Brave woman served child, the Lord and society

Ella Jane Burris now is reunited with her son, Jack Tomlin.
Ella Jane Burris now is reunited with her son, Jack Tomlin.

This is a story of true Thanksgiving and a brave young woman whose mother protected her and took her to an organization that served her religious, social and physical needs when she was facing a pregnancy, the thought of which terrified her and could have made her take a wrong road out of sheer fear.

Back in 1957, there were unlawful avenues to be found that very easily could have put an end to the problem. However, young Ella Jane Tomlin was a Christian woman who had a deep respect for life. She chose to tell her mother of her pregnancy and ask her help in getting through the next difficult months.

Her mother knew about the Florence Crittenton Home. She called, and Ella moved to Charlotte, where she was cared for, respected and made whole again after the terrible blow of desertion from a man she had dated through high school and beyond.

For the months in that home, Ella's talent at the piano served her well. She played for all of the church services held on Sunday mornings and prepared herself spiritually for the eventual giving up of her child. That dreadful thought was handled with love and devotional bravery; she knew the home would find suitable parents who would be able to give the young infant, whose arrival was nearing, a far better life than she could.

The little redhead, named Jack, was born on Sept. 12, 1957. His hair gleamed though the tightly wrapped blanket, and his strong voice let the world know he was here.

Ella Jane walked sadly away. That sacrifice would affect her every thought, but the pride of having given him life, kept her hoping that, in some way, she would see him and know him before her own life ended.

We all know the old adage, "the better the day, the better the deed," and that was proven to be true when on Sunday, Sept. 23, that very same redhead named Jack Tomlin, who had been exploring the Internet for information, picked up the telephone and said to himself: "This is the last call I am going to make." He was growing weary of the long search that had proven fruitless through the years. A female voice answered the phone.

"Good Afternoon, ma'am," Jack said in a controlled voice." I would like to speak to Ella Jane Tomlin Burris."

She answered, "This is she." He asked if she had been married in 1980 and if she had a child in 1957. The answer was no, the softspoken lady answered.

"I am sorry to have bothered you," Jack said in his most polite way, "but in case you should ever hear from someone who knows Ella Jane, please tell them they can find my name in the Rock Hill telephone directory.

Mrs. Burris ran to talk to her husband, Felton. He listened and said, "Call that boy. It is your chance to make things right for you and for him. He surely deserves this call"

She, in that moment of fright, embarrassment and terrible longing, was amazed at the goodness of the man she had been married to for a little more than 27 years.

"Oh, I know I have to call him," she said, "but you see I am afraid. I don't know why, I just have an awful feeling of anxiousness. I guess it is because I think I have to explain everything."

Felton took a deep breath and said, "Jane, you don't have to explain anything. He has searched for you, and you have dreamed of finding him. The time is here, it is going to happen, all you have to do is pick up the phone. You have been rehearsing this moment since I first met you and you told me the story. Do it now, Jane, and bring happiness to all of us. We have a son, let's enjoy him."

Three days had passed, and she made the call to information in Rock Hill, got the number of one Jack Tomlin, and that evening she called. His wife, Dana, answered the phone and said that Jack was not at home but would be back in an hour. The time was 7:30. As soon as she hung up, Dana called Jack and said, "I think your mother just called. I know it was her; she didn't tell me who she was, but I knew right away. Come home, right now, she will call back in an hour. Hurry!

Jack arrived with tires screeching. At 8:30, the telephone rang, and it was the beginning of a reunion, a coming together of a mother and her son who had endured years of wondering, longing and unanswered questions. He hung up the phone, slapped the desk with his right hand and yelled to all who could hear in that house on that eventful afternoon, "I found my mama, and I just heard her voice. For the first time in my life, I heard my mother's voice."

After living in three foster homes, Jack found his tragic circumstances and heartbreaking experiences were erased, for both mother and son knew the worth of talking, and they both understood that blame or excuses were not needed. They only had to acknowledge this rare and delicate moment, and build their future lives on the joy it so easily brought to them. That Saturday, they met for the first time, and when Ella Jane saw him, she said, "You have your grandmother's red hair." The visits, phone calls and e-mails continued, each one trying to know more about the other, with Ella Jane finding out that she had a grandson named Brandon.

With 25 relatives, both close and distant, they gathered to celebrate. It was a day of great thankfulness. Their new cousin or nephew was welcomed, and everyone knew it was 50 years, 2 months and 10 days before Jack and his mother Ella Jane, had shared a Thanksgiving Day.

Heads were bowed. Surely both mother and son remembered the verse from Psalms16.11: Thou will shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

They smiled at one another, and Jack said, "This is the first Thanksgiving I have ever really enjoyed." He laughed as he leaned over and kissed his mother's cheek.