Walter Fremby missed his mom. A year after his mother’s passing, he still woke up in the middle of the night, his face wet with tears. There were moments during the day when he felt a huge emptiness tearing at his heart, and he’d remember: Rebecca was gone.
“I’m alone,” Walter would whisper to himself, “There’s no one left. Oh, mom, hows could you leave me?” And terrible black anger would boil up in his heart. Rebecca had abandoned him, left him alone in the world and it felt like the pain of it was killing him.
Rebecca Fremby had been a bubbly, lovely, and loving woman, a widow, and a single mom. When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when Walter was just thirteen, she’d sat down with him and told him what they were facing.
“You are a strong boy, Walter, strong like your daddy,” Rebecca had said, “I promise you I’m going to fight this as hard as I can, and I want you to promise me you’ll be brave if the worse comes to the worse.”
And of course, Walter had promised. It had been easy to promise with his mom there laughing and smiling. The promise started weighing on him when Rebecca grew thin and lost her hair, but never, ever her smile.
One day her smile was gone too, and Walter was left alone, but before she died Rebecca’d asked him to investigate his father’s death. “I know he’s gone, Wally, but my heart doesn’t want to believe it — so promise me you’ll find out how he died.”
Never give up hope, miracles do happen.
So Walter had made yet another promise, and two weeks later he was standing by her graveside, watching her coffin being lowered into the ground. “Oh, mom,” he whispered, “I need you so much.”
Walter kept one of his promises: he started looking for his dad. George Fremby had been a soldier, and he’d been part of the UN Peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Rebecca and George had been married only six months when he’d been sent to Europe.
Barely two months later Rebecca received two pieces of news: George was missing in action, and she was pregnant. George Fremby had never known he had a child, but Rebecca had kept his memory alive for his son.
Now with neither mother nor father, Walter focused on his studies, and on discovering everything he could about his father’s final, fatal mission. Every week Walter visited Rebecca’s grave and every now and then, there’s be a photo there.
The first one had been of a very young Rebecca in a cheerleader’s uniform, then a month later, another photo — this time of Rebecca at college. Walter took the photos.
He wondered who was paying this strange tribute to his mother, who was leaving the photos of his young and beautiful mom? Then six months later, Walter visited Rebecca’s grave once again.
This time he had news about his father. Walter discovered that every single man who had served with his father was dead, and though most of their bodies or dog tags had been recovered, George’s hadn’t.
“Mom, all I know is that the last time he was seen was on September 24, 1999. He and his comrades were ordered to protect a village from a militia group, but something went wrong, mom. His friends, his comrades, they all died…”
A voice whispered behind him: “Something, yes, very wrong, They knew we were there, they caught us in the crossfire…” The voice belonged to a tall thin man with a terrible scar on his face.
The man sobbed. “Dead, yes, my friends, they all died and I couldn’t save them… I couldn’t come home to you Rebecca…”
Walter reached out and touched the man on the shoulder. “Dad,” he said, “She always believed you’d come back.”
“But I couldn’t, I couldn’t!” the man cried, “They took me into the mountains, as a hostage. They dragged me from place to place for years, years…Then one day I escaped.
“I didn’t know how long I’d been a prisoner. I ran and a boy found me in the forest, he helped me. His father helped me cross the border, he took me to the American Embassy, and they sent me home.”
“Dad?” whispered Walter, “Is that really you?”
“I didn’t know,” George Fremby had tears running down his face, “I didn’t know about you. I’d promised her I’d come back, I promised her I’d bring her pictures back, so that was what I have been doing. Keeping my promise.”
Walter took his father’s arm and knelt by his mother’s grave: “Mom, I kept my promise, after all, dad’s here, We Fremby men, we kept our promises to you.” Despite their grief, Walter and his dad found a way to be strong for Rebecca and keep her memory bright, as bright as she was.
What can we learn from this story?
Never give up hope, miracles do happen. George escaped from captivity in time to come home and be there for his son.
Listen to your heart, it knows more than you do. The Army told Rebecca George was dead, but in her heart, she never believed it — and she was right