I Love You, Forever and Always

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“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Ruth said with a smile as she held the small photograph in her weak hands.

My mother has been very sick and has had to stay in bed. She has been living with my husband and me for a few months, but she only keeps getting worse. We’ve been looking through some old pictures when we came across one I had never seen before. It was dated March 1942, thirty five years ago. As a rush of memories came back to my mother and she began to tell us about the three people in the picture.

“This was your father, Lenard, and I, not long after you were born. You were only four months old. We had just gone to church and the pastor’s wife was taking pictures of everyone outside.” Then her smile faded. “This was the last picture taken of our family. Your father was drafted into the war about a month after this was taken, just before the Japanese executed air strikes against Port Moresby in May. It was tough without your father here. I never got used to him being gone & I missed him so much. But I couldn’t just sit around thinking about him; I had a child to take care of. We continued on with our normal lives while Lenard was away; we kept attending church, I continued my job as an elementary school teacher while my sister helped look after you, and we kept the house neat and tidy. When the men were off at war, the church always hosted fun get-togethers for all the wives and children. There we could try to forget about the stresses of the war and just have fun with friends. But we had to go home eventually and all those stresses and worries would come flooding back. I worried about him and his safety every minute of everyday. I worried about all of the men there; husbands of our friends, men from our church, and even the brave men I didn’t know. Every few weeks the mailmen would bring letters from the men at war. Your father and I wrote letters back and forth for awhile, but I received fewer and fewer letters until they stopped all together. The Western Union delivery boys were the ones who brought the bad news. Women were receiving messages that said their husbands had been seriously hurt or ones that said their husbands had been killed.” I watched my mother’s expression as she continued her story, but her face never revealed anything about what she was going to tell me.
“It had been a few months since I had gotten a message from your father. I was so worried about him, but then I got one final letter. He apologized for not writing sooner. Things were crazy and stressful there. He said he missed us and he wanted me to give you a hug and a kiss from him. He also sent a small piece of wood that he had carved a picture in. I put it on a necklace and I’ve worn it everyday since then, but I want to give it to you now.” She took the necklace from her nightstand and put it on me. A beautiful rose had been carved into the wood and on the back he had carved “I love you, forever and always.” With teary eyes, she continued her story.
“About a week later I was making lunch when I heard a knock at the door. My heart sank when I opened the door to one of the Western Union delivery boys.” As a tear gently rolled down her cheek, she said, “He said he was very sorry, but Lenard had been killed on December 16, 1944 when Germany attempted to launch a counter-offensive in the Ardennes to split the Western Allies. I was heartbroken. He was gone forever.”
“You were so young and didn’t get to know your father. I still miss him and wonder what life would have been like if he had come home.” With that, she put the photo on her nightstand and picked up the box of old photos. At the bottom of the box were all the letters my father had written to her. We read the letters and continued to look through the pictures while my mother told more stories.
I will never forget my mother’s stories; her smile and laughter when she spoke of the good, happy memories and the expression on her face when she spoke of the sad ones. Her rose pendant and those stories is the little piece of my mother that I will carry with me forever.





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