Father and daughter reunite in modern miracle
Published: January 18, 2007 | 5327th good news item since 2003
Ricky Rawlins has been blessed.
“It seems like since I’ve been going back to church, things have been falling into place in my life,” he said.
Rawlins’ faith was bolstered by what he and wife of ten years, Gail Rawlins, both of Manning, call a modern miracle. In 2006, Rawlins was able to meet his long lost daughter Danielle for the first time since she was a one-year-old.
The story begins years ago when Rawlins was married to his first wife. One day he returned home from work to find both his wife and daughter Danielle, just an infant, gone.
“My first wife left me,” said Rawlins. “She left while I was at work. I came home and the baby was gone; she took the baby to Pennsylvania.”
Rawlins tried throughout the years to maintain contact with Danielle, trying to track her down through letters.
“I wrote letters, but they always came back ‘Return to Sender,’” he said. “The only picture she (his ex-wife) sent me was when she (Danielle) was one year old. That’s the last one I had seen of her.”
Rawlins’ ex-wife took Danielle to Washington, Pennsylvania before going on to live outside of Atlanta. She left Danielle to be raised by her grandmother, who for many years didn’t even know that Rawlins, Danielle’s father, existed.
“It was a messy deal,” said Rawlins. “I couldn’t find her. Danielle’s grandmother who raised her got all a one-sided story, nobody wanted to hear my half.”
Years passed and Danielle grew up in Pennsylvania. She knew some details about her father, like his full name and date of birth, but she had no idea where he lived or how to get in contact with him.
So she started a letter writing campaign, using the Internet and phone books and registries to track down as many people named Richard Rawlins as she could. She sent them letters asking them to get in contact with her if they knew about her dad.
Flash forward to a scene years later, after Rawlins and Gail were married.
“I was in the shower, and when I came out I saw Ricky was on the couch crying,” said Gail Rawlins, who still gets choked up when she describes the scene. “He was holding a letter and I knew it was from Danielle.”
“I was totally shocked. I was scared to even open it,” said Rawlins. “I kind of figured it was her when I saw ‘Danielle Slesh’ on the letter. I had a feeling she got married and it was her new name. Five minutes later I picked up the phone and called her.”
Tears were shed and greetings extended. Danielle came to Manning for a short visit two weeks before Halloween last year and father and daughter were reunited.
Rawlins has two sons and a daughter besides Danielle, and he always told them through the years, “You have a sister.”
“He was always talking about her,” said Gail Rawlins. “At Christmas time he would always get depressed.”
But this past Christmas was a little different. Rawlins and his sister went to Pennsylvania for three days to visit with Danielle and her family over the holidays.
Danielle is a nurse and is married to husband Corey Slesh, who works for Lens Crafters. The couple has a son, Kyle, and a daughter, Lucy, both of whom Rawlins got to meet for the first time.
Danielle presented her father with the best Christmas present he’s ever received, a photo album of Danielle with pictures from major events in her life throughout the years. He can see pictures of her graduations, her wedding and other moments he missed in her life.
The wounds from the past are healing and both Rawlins and Danielle are looking forward to the future. Rawlins has been accepted by Danielle’s grandmother and he says they’re good friends.
“When she gets some vacation time this year, Danielle’s planning on coming here for a week,” said Rawlins. “She says she loves it down here.
“And I’ll go to Pennsylvania if I have to,” he said. “We want to make up for the time we missed. She’ll come here once a year, I’ll go there once a year.”
Gail Rawlins believes that the story is testimony that miracles happen.
“I just think it’s a feel good story that says prayers can be answered,” she said. “God works in mysterious ways.”
“I definitely think it’s a miracle,” said Rawlins. “That’s what I would call it. I never dreamt that I would see her again.”