I had not known true family love until I met and married my husband . . .
I could barely remember my parents, memories of them as illusive as a hazy rainbow spread across the horizon. They died within a month of each other when I was eight years old and I was taken in and raised by an aging great-aunt who was not accustomed to a youngster underfoot. She was not cruel, but it was clear that I was a hindrance in her orderly life.
My husband, Marshall, and his brother, Aaron, were brought up in a loving, nurturing, and godly home by their widowed mother. Although I was of a different nationality and had no religious training, Imogene treated me like family, considering me the daughter denied her in her youth. I grew to expect a few raised eyebrows whenever I appeared on my husband’s arm at social gatherings. Imogene would have no patience with “such nonsense”, welcoming me with open arms into their close-knit family. I quickly adapted to helping her with household management while Marshall and Aaron worked the fields. I learned about God and His love for me at Imogene’s knee, and became a strong believer. Thriving like a sun-kissed Spring flower under this nurturing existence, I was content.
Then came the war. Being unmarried, Aaron was conscripted into the service early on. We missed his jovial, cheerful presence, the house ambiance shrinking like a deflating balloon. Marshall, the quiet, serious one, tried to bolster us, clinging to the hope of Aaron’s quick return.
Weeks later, Imogene received the news of Aaron’s death, stoically mourning her loss as only a doting mother can. She nursed her grief privately, but I became salve to her wounds. Marshall handled his sorrow differently, using his doubled work load as succor. No one was surprised when he joined the ongoing war, trying to avenge his brother’s death. We missed his stalwart presence as much as Aaron’s buoyant one, but he promised to return to us within a year.
Day followed day, week after week, months creeping by slower than a cold watch pot. Imogene and I bonded closer, sitting together at each day’s end, knitting or reading until daylight faded. Her stories of the boys’ childhood embraced us like a warm blanket. Often, she encouraged me to make friends with neighbor ladies closer to my own age, but I had no heart for socializing while Marshall was absent. Seeing Marshall in many of her mannerisms and expressions, she was my closest tie to him. We shared everything equally and grew to love each other more dearly.
But, Marshall did not return to us. We received the tragic news eight months after his departure and even in my own mourning, I recognized that Imogene had lost a husband and two sons compared to my single loss. Both bereft, we comforted each other as best we could.
Times were hard then, our crops as dried up as our hearts. Imogene insisted I return to my country where food and livelihoods were plentiful, but I could no more leave her thus, than a newly hatched baby bird could fly from its nest.
“Don’t urge me to leave you , for I will go only where you go. Your people will become mine even as your God has become my God.”
Day after day, we had the same argument, her so concerned about my future and I, not caring about one.
My stubborn determination finally won, and she arose from her lethargic grief to mother me. Not long after that, Imogene heard about a distant relative who had become prosperous and was known for his largess to the less fortunate. She arranged that I was to work alongside his other female crop workers gathering leftovers from the harvest. Cousin Lemuel took notice of me before long and was kind to me.
“I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know. May you be richly rewarded by the God, under whose wings you have taken refuge.”
So, Imogene and I were provided for, and agreed to disagree only when one or the other’s welfare was at stake.
Cousin Lemuel and I eventually married, and the following year, we gave Imogene a grandson who, in turn, slowly healed her broken heart.
Story based loosely on the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible in the Book of Ruth
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