Saturday, 20 March 2010

Martha Elizabeth Helen

March is always a sad month for me. The 4th was my mothers birthday, she was born in 1918, and the 20th of March 1982 is the day my dear mother died. She was 64 years old and suffered a fatal heart attack. It was such a shock to us, my brother and sister and me.
When I was young she told me stories of her life in Hamburg. She had a comfortable life as a child, her teenage years were happy years, and in her early twenties she married and had a son, she called him Ingo. Her husband was unfaithfull and in those days that meant divorce.
Then came the war and she found herself homeless with a little boy in a pram, most of Hamburg had been flattened. She met my father who was a serving soldier, and came to England to marry him. There was pressure from family members to leave her son with his father to be brought up in the country of his birth, his father had remarried. This must have been a heart breaking decision to make, but as she did not know what she would find in England she thought it best to go along with their wishes. One can only imagine how distraught she might have been, Ingo was four years old.
Mum then had four more children, the last one being a premature baby boy that did not survive. Alas her second marriage was unhappy, she did not get the support she needed from my father, and it ended in divorce. In the beginning there were letters, and photographs of Ingo, arriving from Germany, but they eventually became less frequent and stopped altogether. Her life revolved round us, her three children born here. Although she had very little money, she went without herself so that we were clothed and fed. She had such a hard life, she was a hard working woman who did her very best for us.
In 1981 mum received a telegram from her brother Henry in Hamburg, he had received a phone call from Ingo, asking about his birth mother. He was now 37 and wanted to contact her. Next came a letter from Ingo and over the next few months letters and phone calls passed between mother and son.
A date was set for mum to travel to Germany to meet Ingo, I was to put her on the boat at Harwich, and Ingo was to meet her at Hamburg. She wasn't able to make the journey, she had a heart attack a month before she was due to go. She said she didn't feel well so I called the doctor. I watched him in disbelief as he pounded on her chest with his fist, cracking her ribs in the process. I rang for an ambulance and thankfully the medics came within minutes. They continued resuscitation all the way to the hospital and they managed to save her life.
For several months after she wasn't well. I was writing to Ingo in English and he was writing to me in German. We both had to get our letters translated. I told him that she wouldn't be able to travel, even though she was recovering from the heart attack, she had developed angina. He would have to come here to see her. Ingo wrote to say he would come on the 1st of April 1982, he would fly into Heathrow Airport and I said I would be there to meet him. She died on March 20th, she never saw her son again, and he never saw his mum.
My darling mother, after all this time I am still carrying the pain of your passing, the tears of sadness flow freely from my eyes, on this day every year.
RIP Martha Elizabeth Helen

4.3.1918 - 20.3.1982


  1. What a sad story. I'm sorry about your Mum and sorry that you feel so sad. She must have been a very strong, amazing woman to cope with life as she did. My Dad died 7 years ago and I think about him every day. We carry our loved ones with us always. Take care.
    twiggy x

  2. She sounded amazing and her tenacity and determination lives on in you, thanks for sharing, what a privilige

  3. I am so so sorry for your loss, and so sorry your mother never got to see her son again, or your borther his mother, I am sat here crying as i know only too well the pain of loosing my mother, and like your mnother, it was sudden a heart attack, we lived next door, that evening she came for a usual chat before bed, told nme she did not feel well, i urged her to stay , she said no, as she wanted to sleep, that was the last time i spoke to her , she had a massive heart attack in the night, she was only 67. it will be 8 years in may, the week before I turn 33, and even now at this age i still need my mum, sending you all my love at this time, xx

  4. Mothers are amazing, the way they put up with tremendeous adversities in their lives just to care for us. I`m lucky to still have my mum and dad. Mum, now 71 does have heart trouble but it`s under control for now. Dad is fit as a fiddle at 73, still doing all his DIY at home, even climbing onto the roof of his 3 storey house to repair tiles, chopping firewood for their open fires and helping mum in the garden.
    Somehow, you can never imagine your mum or your dad not being around anymore. In your memories they will always be with you.
    Bless you, Ilona. I hope that the good memories of your mum will sustain you.

