Press Release: May 2013- Susan has been chosen as "Mother of the Year" by Our Mother's Home, home for teenage mothers located in Ft. Meyers, FL. Because of this honor and her work with teenage moms, Susan was interviewed by Estero Lifestyle magazine and is on the cover of the May 2013 issue! You can find out more by clicking the image of the magazine cover.
The Story... Susan Mello Souza shares an intimate look at the heartbreaking time when at 16, she discovers that she is pregnant. An unwed teen mother in the 60's was not an option and Susan is forced to give up her precious child to adoption. After caring for her for eight days while in the maternity ward, Susan says goodbye to her firstborn; but not before she whispers in her ear a promise that she will find her again when Madlyn turns 21.
Susan goes on to have three other daughters, Jackie, Kris and Beth, and just days before the time comes for her to fulfill her promise to search, Susan and husband Jay learn that their oldest raised daughter, sixteen-year-old Jackie, has leukemia. We are able to feel the devastation as they watch Jackie fight a courageous battle, and then pass away just 5 months after being diagnosed. After Jackie's death, Susan fights to regain footing; not an easy thing after losing her second child, this time to childhood cancer. When she is sure the time is right, she searches for her sweet Madlyn, now known as Joanne.
Susan and Joanne were reunited in 1999, and have navigated the rollercoaster ride known as adoption reunion. In "The Same Smile" you get to experience the reunion from both sides, as Joanne adds her side of the experience of being found. It's a surprisingly honest account of an emotionally charged time.
"The Triumph of a Mother's Love After Losing Two Daughters"
Susan Mello Souza
In 1968, at the age of seventeen, Susan was made to surrender her first-born daughter to adoption. Her birthmother experience has led Susan to become an active member in various birthmother support groups, while providing her the opportunity to assist several individuals in their reunions.
Born and raised in New Bedford, MA, Susan lived there until 1988 when she and her husband, Jay, moved their family of three girls, Jackie, Kristine and Beth to Acushnet, MA. More recently, Susan and Jay became Florida residents but still spend summers at their Acushnet home to be near their children and grandchildren.
Her spirit and resilience has enabled Susan to triumph over life's disappointments. After the death of her sixteen-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, in 1990, she founded the Friends of Jackie Memorial Fund which has raised and distributed over $90,000.00.
She is an inspirational speaker, having lectured at Stonehill College, Salve Regina University, American Business Women's Association, "Strengthening Your Spirit" Reiki Retreat, and the Rotary Club, to mention a few.
Susan's extraordinary life experiences offer an important message to all, proving...
"You can do anything in life you set your mind to, provided it is powered by your heart."
Adopted in October 1968, when she was just three weeks old, Joanne was named after her adoptive parents, Joe and Ann Medeiros. She grew up in Fall River, MA with three younger brothers, Jay, Don and Rick, who were each a surprise to Joe and Ann since the doctors had informed them of their inability to conceive, hence Joanne's adoption.
She attended Fall River public schools and graduated from BMC Durfee High School in 1986, anxious to start college in the fall at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She later graduated from Umass with a bachelors degree in 1991. Joanne was involved with the marching band and color guard in both high school and college and was an active member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, a national woman's fraternity at Umass...little did she know that two of her three sisters, Kris and Jackie, shared the same interests in color guard and the marching band.
After graduating from college, Joanne spent several years living and working as a recruiter for Kelly Services in Macon, Georgia then in Boston, MA. After having returned to the Boston Area, she soon began her current career as an executive assistant and event planner for Hewlett Packard in 1996. Her job with Hewlett Packard relocated her and her husband Scott, also a Hewlett Packard employee, to Atlanta, GA in 2004. Today, both Joanne and Scott are able to work from their home offices, allowing them to return to New England, settling in Sandwich, MA on Cape Cod with their dogs, Riley & Casey.
Reflections on Jackie
by Sr. Clare Walsh, Floating Hospital
Jackie's Eulogy 2/22/90
Of one thing I am certain: Everyone in this church has a Jackie Pequita story. We each know a piece of this valiant young woman, and it is my privilege to share something of my Jackie story. Others who know better than me of her playfulness and passion for life, can take comfort from that. I take great comfort in a young woman who was attentive to God's surprises.
Although Jackie believed leukemia was not of God, she did believe that God could bring good from it, and God did so with a great deal of help from Jackie. When leukemia forced months of isolation in a sterile hospital room, she turned it into a 17 year-old's dream with New Kids on the Block staring from every corner, and cards and balloons from friends surrounding her.
When Jackie lost her hair to chemotherapy, a special hat became her trademark. Her presence made her room a sanctuary and nurses vied to care for her, for we all took from her spirit.
I take great comfort in the power that one person struggling for life had to inspire the staff, patients, and families in a place affectionately known to many as the Floating Hospital. She was for all who spent time there, a source of amazing grace.
I take great comfort in a young woman whose life was centered around God. A daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, a friend who prayed each day for those who hoped for health and for whom being confirmed and being Sarah's Godmother, became the focus of her energy and her dream - an event in which Jackie truly presided and whose courage made all...
Susan is sixteen, unmarried and pregnant and about to make a choice no woman should ever be forced to make—surrender the precious child she is carrying to adoption. A promise is made, and then, years later, that promise is broken when, yet again, tragedy strikes in her life.
This is her true story...
Shadowy, bare branches loom ominously over the familiar streets. Christmas lights decorating our neighbors' houses seem frighteningly wrong. During the one-hour drive home, waves of intense pain grip my chest and back, pain that is always a prelude to my mysterious and ever-worsening bouts of pneumonia. I pray I will make it to our house and not become ill again. And, with every ounce of my being, I pray that my daughter will survive the night. My world is crashing down around me for a second time.
My husband, Jay, is staying with her. Jackie is too scared to let him leave, but our two other daughters need one of us, and I must go to them. Such a delicate balancing act between all their needs. Although it's against hospital rules, Jay is allowed to sleep in ICU with Jackie, since it is Christmas Eve. To think, in the early days of our relationship, I had a hard time letting Jay into my daughters' lives, because I was so overly protective.
It’s heart wrenching to tear myself away from her. I’m terrified I will never see her again and, for the first time in twenty-one years, I feel the same way I did when I kissed my first daughter goodbye, when she was just eight days old.
"To lose a child is devastating, but to lose two and survive with heart and spirit stronger requires the sort of courage that truly uplifts and inspires. Susan Mello Souza's 'The Same Smile' reveals the depth of love, faith and persistence it takes to create a 'happy-ever-after' ending to an adoption reunion. It's the perfect book to read anytime, but especially at the moment in your journey when all feels hopeless."
Author of "The Other Mother"
"Just have been reading every spare moment. I find myself delaying the things I need to do, only to read."
(Jean – Michigan)
"The Same Smile, gets 5 stars. This is a must read!"
Courtney Frey - Adoption Forum
"This wonderfully human story of a 60's relinquishment and a family reunited is told in the blended voices of mother and (found) daughter. Instead of a tragic account of the loss of a child to adoption, compounded by the death of a subsequent child to leukemia, this book is a triumph of strength. The losses are not diminished, the emotional scars are still there, but author Souza's story is forward-looking and encouraging. The added voice of her (found) daughter adds another dimension, with her (Joanne's) honest expression of her initial discomfort, and her growing closeness with her new-found family. The 'happily-ever-after' ending is well- deserved, paid for in tears and anguish."
Nancy Ashe – Book guide/reviewer - About.com
Press Release: Summer 2012 - "The Same Smile" has been added to the Spirited Woman Summer Reading Picks 2012! Congrats to Susan and Joanne!
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