Thirteenth Wedding Anniversary

It was Monday, September 29, 1969. Around noontime Fran was getting dressed up. He was in a much better mood than he was when he came home from Cleveland last night, and his six children were happy because Daddy was looking happy. He had told them he was getting dressed up, going to the flower shop to buy thirteen of the nicest red roses he could find and take them to Mommie in Cleveland.

The children, too young to really comprehend how sick their mother was, felt that another bouquet of red roses, which their father always gave her on special occasions would surely make her feel better. They could picture her looking surprised and overjoyed as they could remember in the past. And they proceeded to dance around him., saying., "Don It forget to tell Mommie that we were good today and that we picked up all of our things, and helped Aunt Barb."

Then, the telephone rang! After the voice on the other end of the wire was sure it was Mr. Brickner, they proceeded to explain that Mrs. Brickner was having a cerebral hemorrhage, and could he come right away. All he could say was "I am on my way."

But, no! First he needed to call Roseís mother and take her along. He quickly dialed the number he remembered so well from his courtship days, but his father-in-law answered and informed him that Mom had gone after groceries and he didnít know which store she had gone to, So Fran said, "When Mom comes home explain to her that I went on, and Iíll call her from Cleveland. No matter what happens, I don't want these children told anything until I get back."

The above circumstances all happened while I was picking grapes from my motherís arbor to prepare juice for Roseís strict diet when she returned.

I then made my way to the grocery store to replenish my empty cupboards. On the way home, I planned to go to my son-in-law's house to pick up the laundry and see what I could do for the children. However upon entering the house through the kitchen door, I noticed that Fran's mother was there and his youngest sister who had been there helping for the past few weeks. They had faces more sober than I like to see. And they said together, "Since you were to the grocery, haven't you gone home?"

I replied, "No, I came for the laundry." So the two of them proceeded to fill me in, that because Fran could not locate me, he decided he was too nervous to make the trip alone and he asked his good friend and neighbor across the street to ride along, but that Fran insisted on driving himself.

After I arrived at my own home, my husband and I sat down and figured out what time Fran called and would have left for Cleveland. Knowing that it had taken us one and a half hours to get back from the clinic the night before, we figured he should be just about getting there. We paced the floor and tried to comfort one another, hoping and yet fearing that the telephone would ring.

It was not long, about fifteen minutes after our figured time, when the phone did ring. This girlís father and I looked at each other and he motioned for me to answer it. A gentlemanís voice said, " Mrs. Elchert? "

When I assured him that it was, he said,"This is Jim. Fran asked me to call you, because he cannot. Mrs. Elchert, your daughter passed away at two oíclock, just before he got here."

I only said, "Oh, Jim!

Then when he realized it was going to be easy to talk, and that I was not falling apart which he had been so afraid I would do, he continued to talk and said that they asked Franís permission to do a post mortem on the body. At this I asked if he had already signed the papers, because I am sure, if I had been there I would have tried to talk him out of it.

She had never had any surgery and I couldn't stand the thought of her being cut for any reason now. But Jim assured me Fran had already signed the papers, and that he (Jim) felt sure there was very little cutting involved.

My husband could tell from the trend of the conversation what all had taken place, and again, as so many other times in our lives, there was no need for words. He simply said, "Mary, we must notify all of our children who live away."

I remained very calm and placed all of these long-distance calls myself. With my husband at my side, I called the ones living the farthest away first. David lived in Atlanta, but his wife Donna said his company just that very morning had him flown to California. However, she could get through to him because she had the phone number of the motel where he was to stay. And the way she had it figured, by this time he should be just about checking in.

I got similar news from Joan, Gregoryís wife. She informed me that Greg had flown to Philadelphia that morning but not to worry, she would take care of everything, and they would be home this evening.

Then we notified the Red Cross because Tim was with the Marines at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.

But there was still Marilyn to call at Frernont, and I was dreading to make this call because in the course of my conversations with my two daughters-in-law I ran into a flood of tears on each occasion. Sure enough, I didn't escape it this time either, so much so that I could hear her little children starting to cry in the background. At this point I became very stern with her, telling her to pull herself together because she was frightening the children. Much to her father's and my relief she told us that her husband Frank had just walked in the door. Now I knew my task as far as Marilyn was concerned was finished because her capable husband would take over.

We sent a wire to Mike, as he had no telephone.

Then our first thought was to try to get a priest to immediately read a Mass to help usher Rose's soul into Heaven. Every priest I called had already read as many as he was supposed to for that day. But all promised to remember her in their early morning Mass, so I had to leave it at that.

As soon as they learned of our tragedy, my own two sisters came to our house together. Wanting to help and support this older sister as much as they could, and not waiting to be told what to do, they looked around to find grape juice still in the making, laundry begging to be done and many things just waiting, because the usual doer of these chores had spent the weekend in Cleveland. With these two eager aunts in command and Betty and Vicki obeying their every order, in a short time our lovely home was again in order for the flow of visitors who certainly did come.

Along with her personal things that the Cleveland hospital had packed up and sent along with Fran was a medal of the Blessed Virgin, which a priest had brought for me from Spain. One afternoon a few weeks previous I had put this medal on a chain and put it around Rose's neck myself. And then, of all things, here was my pillow, which had given her so much comfort the last few days of her life, still with the slip on and the zipped inside covering. But keeping in mind that she had a cerebral hemorrhage at the last would probably account for the two large bloodstains that penetrated the pillow slip and cover and down into the feathers.

(End of Chapter 4)

I Love You, Mom