"I grew up watching my mother on TV and didn't even know it," she said. "We all sat down and watched 'That's My Mama' every week, and who knew? No idea... And that's my mama!"
Lisa Wright always knew she was adopted and never expected to meet her biological mother, who gave birth to her at 18 years old. "My (adoptive) mom told me, 'Your mommy loved you, but she was really young, and she knew she couldn't take care of you. I wanted the baby so bad, and that's why your mom let me take care of you. You weren't abandoned. This was just the best thing for you,'" Wright told TODAY. Since her's was a closed adoption, the records were sealed and neither Wright's adoptive family nor her birth parents knew each other, ruling out almost every possibility of a reunion.
That is, until 2018 when Wright's son suggested that she take a DNA test to find out her genetic heritage. Thus, at the age of 54, Wright received the first clue regarding her biological family. "I get an alert, and it says, 'This person is your uncle,'" Wright said. "So I just reached out and said, 'If you're open to it, I would love to chat with you to see what all of this means.'" When she finally spoke to her uncle on the phone a few days later, she was surprised to find that the conversation went better than she ever could've hoped for.
"My heart's turning flips, and he goes, 'Tell me about yourself,'" Wright recalled. "So I said, 'Well, I was born on December 10, 1964. I was told that my biological mom was very young when she had me. She moved to L.A. because she wanted to be in Hollywood.' And then he just stopped me right there. So then I'm thinking, 'OK, here it comes. He's going to say don't ever call me again.' And so he goes, 'Lisa, you're my niece. We've been looking for you. We've all been looking for you.'"
The emotional moment led to more as Wright's uncle revealed that her birth mother lived in Los Angeles, the same city where Wright herself lived. She immediately searched her mother's name online and found a photo of her. "I just could not believe it," Wright said. "For the first time ever, other than looking at my son, for the first time I'm looking at somebody who looks like me." Moments later, her phone rang again. "A voice on the other end says, 'Is this my daughter?' And then I just went, 'Oh, my God, is this my mother?'" Wright recounted.
"And then she goes, 'Yes, sweetie, this is your mom.' It was just the most indescribable feeling," she added. After having been apart for over five decades, Wright and her mother, actor Lynne Moody, made plans to meet the very next day. Moody said she never had any children after Wright and that she'd always dreamed of reuniting with her daughter despite having little hope of it actually happening. "When she was born, they covered my face, my eyes, so that I couldn't see her," Moody recalled. "But I could hear her cry. All I could say was 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, baby, I'm sorry.'"
Lynne Moody was 18 when she gave birth to her daughter and put her up for adoption. More than 50 years later, Lisa Wright connected with her biological mother — and discovered a surprise about her as well. @SheinelleJones reports. pic.twitter.com/ku3upRirN3— 3rd Hour of TODAY (@3rdHourTODAY) May 7, 2021
"As a mother, you never, ever, ever forget. During those 50 years, all I did was try to learn how to live with it. I didn't know if she was hungry, if she was alive, if she was happy, if she was adopted," she added. "When I found out that she was my daughter, at that moment, it was like I was giving birth. Because I lost my legs, I was on the floor in a fetal position, screaming and crying. I didn't know how deep that hole was." Wright's adoptive parents passed away before they could see the pair find each other.
In addition to the joy of finally meeting her birth mother, Wright also learned something incredible about Moody. The actress had starred on one of her favorite TV shows from childhood, That's My Mama, a sitcom that ran on ABC in the mid-1970s. "I grew up watching my mother on TV and didn't even know it," Wright said. "'That's My Mama' — that was our must-see TV. We all sat down and watched 'That's My Mama' every week, and who knew? No idea... And that's my mama!" On the occasion of Mother's Day, Moody said she hopes her family's story inspires others. "Life is full of surprises sometimes, so hang in there no matter what your circumstances are," she said. "Be open to miracles, be open to surprises, and keep the faith."