After 53 years apart and only moments together, Keith Johnston said it was as if he and his brother, Don Brooks, had never been separated.
On May 17, Johnston and wife Gale hosted a barbecue in honour of a very special guest, his long-lost brother.
He said the moments before meeting his younger brother for the first time were full of emotion, nerves and excitement. As soon as Brooks had one foot in the door, however, all that melted away and a new feeling of belonging took its place.
"After only meeting for a few minutes, it was as if we had known each other our entire lives," Johnston said.
He said the family connection was immediate and the bond built in that moment is one that will last a lifetime.
"Since meeting him, my chest has been swollen (with happiness). My chest is still swollen now. I just can't believe we are back together."
In 1956, Don Brooks and his sister were put up for adoption by their mother.
Although the two were adopted to separate families, Brooks has always known he had an older sister, who died in a car accident in 1976.
However, he did not know he also had an older brother, another older sister and a baby brother.
So, when an anonymous letter came to him through the Provincial Post Adoption Registry, he was shocked to learn his brothers had been trying to locate him for the past two years Johnston said he and his younger brother, Zane Johnston, of Esterhazy, had contemplated trying to find Brooks for many years, but had to wait until their mother had died to do so.
Johnston said the reason for the delay was simply because his mother wanted nothing to do with the search.
Once his mother had died, Johnson and his wife knew it was time to determine what they needed to do to find his younger siblings.
The couple's first call was to Social Services in Moose Jaw, and then the Provincial Post Adoption Registry.
Johnston said when they first approached the agency, they were shocked to find out it would take two years for it to locate his brother. In hindsight, however, he said the time flew by.
"I did keep on top of (the agency) with calls every couple of months for updates and every time I called they said they were a bit closer to finding him. But when I got the call saying they had found him and I could write (an anonymous) letter - I think my heart stood still."
Johnston said writing that first letter was one of the hardest letters he has ever had to write in his entire life.
I didn't have a clue what to write. Eventually I wrote something along the lines of: Dear Don and family, I have always known, somewhere out in the
world, I had a brother that I had never seen or met. I have often wondered how you were doing, where you were living and was life good to you."
Little did Johnston know his brother was closer than he thought and by writing what seemed to be a simple, yet life changing letter, he was about to give his brother the ultimate birthday present.
A week before his 53rd birthday, Don Brooks received an anonymous letter from a man claiming to be his big brother.
Brooks, who lives in Weyburn, said at first he was shocked by the letter's content because growing up he was told he had no brothers. In the matter of 100 words, he found out he had two.
"I guess you could say I was shocked, baffled and happy - all rolled into one."
He said although the letter was anonymous, he knew right away he wanted to meet his long-lost family.
After writing a letter back to the sender of the letter, Keith Johnston, Brooks' older brother, he said it was about a month before he received another letter back.
"I wasn't really nervous about not getting another letter because he had already gone to the trouble of finding me."
When the next letter did come, Brooks said it had pictures and a phone number.
He said as soon as he got that number he was on the phone, making the call and planning a trip to Moose Jaw.
"I was just so excited. We talked for about an hour or so and then Keith invited me and my wife up for a barbecue and minutes later we had made our plan to meet."
Brooks said that first meeting, on the front steps of Johnston's home, was the most welcoming introduction he has ever encountered.
When he entered into the Johnston's home it was like walking into the home of family. "Everyone was welcoming, friendly and comfortable.
"It felt like I had known them my whole life and everything was great from the knock on the door to the moment we left."
The reunited brothers found the connection was so strong and there was still so much they wanted to learn about one another, they planned a trip to Nickle Lake Regional Park the next weekend.
Keith Johnston's wife Gale said from the moment the three brothers, including younger brother Zane Johnston, got together at the lake, they were inseparable.
She said it was the most heartwarming thing to see.
"Where one went, they all went. We kept calling them the three musketeers."
As a smile erupted on her face and she rubbed her hands up and down her crossed arms, Gale said these past two weeks have been so exciting, while at the same time so emotional.
"We have wanted this for so long and to finally see them and know them, it is absolutely amazing. I don't know what else to say but amazing."
"It truly feels like (Brooks) was never out of our lives."
Keith said there wasn't a silent moment on the ride home from the lake that Sunday night.
He said all he wanted to do was replay every moment over and over.
Both brothers agreed now that they had found each other nothing is ever going to break them apart again.
Johnston said one of the more funny brotherly moments of the weekend was when he joked to Brooks that they should play hide and seek with the grandkids. He said Brooks just looked at him laughing and said "I don't have another 53 years for you to find me."
Moose Jaw Times-Herald