This issue [April 2005] of the
Operation Identity Newsletter is dedicated to the memory of Nancy Parkhill,
M.A., LPCC, therapist, adoptee, author, and O.I. member, who died of lymphoma
on February 4, 2005, after a brief illness. Because of the suddenness of
her death and memorial service, many in the adoption community are still
not aware of her passing. It is our hope that a memorial fund can be set
up in Nancys name, to benefit adoption triad members in some way.
Contributions in her memory can be made to Operation Identity, a 501(c)(3)
charitable organization. We welcome suggestions about the exact use of any
such funds. If any readers have memories of Nancy and how she helped them
that they would like to share, in the next newsletter, or at an O.I. meeting,
any such anecdotes are welcome.
Im sitting to write this memorial for Nancy Parkhill, I am all too
aware that it has been exactly one month since Nancy passed on. She passed
on Friday morning, February 4th, just eight days shy of her birthday. The
day before she passed, I visited her in the hospital and said good-bye, as
she so courageously asked me to do. During our good-bye, I tried to tell
her how much I appreciated her, how grateful I was for knowing her and how
my life was transformed as a result. I doubt my good-bye was adequate at
fully expressing all of this, but it was heartfelt and sincere. Sometimes,
it seems like only after time has passed that we really realize what an impact
someone, especially someone who isnt family, has had on
Nancy also had this impact on the adoption
community. Not only did she devote her counseling career to those with adoption
connections, but she provided us with a wonderful book, Healing the Adoption
Experience. She was in the process of writing her second book when she
passed. Recently, she had begun traveling around the country, leading seminars
to audiences of other professionals trying to get the word out.
She saw the dire need to educate professionals who may counsel members of
the adoption triad. In many ways, Nancys work will continue without
her. But I also hope that we, as the adoption community of O.I., will do
our best to keep the work going and keep the word out. Lets
renew this commitment to honor Nancy.
Parkhill: Adoptees Fairy Godmother
best memory of Nancy Parkhill is how she taught those of us who came to her
that it is important, and never too late, to go back and re-work our childhoods.
She taught me how to be open to my true experience as an adoptee. I learned
how the states, from prenatal and infancy to adolescence, can be altered
for those of us in closed adoptions.
I first went to Nancy out of curiosity, when
I heard she offered a group counseling session for adult adoptees. That first
time I walked away thinking I didnt need any help on adoption issues.
Some months later, I was back, after a blow-up with my adoptive brother who,
it turned out, wanted to completely deny the fact of our adoptions. Although
Id already searched and found my birth mother a year or two earlier,
Nancy brought me to confront my feelings, understand and work through my
own issues of growing up adopted.
I learned more about myself in relation to
my family from Nancy, perhaps, than from any other source. Although I grew
up in a home with two loving adoptive parents and all the trappings of the
standard middle-class American life of the 1960s and 70s, I was also
the daughter of two others, mystery figures who had influenced my life as
a child, although I did not know then how Nancy taught me, and the others
in the counseling group, to put it all together, to learn to be faithful
to ourselves, as what I like to think of as the whole adoptee.
Nancys forte was in putting the emphasis
squarely on the adoptee within the chaos of the entire adoption experience.
This was an amazing time-out for me from a life of being the good
girl, always being true to and protective of my adoptive family. My
experiences with Nancy also coincided with a period of strong devotion to
my deceased birth mother and my birth families. I eventually learned how
important it is to work on all three parts of the adoption triad residing
inside of me.
Because of Nancy, Ive learned who I am,
as a person split in two (or three or four) by my closed-adoption history.
Ive also learned on my own to value and appreciate my adoptive family
for what it was and isnot perfect and not always good for me, but good
and loving nevertheless, and a big part of who I am. In addition, Ive
learned how to fit my birth mothers and birth fathers families
into my understanding of who I was as a child and who I am today.
But, the part of the adoptee experience that
is purely self is what Nancy saw and nurtured in all of us. One
adoptee I know referred to Nancy as her fairy godmother. That
is what she was for me, toothe adoptees ideal fairy godmother,
knowing how to get to my core self and usher me along to find the life that
is true to who I am. She was an extraordinary supporter and godmother to
many Albuquerque adoptees. And in the past year, so many other across the
country came to know her through her book and speaking engagements. One of
her last presentations was, in fact, for Operation Identity at its November
It was an honor to know Nancy and a privilege
to have had my life strengthened by her. She will be greatly
Request: Be a Voice
Nancy Parkhills hospitalization in January, I visited her. She had
had a tracheotomy, and, consequently, could only speak two or three words
at a time as she exhaled. This was extremely frustrating for a person who
made her living speaking, as a therapist, and an educator. She tried writing
down messages to her visitors, but this was also tedious and frustrating
for her. We discussed that frustration, and the irony of being unable to
speak when she most needed to tell others her thoughts and feelings.
Nancy had worked hard the past few years, getting
her first book out and working to finish her second book. The last year,
she was flying back and forth around the country to teach other therapists
about the experiences and the needs of persons in the adoption triad. Being
an adoptee herself, Nancy had focused her therapy practice on life-long adoption
issues, particularly for adult adoptees. She felt a real urgency this past
year about trying to make others aware of these issues.
Watching her there in the hospital, struggling
to communicate, I asked her if there was anything she wanted to say to our
O.I. members, and to others.
Taking a deep breath, she said, with a wistful
smile, I have no voice. Then she wrote on the notebook Id
handed her, I have no voice.
Adoptees really have no voice. No one in the
triad has had much of a voice. We have to find our voices, and use them.
We have to be a voice.
Even as we visited, I had no idea her time
with us would be so very shortless than two weeks after that day. We
have lost her physical voice, and her physical presence, but we have her
memory and her desire with us still. We need to be that voice for adoptees,
for birth parents, for adoptive parents. As individuals, we can each use
our voices and our influence in being about the changes needed in the world
of adoption, and as an organization, O.I. and other groups can use their
collective voices to help bring about changes in laws, to access to information,
and in attitudes about adoption, relinquishment, and reunion. As we remember
Nancy, let us each be a voice.
Excerpted from the April 2005
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2005 Operation Identity