do I dare write about it?
Does one hope that we take on her search and help spread the video virally as she wished people to do? She wanted to get that message to her original mother, that she loved her, but is that message cruel after her sad death? On one hand, her mother had not registered, but then we know, so many mothers and adoptees never know they can, or where, or how to really search. We can make the very educated guess and assume that Alyssa’s mother HAS thought of her over the years, so will she search on her own eventually? Or was she waiting, like so many of us were taught in the “Official Birthmother Rulebook” that good birthmothers didn’t intrude upon an adoptee, but waited patiently, in the wings, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs if possible, until the adoptee seeks them out? Is a cruelty or a kindness to end her wait? Would I want to know? Yes, I would want to be able to find the truth no matter how horrible it was. I could not have waited any more, but my internal time clock can be vastly different that this unknown birthmother. I go back and forth, as I said, torn.
All I Can Do: Make it Easy for Alyssa’s Mother to Find Her Daughter
Alyssa’s video is hauntingly silent. There is no sappy background music or voice over. All one hears is the rustle of the loose leaf paper that Alyssa’ wrote her message on. The camera is steady and the full frame remains on the messages boldly written in black marker. She had nice handwriting, but we never see her face. She says that meeting her mother would be a dream come true. It’s all horrible sad. Right now, it only has 498 views on it and as I said, I think I am almost comforted that it hasn’t gone fully viral…too soon, too soon, not yet. Like I keep imagining her mother finding out on the day of her funeral or something and want to make that another dark use of excessive imagination. I don’t want to read another ironic news story. Do I embed the video here or not? Really..I am torn.
ETA: I think the community has spoken, this post is getting shared, so I shall embed, Plus, I took Dan’s advice int he comments and I have a full copy of the video saved on my hard drive here, so if the video DOES go away, I can add it back again.
What I do know, though, is that Alyssa was searching and cannot finish her search. She made the video, but it does not show up in searches for her birth date. The article about her adoption birthmother search does not seem have been published. The news stories about her death, do, right now, but as time passes, news articles like these get achieved and fall way down on the search rankings. Maybe her search will be forgotten completely. Maybe her account will be taken down, the video eventually deleted and, if her birthmother ever does decide to search, she will never find anything at all.
The message will be lost.
This is what I can help preserve: That a Female Adoptee, called Baby Wagner, lived as Alyssa Toner, born on March 26, 1988, at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA was searching for her birthmother. Sadly, she passed away on March 3, 2013, but she had a message for her mother:
My name is Alyssa.
I was born on March 26th, 1988 at Lehigh Valley Hospital Allentown PA.
I was adopted at birth. My mother was sixteen years old. I have never met her.
I am very blessed to have a loving family who made sure they did not hide the adoption form me. I could not ask for better parents.
However…I would very much like to meet my birthmother.
There was a pastor that acted as a go between both families. My mom and I ran into said pastor t a Home Depot when I was thirteen. He took one look at me and said, “WOW, you look JUST like you mother!”
I have written countless essays, papers etc. about her because I owe my life to HER.
I filed official paperwork with the court to let her know I wanted to be found. She, however, did not.
I was devastated for years. Not a day goes by that I do don’t think about her, wonder where she is, what she’s doing, if she ever wonders about me.
It’s been TWENTY FIVE YEARS now. So I guess what I’m trying to do, is reach out, hoping this will get me closer, so, MOM… Should you see this, I can’t pretend to know how painful this may be, So I have already entertained the idea that you want nothing to do with me. I picture you with a great life, wonderful family, and I don’t want to screw that up for you. I don’t want anything from you. I just need to know that you’re out there somewhere. It would be a dream come true to meet you face to face. I have years of unanswered questions for you. On the other hand, should you see this and still not want to meet, I will understand and leave you alone.
All I want to do is say THANK YOU. You are the reason I am Alive when I am sure at the time, an abortion would seem an easier option. So I literally owe you my life. Thank you, Mom! And no matter what, I love you. And I hope to hear from you. My email is email@example.com Thank you for watching.
Alyssa named the video a catchy ”How to Meet Your Mother“. From all outward glances, she looked to have been a happy adoptee who had a happy life. I can only hope that her mother, should she ever look for Alyssa, finds comfort in that. I’m going to attach the related articles and the obituary so she can read about her daughter’s life and find the names of the adoptive parents. Perhaps they would share some of Alyssa’s writings with her birthmother. That would be a true gift in such a sad adoption tale.
How You Meet Your Daughter
And somewhere, there is a woman close to my age, I don’t know her either. She’s 42 / 43 and she will probably be thinking about Alyssa on her 25th birthday coming up on just a few weeks, this March 26th. If she ever searches, be it years from now, may she find her daughter’s message to her, her words of love, know she was happy, and be able to look upon, just once, her beautiful face.
They say she looked just like you.