After suffering from a brutal rape, Lee Ezell discovered she was pregnant. She bravely chose to relinquish her child for adoption, wishing the very best for the child. Twenty years later, Lee was shocked to hear a voice on the other end of the telephone state, “HI, I’m Julie, and you’re my mother.” Televised across North America, Lee’s story with her remarkable reunion with her daughter, has touched the hearts of millions. Enjoy the laughter and tears shared together between Lee and Julie as they explain how anyone can find peace and hope in spite of life’s missing pieces. Here’s Lee:
Ninety percent of life is just showing up, so congratulations. I heard someone say that humor is a lot like changing a baby’s diaper. Doesn’t really change anything permanently, but it does make things a lot more pleasant for a little while. So I try to mix up that humor with truth when I get a chance to speak. I heard someone once say that if all the people who fall asleep in church were laid end to end, they’d be a lot more comfortable. Unfortunately, this is true so, I will try in my remarks to keep you awake as well not make too many mistakes.
I heard of a florist in New Jersey who had two orders of flowers that went out at the same time, to two different places, and his delivery boy mixed them up. One set of flowers was to go to a funeral and the other set was to go to an office that was having a big celebration opening up a new office. The next day a fellow from the office called and said to the florist, “What are doing? We’re having a big celebration and we’re opening a brand new office and in comes your florist with this great big black wreath that says ‘Rest in peace’”. The florist in New Jersey said, “Hey buddy, don’t feel too bad, you know the one that went to the funeral said, ‘Good Luck in your New Location”.”
I have found that many of us could say that we’ve made some mistakes in our life and mistakes have maybe been made on us. Recently when I was reading in the Los Angeles Times I thought, “Wow”. I found something in the classified section that I thought explained probably many of us pretty well. A fellow had lost a dog, apparently, and was hunting for him and put this ad in the paper to try to find that dog. He said, “Lost dog. Blonde. German shepherd. Blind in right eye. Only three legs. Left ear missing. Recently castrated. Answers to the name, Lucky”. And you know, I thought, Lord, this is me. I wonder how many of us could feel that we have a few things missing in life and yet, in a way, still call ourselves lucky or blessed. Maybe a lot of us have missing pieces in our lives like that dog does. I wonder how many of us could say, if we thought of our life like a puzzle, that in the past , lots of people have what I call a missing piece. Maybe it’s a person who not’s there anymore. Maybe it’s an accident or a death or a divorce. Maybe people have holes in their past, almost as if something has been punched out, and for them they have a missing piece. There is no really easy answer for that. I understand what it is to have missing pieces in life.
My father actually told me that I was not supposed to be a piece of the puzzle of life. I was supposed to be Lee, the boy, and I couldn’t pass the physical for that. Right from the beginning of my life I knew there were people who were supposed to be born and like God made this noble plan for them and then there were people like me who just sort of came along. I meet them all the time, who’s parents tell them, “You, Oh, you, well you came, but you were a little early, well let’s put it that way, or you were a little late, or we weren’t planning on you. I knew what it was to feel like one of those unwanted mistaken kids.
Born and raised in the inner city of Philadelphia in a very difficult area of Philadelphia We called our neighborhood the city of brotherly shove. We had a difficult and challenging upbringing. Both my mother and father were alcoholics. We had a lot of abuse and battering in our home. We were used to domestic violence calls by the police. Not a real neat place for anybody to grow up. I grew up feeling very hopeless and unwanted and really had no religion, I have to be honest with you, God was sort of an absentee owner to me. He sort of started this thing spinning and then left us on our own I thought. Every single person I knew that was a Christian ,well, we sort of had a melting pot around us of many different ethnic peoples and seems like they settled in different pockets of the city. Every Catholic that I knew seems were Irish and they thought that when you’re older religion will be a lot a lot more fun, you know, because we get to play bingo and you don’t have to wear those dumb uniforms to school anymore.
Well I thought maybe when I grew up I would be a good Catholic. It seemed like every Protestant that I knew was German and they told that God was strict and He would make you mush and you would have to tow the line. Well the Protestant thing wasn’t really actually appealing to me. Of course the Jews, it seems like every Jew would say to you, “Ah, when you are next to God, you are suffering, let me tell you.” I said, “The Jewish thing was definitely out. I wasn’t into that.” Although we did go to a big place we called God’s house and it was a real spooky place. We kind of got the goosebumps as the sun would come shining through those saint’s eyes in the windows. I figure God lived there with the Holy Ghost that’s why it was so spooky.