  5. So sad that your Mum never got to see her son. Have you met him, I wonder?

    What a beautiful woman she was.

  6. Your Mum clearly had an extraordinary life and by telling us some of her story, you've done her proud.

  7. A very sad story! How sad for Ingo to contact her again only to find it would be short lived.
    I think her tenacity and fortitude has passed on to you.
    All the best Chris

  8. Thank you for your comments, I really do appreciate it. This is a short story about mum's life, the bits I left out are too personal to print, ie, the real reason she left Ingo behind. There was one person who would not accept him. We only found out some things after Ingo and me talked to uncle Henry, and all the pieces of the puzzle came together.

    Yes, I have met Ingo. After mum died in the March, I went on holiday with my boyfriend Ian in May. We went to Holland on his Honda CX500 bike, to visit his friends. We had a couple of days in Amsterdam, then went to the north of Holland to stay with another friend. While we were there I asked him if we might have time to go to Bremen, to see Ingo, that is where he lives. Ian said yes we would.

    His Dutch friend who could speak German, phoned Ingo to arrange a meeting place, at the taxi rank at Bremen railway station at 7pm the following day. We set off at midday.

    We had just gone over the border into Germany when Ian stopped the bike and said he felt ill. He was shaking, he said he couldn't go any further. We found a health centre and they laid him down in a room and a doctor gave him an infection. He had a fever, hot and cold, and couldn't stop trembling.

    I found a B & B close by and booked in and Ian went to bed. The landlady took charge of the tablets he had and gave them to him to take at the correct time. I went to a phone box and rang Ingo to say we weren't coming, his girlfriend answered and said he had already left to meet us. We could just about understand each other with her bit of English. I said I would ring again in the morning.

    Lying in bed that night, I felt there were forces against us, my mother didn't get to meet him, maybe we wouldn't either. But I was determined, even though it might mean I had to stick my thumb up and get a lift to Bremen. I didn't feel confident to ride the bike with Ian on the back and all the luggage, I had only recently passed my test.

    Next morning Ian said he still felt poorly, but would be ok to ride, so I rang Ingo and made a new time of 12noon to meet.

    We were a bit early and waited. Then I saw a man coming towards us, as he got closer I knew immediately that it was my brother, he was the spitting image of mum. This was the moment I had been waiting for, for most of my life. Ever since I was a child I asked mum if we could find Ingo. She always said no, because he was four years old and wouldn't remember her, and might think that his step mum was his real mum, and it wouldn't be fair to upset him. She always put her children before herself.

    Words can't describe how I felt when we met for the first time, we hugged each other like we didn't want to let go. We put all the luggage and me into the car and Ian followed us on the bike to Ingo's flat. We had a lot of catching up to do. I had put some photographs in my bag of Ingo when he was little, that mum had got ready to show him. Ingo had copies of the same photographs in his album. He started to remember his schoolboy English and he told me that he had always know his mother had gone to England, but it was never spoken about in his house.

    We have met several times since, he has been here for holidays and my sister and I have been to Bremen. That is the happy ending, or should be. Ingo doesn't keep in touch with us for what ever reason, but now he is old enough to decide for himself.

  9. Your brother Ingo must have felt that he finally had the missing bits to his puzzle. Maybe he just had to satisfy his curiousity to put the past to sleep, and that`s possibly the reason for him not keeping contact. I`m glad you`ve met him, as I`m sure you must have had your own feelings about him, too.
    A sad story for your mum, but also an interesting one. Thanks for sharing.

  10. This has touched me deeply. My grand mother remarried after being left by her first husband, alone with her small son. When she remarried, my grandfather never accepted the boy and was brutally hard on him. He ran away when he was twelve yrs. and hopped trains, for years, living as a hobo. He finally settled in California and married. Mother said she remembers, so well, seeing my grandmother on her knees in the barn crying and praying for him. It would be months, sometimes years between the times she heard from him, not knowing if he was alive or dead.
    He returned a few times with his wife to see him mother and visit with his brothers and sisters. They loved him very much but the hurt of it all and the distance took a toll on him.


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