Creative Nonfiction

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“She Sailed Home”

By Carol Ann Keefer















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It was a day that I would never forget, one that will always be remember as the day that my heart broke. One both of sadness and of joy for that is the day that my mother Mildred B. Heckler Landis had passed away. I would say that it was both one of sadness for I lost my mother and friend and one of joy because I know in my heart that she “sailed home” to be with my Heavenly Father.

Through my life didn’t start out with a family that was full of love or joy but rather a family that was in my young eyes like strangers living under one roof. So, you may ask “How could I say that the day of my mothers passing one of joy and sadness”. For that I first need to go back to the beginning, not way back, mind you but to where I felt the most un-love as it were.  For that was a time when my whole world came crashing down around our family. 

It was around a tender age of twelve when a girl finds herself in need of a mother to guide her from adolescent to young “womanhood”. And yet for me that special bond was broken when our mother, my older brother Paul and I, was over taken by an illness, schizophrenic. I don’t know when or how this actually “happen” I just know that one day when we came home from school, she was sitting in our kitchen taking to herself, or that’s what I thought. So, I asked “Mom who are you talking to?”

“Don’t you see those faces there in the floor?” my mother asked

“No”, as I went on to ask” What faces?”

“Those of the “underworld” was her answer.

At that time, I didn’t understand what was happing to my mom, who later started to show signs of violence against my brother Paul and I.  And as children we looked towards our dad for some stability and protection from his wife, our mother. However, our dad didn’t know what to do, you see back in the sixty’s things like “mental illness” or any other problems were simply “brush


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under the carpet”. Or one of my dad’s famous sayings “If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist” His approach was more like an ostrich “putting his head in the sand”, because in all reality he didn’t know what to do about his wife. If our dad would have had taken her to received “help’ for her illness, life would have had been so much better for us. However, that was not the case; for our dad felt the best way in dealing with our mom was to psychically and emotionally abuse her.

Being a child, I didn’t know what to do for fear that I would be treated the same so I kept quite and never told anyone. You may think to yourself that there could of have been someone that I could have told.  There was the Church were my dad and I attended; however, he threatens me that “If you tell anyone I won’t take you to church with me” So in essence he bought my silence in order for me to go to Church.  Going to church was a “sanctuary”, a place away from all of the chaos of screaming and the violence. A place where I could “hide” away from the life I lived at home.

It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t want to tell anyone about my home life it was more of the fear that no one would be able to understand the kind of “hell” that my older brother Paul as well as for our younger brother Jan   So, I learned to “play” the part of being “normal” and never let on the kind or home that I lived in order to appear “normal” all while I was begging for someone to take me away from it all.

With each passing year I learned the important lesson of ‘building emotional walls” as protection from being “hurt” verbally. In a way I thought the walls helped but in reality, they made me to go deeper within myself to a point that I felt “lost”.  A feeling that would take me down some roads that I wished that I never would of have traveled, and yet those roads lead me down a path that eventually would lead me to God.

Yet those “emotional walls” still wouldn’t simply dissolved for my home life hadn’t change, there was still chaos and my dad was still abusive to my mom. And her “people” that she saw still haunted her filling her with lies that she believed to the be truth. As I grew older, I withdrew from my family where I didn’t want to be there anymore. 

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And as I continued to withdrew from my family, my older brother Paul made his “escape” by going away to college. I on the other hand was not “college” material I thought that I would be forever “condemn” to live at home with my parent and my younger brother Jan, who was only four years during  this time. However, that was not God’s plan for my life, He was preparing my husband Don, of forty-six years to show me what true love was all about.  

It was through a Church camp in Boyertown Pa; where I first met my future husband and it was there God started on working in my life. I would like to say that afterwards my life had gotten easier and that I allowed God to knock down all those emotional walls and that there was a happy ending. But that journey which had started when I was fifteen was a long and difficult one, for even through I trusted God and believed that He loved me there still were those rememits of emotional walls that I refused to let go.

It wasn’t until I have gotten older, not so much wiser, that I learned to let the past slowly die and those walls finally were torn down. And as I reflect on those years I have often wonder as to “why” God chose the family that He did to be the one that I was born into. I believe that reason was so that I could share my story with others and perhaps give them hope that regardless of your situation a person’s life does matter to God. And also, in later years when I was able to bring my mom from the Nursing home where she was a resident to one closer to our home gave me a chance to finally get to know her.

It from that experience that I grew to actually “love” my mom not for the woman that I had grown up with but more importantly for the woman that God created her to be. A special intelligent person who was full of life and laughter, a person who’s view point on life to always was to have fun. Which is what my mom always asked me “Why was I so serious?” She was a lady whose nick name at the home was “Sweet potato” because she loved to just sit around watching tv or play games. More importantly it opens up a door for me to see her as God saw her and that was “lovely”.


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Unfortunately, she only lived four years in the nursing home before God called His precious daughter home. But I can say that it was in those four years that God gave me the oppintunity to know my mom and to grow to love her. And now as I look back to those special times grateful for each and every one of them.  That is why as I had said in the beginning the day that I said ‘good-bye’ to her is the one day I will never forget. Not because she was my mother, she was my best friend. And yes, there are a few regrets one of which is that I wasted a lot of years pushing away my mother, however, I can’t go back and change those times. I can only move forward with those memories that I was given during the four years of her life and cherish each and every one of them.


The End


February 10, 2020 23:15

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