Liz Lee, 59, hadn't seen her brother Eugene Butler in 50 years — until she encountered him by chance at the nursing home where he is a patient and she works as an occupational therapy assistant.
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"They were separated when they were young," Eric Umali, the assistant director of nursing at Centinela Grand Healthcare Center in Perris, California, tells Yahoo! Shine. "They first saw each other in a hallway. We were all very happy for Liz. It was a good feeling in the facility."
Lee, whose maiden name is Butler, was raised by her grandparents in Los Angeles along with her six other siblings. When she was 9 and brother Eugene was 12, their grandfather died, according to the Press-Enterprise. The children were all sent to live with different relatives. Lee recalled that Eugene, who is cognitively impaired, was particularly upset by their grandfather's death.
The years passed and she heard that he no longer lived with the family who had taken him in. She had no way of locating him. "I had written him off," she said.
In early August, she met a new patient at the nursing home who seemed eerily familiar. "She first thought it was her uncle," said Umali. Then she saw his name. Lee began patiently asking him questions about their family.
Although Butler's speech is hard understand and he often repeats words, he was able to tell her the names of their brother, Howard, and two of their sisters, Edna and Elizabeth. Later, she asked if he had a grandmother and he replied, "Edna, Edna, Edna." It was then that Lee knew she had found her long-lost brother. "I felt so happy," Lee said. "When I suspected he had a connection with me, I felt a part of my life coming together."
Lee says that decades of guilt over losing touch with her brother have been lifted. "I have a do-over." She's now involved in caring for him at the nursing home.
According to Umali, it's not the first time siblings have been reunited at Centinela. Two sisters who had been separated for many years both happened to be placed in the facility. "It's a place where miracles happen," he said.
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