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 Nancy’s 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.

Honoring Nancy Parkhill
by Stacy Ertle

     As I’m 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 isn’t “family,” has had on us.
     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, Nancy’s 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.” Let’s renew this commitment to honor Nancy.

Nancy Parkhill: Adoptees’ Fairy Godmother
by Ann Massmann

     My 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 didn’t 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 I’d 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.”
     Nancy’s 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, I’ve learned who I am, as a person split in two (or three or four) by my closed-adoption history. I’ve also learned on my own to value and appreciate my adoptive family for what it was and is–not perfect and not always good for me, but good and loving nevertheless, and a big part of who I am. In addition, I’ve learned how to fit my birth mother’s and birth father’s 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, too–the adoptee’s 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 conference.
     It was an honor to know Nancy and a privilege to have had my life strengthened by her. She will be greatly missed.

Nancy’s Request: Be a Voice
by Barbara Free

     During Nancy Parkhill’s 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 I’d 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 short–less 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