31: A Message from My Mother

31: A Message from My Mother

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

A Message from My Mother

We cannot destroy kindred: our chains stretch a little sometimes, but they never break.

~Marquise de Sévigné

I don’t know much about my mother, only that she died at the age of nineteen, a few weeks after I was born. Her mother rarely talked about her to me because it hurt too much. She never got over losing her only child. But I do know one thing for certain about my mother. She loved my father deeply.

When I was a child, my father was the stranger who occasionally visited me at my grandparents’ home where I lived. Of course, I knew he was my father, but he seemed so awkward and shy in my presence that he made me feel uncomfortable.

It was during the spring of 1944 when I last saw my father. He brought me a shiny, new red bike, and he took me for a ride on it. I was seven years old and loved the bike. But when my father asked me for a hug after our ride, I offered him a handshake instead.

“I know I’m almost a stranger to you, but you are my only child and I love you,” my father told me that day. “I loved your mama, too, more than I can ever say. When the war ends, you and I will get to know each other better, I promise you that.”

Of course, so much happened in the next three years, among them the Soviet occupation of Hungary. When we finally managed to escape our war-torn country in 1947, we landed in a refugee camp in neighboring Austria. Finally, in 1951, our hopes for a better life became a reality when we were allowed to emigrate to the United States of America.

After we boarded the old Navy ship, the USS General M.B. Stewart, in September of 1951, on our way to America, we watched from the deck as the ship pulled out of the harbor in Bremenhaven, Germany.

“We will never see our old homeland again,” my grandfather lamented.

“But we’re on our way to America, the land of new opportunity!” my grandma said.

It was at that moment that I thought of my father and the promise he made the last time I had seen him. Perhaps he hadn’t even survived the war, and if he had, we had no idea where he was.

In the United States, life was busy and good. My grandparents both had new jobs and I went to school. We never talked about my father, and I can’t recall ever thinking about him. It was as if he never existed.

In June of 1954, after I had not seen my father for ten years, something intervened on his behalf. I had gone to bed, as usual, my mind filled with plans for the coming weekend. I was going to a dance and a special boy would also be at that dance. Sweet promise was in the air.

Suddenly, a vision appeared at the foot of my bed. It was a beautiful young woman with long, flowing blond hair, wearing a sad expression on her strangely familiar, lovely face. I sat up and gazed at her, not at all frightened. For though I had been an infant when she died and didn’t even have a picture of her, I knew who she was. She was my mother.

She spoke to me in a voice just above a whisper, “You must get in touch with your father. He is very worried about you because he doesn’t know what happened to you, or where you are. He needs to know that you are alive and well so he can go on with his life, so he can have peace of mind. You must do this very soon.” Then, she was gone, vanished into the thin air she had come from.

I sat there on the bed and began to cry. I cried for never having known her, and I cried for my father and all the sadness and worry I had caused him. My grandmother must have heard me because she came into my bedroom to ask what was wrong. I told her about the vision. Or had it been a dream? I wasn’t quite sure. Grandma began to cry, too, as I described the young woman who had come to me with a message.

The following morning, my grandfather wrote a letter to relatives who still lived in the old country, inquiring about my father’s whereabouts. Three weeks later, I received a jubilant letter from him.

“Though we’re separated by a great ocean now, I’m happy and relieved to know that you are alive and well, my dear daughter. Never forget that I will always love you. And I will always love your dear mother, too,” my father wrote in that first letter. And when I answered his letter, I told him about the vision from my mother, and how she still loved him, too, even beyond the grave.

“I cried when I read your letter, my dear daughter. And oh how I wanted to visit the cemetery where your mother was laid to rest,” my father wrote. “Sadly, the cemetery is long gone, having been plowed under by the communist regime. But I know that my darling Irenke knows that I will always love her and one day she and I will be reunited in Heaven.”

My father and I kept in touch over the years and even spoke by telephone many times, but unfortunately we never had the chance to see each other again in person. And to this day, I regret not having given my father a hug the last time I saw him. When he finally went to his heavenly reward in 1987, my only consolation was that he and my mother were together again at last. For I saw them in a dream, walking together while holding hands, young and beautiful and smiling at each other, and that dream brought peace to my heart.

And one day, I will join them, and we’ll all be together at last.

~Renie Burghardt

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