Bryan Kehl's big family and the blessings of adoption

Published: Thursday, June 16 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

Brian admits he was tempted to judge her but was struck by a distinct, stronger feeling: "If you choose to abandon this relationship and this beautiful, trusting girl at this point, you will never forgive yourself and you will be no better than a hypocrite."

Brian himself was adopted and had imagined the desperate situation of his own biological mother. He was prepared for this moment. Their love intensified, and Brian eventually proposed to Amy on June 16, 1985, so she could have a more positive memory of that day.

* * * 

"And patience, experience." (Romans 5:4)

Finding his biological parents was something that just happened, Bryan Kehl said.

He always knew he was adopted, but he felt no desire to find his biological parents. Then one day he became curious.

The Kehl family's legend was that Bryan's father was an NFL running back. In reality, all Kehl knew was the man's height, weight, eye and hair color. For fun, he searched the Internet for a player drafted from Utah in 1983. Kehl's finger stopped at No. 325 in the 12th round, where Minnesota picked Maurice Turner, RB, Utah State.

He found a roster and compared the measurements. They matched. Kehl told his mother, and his mother told some friends, who opted to track Turner down. In no time they had a phone number, and contact was made.

It was a phone call Maurice Turner had been waiting 25 years to receive.

"Bryan, you can't understand what this is like," Turner told Kehl the first time they spoke in 2009. "I have been praying for this phone call every day of my life."

At the time, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Kehl played for the New York Giants. At the end of the 2009 season, the Giants had a game in Minnesota, and the weekend turned into a family reunion. The meeting was emotional and could not have gone better. It was fascinating for Kehl to learn about his father. He now had another big piece in the puzzle of his life. Now he was interested in meeting his biological mother, if she was willing.

But it was a little more complicated for the Smiths. First, the news was overwhelming. Second, how would they break the news to their five kids? Was the timing right? Brian wanted to protect his wife, so they took some time to process what was happening. First, Amy googled Bryan and learned all she could about him. Chills ran through her body as she discovered he served an LDS mission and married a beautiful woman in an LDS temple. Among the many things she learned, that was all she needed to know.

"It appeared he was an amazing person. I really couldn't wait to meet him," she said.

Finally, she worked up the courage to send a text message. The text led to a phone call, and that led to a secret meeting with the Kehls in Holladay. Things were "awkward" at first because the Smiths didn't want to intrude. They didn't know if they should hug or shake hands. What was appropriate? But the Kehls welcomed them with open arms and the ice was quickly broken. Nancy had no reservations about Bryan meeting his birth mother.

"There are so many who don't want their kids to go out looking. How sad. How would you like to go throughout life never knowing what happened to your child?" Nancy said. "So far it hasn't backfired. Maybe this happened so we could tell others that it's OK."

They visited, looked at photo albums and watched Bryan's wedding video. At the end of the evening, Bryan offered a heartwarming family prayer. It felt good for Amy to finally meet the child she had given up 25 years earlier.

"It was an awesome experience. We couldn't get over how cool they all were and how wonderful they made us feel," Amy said. "I was so glad we had finally taken that leap of faith."

Amy and Brian met Bryan again for lunch before the Smiths told their kids in a family home evening almost two months later. Amy and Brian had counseled together and prayed about what to do, and telling the kids felt right. The children were astonished but accepting of their mother and excited to meet their half brother. They were told he served a mission and was married, but not told his identity or that he played in the NFL.

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