CLEVELAND, Tenn. – After being told one of her five sisters was murdered, eldest sister Lorene Womack of Cleveland set out to find the truth about a sister she had not seen in 55 years.
What she discovered was the importance of perseverance and how fundamental faith and hope are in fortifying a family.
Lorene Womack, 64, said she had not seen her sister, Glenda Brown, since she was nine and Glenda was seven.
"Mom and dad seperated," said Womack. "Dad took Glenda when she was 2 years old and moved away. Both of them remarried. Later dad passed away. Glenda was 7 the last time I saw her."
According to Womack, some of her younger sisters did not remember Glenda. Their mother, Virginia Quinn, last saw Glenda 23 years ago, but never gave up hope of seeing her second oldest daughter again.
In 2007, however, tragic news came from a distant relative who told the family Glenda was murdered in Hamilton County. Shocked, Womack and her youngest sister Peggy Ramsey decided to investigate the matter before sharing such tragic news with their mother who is on a pacemaker and in poor health.
"We looked everywhere for information about her death," said Womack. "We couldn't find anything. We knew the last area she lived was in Nashville. We also knew she had divorced but we didn't know her last name."
News of Glenda's alleged death slipped out according to Womack. While it was difficult hearing such disturbing reports about her vanished daughter, Quinn, like her children, did not jump to conclusions. She waited for further information and tried to maintain her faith, hoping that this was all a mistake. Month after month went by with no news.
"You could see mom going down a little bit everyday as she asked us if we heard anything," said Womack. "She said her one wish before she died was to know where all of her children were."
A year passed before the family finally discovered the truth. Rumors of Glenda's demise had been greatly exaggerated. Not only was she alive and well but Glenda was flourishing. She was happily married to a deacon in their church in Davidson County and is herself a Sunday School teacher.
The news sent an overwhelming sigh of relief throughout the family as tears of joy started to flow. Womack said it was Ramsey and their sister Linda Myers who proved to be the relentless detectives in discovering the truth about their sister.
"Peggy and Linda kept digging on ancestry.com until they tracked her down," said Womack. "We never lost hope. Someone finally let her know about a couple in their church matching Glenda's description. That led to a phone call and our finding Glenda."
After an emotional telephone reunion, Glenda made arrangements to visit her long lost family in March. It would be the first time in nearly a quarter of a century that Quinn, 79, would see her daughter and over half a century since she saw all her children at once. They met at Ryan's Family Steak House in Cleveland.
"It was really a wonderful reunion especially after being told Glenda had been murdered," Womack said. "Mom was still crying two hours later. She said it was the Lord's way of bringing Glenda back before something happened to any of us.
"The first thing I said to Glenda when we met was 'I love you!' We hugged and cried before we sat down and ate."
Husband Roy Womack said he became emotional as he witnessed the tears, laughter and tight embraces of a family reunited in love.
"It was amazing to see the love burst out the way it did," he said. "The tears — it was just wonderful! It really touched me."
Glenda, a Baptist, accompanied her mother to Samples Memorial Baptist Church in Cleveland during her visit, something the two will never forget.
The reunion was so heartwarming it inspired Quinn to sing for her children, something they had never experienced as a united family.
"Now we stay in touch everyday," said Womack. "I'm so thankful mom got to see Glenda. We're planning to take her to Nashville to visit Glenda this summer and visit the Grand Ole Opry. That's something she really wants to do."
When it comes to faith, hope and love, especially toward finding a lost loved one, the Womacks advised, "Never give up. Never lose faith. Keep hope in your heart. Miracles can happen. It's worth it.