Photo left at grave leads to long lost son’s reunion with family


Caleb surrounded by his aunty, uncle, mum and both sets of grandparents. Picture: Belinda Cipriano
Caleb surrounded by his aunty, uncle, mum and both sets of grandparents. Picture: Belinda Cipriano

AS a journalist, it is not often you become part of a story, but that is exactly what happened when I received a message from my cousin last year that would change my family’s history forever.

It was November 23 when my cousin Soraya Cardoso sent me a message that she needed to talk to me about her dead brother’s long lost son.

My cousin Marco, Soraya’s brother, passed away eight years ago after a yearlong battle with cancer and as far as we all knew, he did not have a son.

I rang Soraya confused and unsure of what she was telling me – a weathered photo had been found on Marco’s grave with a note that read, “Marco, your son CJ. I never stopped loving you. I hope you had a happy life. Always thought we would meet again. Love P”.

It was too confusing and incomprehensible.

I asked her to send me the picture to get a better understanding of the whole situation and then it arrived – the picture that would change our lives forever.

Who left the picture there?

Was it a joke?

Could it be true?

Did he know he had a son?

There were so many questions we needed answered.

Contacting the Salvation Army, Births Deaths and Marriages, we came across roadblock after roadblock until I tried my luck with social media.

Casting back to my cousin’s past relationships there was only one person that I could think of whose name began with a “P”.

Her name was Pam Davidson, a former colleague of his and they had dated for a little while, when I was only a teenager.

Scouring Facebook for days and looking for leads, I eventually managed to locate her and made contact.

It took a few days for her to get back to me but when she did, she confirmed everything we had thought – my cousin Marco did indeed have a son none of us knew about.

Going back and forth there were so many questions I wanted to ask her and a meeting with Soraya was set up.

As you can imagine it was an emotional one, with both Pam and Soraya connecting the dots and catching up on two decades of lost time; Soraya could not even recall her brother dating Pam, so we were definitely in unchartered waters.

Pam shared how both she and Marco met when they worked together in 1994 and how their relationship started in early June.

“I unexpectedly fell pregnant in late November,” Pam said.

“We became engaged in December but despite being pregnant, our relationship ended a month later and neither of us contacted each other again.”

Following the baby’s birth – a son named Caleb – Pam said she tried to track Marco down several times including going to his parent’s house in Spearwood but fear took hold and she never went in.

“I went to the house where he had lived with his family but the front yard looked very different and I was sure they had moved,” she said.

“Little did I know his brother John still lived there.”

Had Pam knocked she would have found out Marco had moved away and was travelling overseas, something he would do a lot until his diagnosis in 2007.

Pam said in 1999 with the help of the internet, she started to search for him again but to no avail and unsure what she would have done if she had found him.

It was not until January 2015 that a simple Google search revealed Marco’s details lodged with the Perth Cemetery Board.

“My first thought was it would be someone with the same last name, but different Christian name,” Pam said.

“I was so wrong. I was so stunned, in shock and I couldn’t believe it.

“I found the plot number and using the map on the Fremantle Cemetery website, I found where his ashes were.

“I was very upset and sad, when I got over the shock. I was sad for Caleb and I was sad for Marco and his family.

“On January 13 last year I visited him; it was a very painful day.”

Our family found the photo about a month later but Soraya could not start her search until she had recovered from a health issue.

Since meeting in December the relationship between Soraya, Pam and Caleb has come along ten-fold and to say they are catching up on lost time is an understatement.

Both families spent Christmas together for the first time, experienced a family wedding where Caleb got to meet his only sibling, his sister Jennifer, and recently celebrated his new-found grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary, something Soraya says has been invaluable.

“I love Caleb, he is so much like my brother and I feel like I’ve known them forever now,” Soraya said.

“I’ve been chatting to Pam almost every night since we’ve met, and we see each other at least once a week when she comes up to Perth.

“They come to our family gatherings and we have been down to visit them in Australind and it’s like we’ve never been apart.

“Meeting Caleb was nerve wracking for all of us, but we are one big happy family now.”

As for the man at the centre of story, well he could not be happier and now knows where his looks and love of cars come from.

“I knew (dad’s) name and have photos of him but it’s a new and different experience getting to know so many new people and a different culture,” Caleb said.

“I’m shocked how much I look like my dad and we both like Holdens. We both work with our hands, he was a mechanic and I am a machinist.

“But I have always known and will always be my own person.”