I really had no biblical imput, no solid good ideas about God from the Bible, and so I stumbled into a what I thought was a Holy Roller meeting I found in the newspaper. The preacher’s name was Billy Graham and he’s getting big now. I didn’t know what in the world I was in for. Here was a man that blew me away because he spoke about God, not philosophically ,not off the top of his head, but truly from the scriptures, talked about the true God. It was as plain as the nose on my face, that what counts is what you do with the claims of Jesus Christ. To me, I thought you were either born religious or you weren’t, or you sort of inherited it from your parents, but really God has no grandchildren.
I realized that night what a one on one thing it was. I accepted the fact that I was a sinner. That wasn’t hard. But that God had sent Jesus for me to go to the cross and rise from the dead to bring new life to die in my place. I remember Billy Graham saying from I John 2:5, “He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life”. I knew that night I did not have life. I made a very simple surrender of my life and the religious rhetoric turned quickly to reality as I walked down and surrendered. The God who was always outside there somewhere nebulously floating around became very real and moved inside of me. I can remember thinking, Oh the thrill of that night of conversion, and going home I just knew that things would be different for me. As I got home and my father was drunk again and laying inside the door and I couldn’t get in, I wondered. I thought I’d got a new life from God but nothing was really new except inside. I have experienced over and over again that the things God does in a miraculous way, always begin inside before any change outside. For some people things get worse. For me it seemed like they got worse.
I would call the police on my father for the very last time as I would graduate from high school and I’d get on a bus and I’d come way out here to California to be with you beautiful people, because you looked so good from a distance. I see you know what I mean. Got out here to the San Francisco area and got my first job as a typist in the San Francisco area. There at the place that I worked I would meet a salesman one morning, who raped me that night as a virgin teenager and as a brand new Christian who was trying to like, get this new leaf turned over in life.
I was a very traumatized teenager that night. It’s hard to describe and transmit that to you. As I escaped that night I remember thinking,” Lord”, eighty-five times, “Why God? Why God? Why me? I don’t need this”. And I know now that I’m older that bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to Christian people who don’t expect it or aren’t warned about it. God doesn’t intervene and do the magic thing because He’s not a fairy godfather in the sky. I’m so grateful that He has placed a bit of His Spirit inside of everybody who is surrendered to Christ to make it through the difficulties in life because He hasn’t promised us a rose garden.
I remember that night as I escaped and sat in my little car on the side of the road balling my eyes out, I stopped in a little gas station to try to clean myself up and I had a strange experience. I remember looking in that little silver mirror in that gas station and as I looked into that mirror, I thought, “Lee, this is the story of your life, kid. You know what? You are a loser. You shouldn’t have been born, ok. You attract losers like a white silk blouse attracts spots. Just look at you. You better not tell anyone that this happened to you because this will be the crowning conclusion of your life and the conformation that you really are a loser.” I made the very poor decision that night to go underground with feelings and to make the decision that I would not call the police and I would not tell anybody. There was no 911 hotline crisis center I could call. I only knew that I felt so guilty, which objectively doesn’t make any sense, yet I know that victims always feel guilty. Whether it is a victim of divorce who’s husband leaves the house, she will feel guilty. Even a child who’s left in that situation, who’s a victim, will feel guilty ,and say if I’d been a better son my daddy wouldn’t have left. Not true.
I thought I’d not tell anyone what had happened to me. I was so overwhelmed with shame and embarrassment and humiliation. I just decided to swallow hard, go back to work the next day, never to see the man again. It was all over I thought. I decided to toughen up, because this was real life, and went on with my life for weeks after that. Honestly, I was quite sick emotionally and physically till I finally went to the doctor and he said, “You don’t have the flu, you’re pregnant.” NO, I am not pregnant. You know I’m sure that any woman can say that when you’ve had a traumatic event in your life it is so marked by our video systems in our mind. You can remember the wall paper, you can remember everything, when that decisive moment came on you. I remember arguing with the doctor and saying, “No, you can’t get it on the first time.” It didn’t do me any good to argue but I couldn’t accept the fact that I was an unwanted child with an unwanted child, because this was totally not fair. You know, I’m older now, I know that life is not fair. You have to live a few years to realize that. I’m forty-eight now. I would be forty-nine but I was sick a year. I really did not know what I would do when that pronouncement hit my life.