An incredible, heart-warming story of a woman searching for her biological mother led to the discovery of her biological sister after her story was published in the Southern Mail last month.
Southern Mail reached out to Ms van der Westerhuizen, 40, when she posted her journey of the quest to find her mother and brother on Facebook (“Cassidy searches for her mother”, Southern Mail, December 7, 2022). At the time she had information about another possible sibling but didn’t have much more details to go on until Lauren Johnston, 37, from Ottery, read the article and reached out to the Southern Mail to make the connection.
Cassidy, born Jean Engelbrecht, was born at a Wynberg Hospital on August 2, 1982, and was given up for adoption by her mother shortly after. Her sister Lauren had a similar story. She was born at Mowbray Materniy Hospital, given up for adoption and taken in by a family in Lotus River.
Both sisters were adopted by loving families but searched for their biological families as they grew older because they yearned for closure and to find out where they came from.
“Even if you were blessed and taken in by a very good family, it doesn’t take away from the rejection and abandonment that you feel. You might have a beautiful family that raised you but it’s not always easy to communicate to them what you’re yearning for in your life but now we have found each other and we are healing each other’s hearts because we know how the other feels which is such a beautiful experience to have with a complete stranger.
“It feels like I’ve known her my entire life and we decided then, before the DNA test that we would be friends for life, even if we weren’t sisters,” said Cassidy.
Lauren recalled that she had goosebumps and her heart raced when she read Cassidy’s story and started making comparisons of her adoptive journey. The dates and similarities pushed her to contact Southern Mail for Cassidy’s details and when they spoke on the phone for the first time, the conversation lasted about six hours and the two set a date to meet.
“I had to gather myself because I was so anxious and nervous when I read the article because I had been on my own journey to find my biological family. I had a strong feeling that she is my sister whom I had been searching for. I finally felt like there was a breakthrough and I am so happy that there was this link,” she said.
When they met on Sunday December 11 last year, they had an instant connection but wanted to confirm their relationship through DNA testing. The results confirmed that the two are sisters and have the same mother. They have been inseparable since and speak every day.
Lauren said they knew from the moment they spoke that they were soul sisters.
“I was so anxious initially but when we met all of that went away and we bonded immediately. It was like we were in sync and the connection was so strong from the beginning, there was no awkwardness”.
“It’s been a surreal whirlwind and feels like something straight out of the movies,” said Cassidy. “Our personalities are copy and paste and I believe that God knew what He was doing because we have so much in common. Our children were born on the exact same date one year apart,” said Cassidy.
Cassidy’s son was born on June 25, 2007, at 6.45pm and Lauren’s daughter a year later on the same date, at 7pm. Both were in labour for 12 hours.
“As we’re getting to know each other more, we’re finding that our experiences are the same and we can relate to a lot of things that have happened in our lives. I am so happy and excited to get to know her more and to share more experiences with her,” said Cassidy.
The sisters are still searching for their mother, Christina Engelbrecht, who was born in April 1950 and their brother, who is believed to be Michael Engelbrecht, born in 1980.
Cassidy thanked everyone who reached out to help her find her biological family.
“Thank you to everyone who has taken their personal time to help me search. We have had an overwhelming response and we appreciate it so much.”
Anyone who has information on Micheal or Catherine Engelbrecht can contact Cassidy on Facebook messenger.