For widow Rose Raber, it’s been a year of tragic loss and difficult decisions. She thought providing for her young daughter was the greatest challenge she faced. Until her dying mother revealed that Rose was adopted—and her birth mother is someone with much to lose if the secret comes out. As Rose struggles to reconcile the truth with her faith—and her troubling curiosity—outgoing newcomer Matthias Wagler is another surprise she didn't expect. His optimism and easy understanding inspires her. And his prospective partnership with wealthy deacon Saul Hartzler promises a possible new life for them—together. But with this second chance comes yet another revelation for all involved.
When Saul’s wife unexpectedly turns up at Rose’s new job, their bond as mother and daughter is instant and unmistakable. And it isn't long before an unforgiving Saul discovers the truth, threatening Matthias’s livelihood and Rose’s future. Now with more than just their happiness at stake, Rose and Matthias must find the strength and courage to stand strong—and trust God's enduring miracles of motherhood, forgiveness, and love.
|Product dimensions:||4.40(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Rose Raber looked away so Mamma wouldn't see the tears filling her eyes. As she sat beside her mother's bed, Rose prayed as she had every night for the past week. Please, Lord, don't take her away from me. ... I believe You can heal my mother's cancer — work a miracle for us — if You will.
Tonight felt different, though. Mamma was dozing off more, and her mind was wandering. Rose had a feeling that Mamma might drift off at any moment and not come back.
"Was church today?" Mamma murmured. "I don't ... recall that you and Gracie ... went —"
"We stayed here with you, Mamma," Rose reminded her gently. "I didn't want to leave you by yourself."
Her mother sighed. As she reached for Rose's hand, Rose grasped it as though it could be a way to keep Mamma here — to keep her alive. They didn't speak for so long, it seemed Mamma had drifted off to sleep, but then she opened her eyes wide.
"Is Gracie tucked in?" Although Mamma's voice sounded as fragile as dry, rustling leaves, a purpose lurked behind the question.
"Jah, she is, but I'll go check on her," Rose replied, eager for the chance to leave the room and pull herself together. "All that fresh air from planting some of the garden today should make her sleep soundly."
"Gracie was ... excited about doing that. She asked me ... how long it would be before the lettuce ... peas, and radishes shot up." Mamma chuckled fondly, remembering. Then she gazed at Rose, with her eyes fiercely bright in a face framed by the gray kerchief that covered her hairless head. "When you come back, dear, there's something we ... must discuss."
Rose carefully squeezed Mamma's bony hand and strode from the bedroom. Out in the hallway, she leaned against the wall, blotting her face with her apron. Her five-year-old daughter was extremely perceptive. Gracie already sensed her mammi was very, very ill, and if she saw how upset Rose had become, there would be no end of painful questions — and Gracie wouldn't get back to sleep.
The three of them had endured a heart-wrenching autumn and winter after a fire had ravaged Dat's sawmill, claiming Rose's father, Myron Fry, and her husband, Nathan Raber, as well. The stress of losing Dat had apparently left Mamma susceptible, because that's when the cancer had returned with a vengeance, after almost thirty years of remission. The first time around, when Mamma was young, she'd survived breast cancer, but this time the disease had stricken her lungs — even though she'd never smoked.
With the family business gone, Rose and Gracie had moved into Mamma's house last September. Rose had sold her and Nathan's little farm so they would have some money to live on — and to pay Mamma's mounting bills for the chemo and radiation, which had kept her cancer manageable. Until now. Rose had a feeling that this date, April third, would be forever emblazoned on her heart, her soul.
Little Gracie has lost so many who loved her, Rose thought, sending the words up as another prayer. She composed herself, took a deep breath, and then climbed the stairs barefoot. She peeked into the small bedroom at the end of the hall.
The sound of steady breathing drew Rose to her daughter's bedside. In the moonlight, Gracie appeared carefree — breathtakingly sweet as she slept. Such a gift from God this daughter was, a balm to Rose's soul and to her mother's as well. For whatever reason, God had granted Rose and Nathan only this single rosebud of a child, so they had cherished her deeply. Rose resisted the temptation to stroke her wee girl's cheek, feasting her eyes on Gracie's perfection instead. She'd seen some religious paintings of plump-cheeked cherubim, but her daughter's innocent beauty outshone the radiance of those curly-haired angels.
Rose quietly left Gracie's room. Standing in her daughter's presence had strengthened her, and she felt more ready to face whatever issue Mamma wanted to discuss. Rose knew of many folks whose parents had passed before they'd had a chance to speak their piece, so she told herself to listen carefully, gratefully, to whatever wisdom Mamma might want to share with her. Instinct was telling her Mamma only had another day or so.
Pausing at the door of the downstairs bedroom, where Mamma was staying now because she could no longer climb the stairs, Rose sighed. Mamma's face and arms were so withered and pale. It was a blessing that her pain relievers kept her fairly comfortable. When Mamma realized Rose had returned, she beckoned with her hand. "Let's talk about this before I lose my nerve," she murmured. "There's a stationery box ... in my bottom dresser drawer. The letters inside it ... will explain everything."
Rose's pulse lurched. In all her life, she'd never known Mamma to keep secrets — but the shadows beneath Mamma's eyes and the fading of her voice warned Rose that this was no time to demand an explanation. Rose sat down in the chair beside the bed again, leaning closer to catch Mamma's every faint word.
"I hope you'll understand ... what I've done," Mamma mumbled. "I probably should have told you long ago, but ... there just never seemed to be a right time — and I made promises — your dat believed we should let sleeping dogs lie."
Rose's heart was beating so hard she wondered if Mamma could hear it. "Mamma, what do you mean? What are you trying to —"
Mamma suddenly gripped Rose's hands and struggled, as though she wanted to sit up but couldn't. "Do not look for her, Rose. I — I promised her you wouldn't."
Rose swallowed hard. Her mother appeared to be sinking in on herself now, drifting in and out of rational thought. "Who, Mamma?" Rose whispered urgently. "Who are you talking about?"
Mamma focused on Rose for one last, lingering moment and then her body went limp. "I'm so tired," she rasped. "We'll talk tomorrow."
Rose bowed her head, praying that they would indeed have another day together. She tucked the sheet and light quilt around Mamma's frail shoulders. It was all she could do. "Gut night, Mamma," she whispered. "I love you."
She listened for a reply, but Mamma was already asleep.
Rose was tempted to go to Mamma's dresser and find the mysterious box she'd mentioned, but desperation overrode her curiosity. She couldn't leave her mother's bedside. For several endless minutes, Rose kept track of her mother's breathing, which was growing slower and shallower now, as the doctor had said it would. He had recommended that Mamma stay in the hospital because her lungs were filling with fluid, but Mamma had wanted no part of that. She'd insisted on passing peacefully in her own home.
But please don't go yet, Mamma, Rose pleaded as she gently eased her hands from her mother's. Stay with me tonight. Just one more night.
Exhausted from sitting with Mamma for most of the past few days and nights, Rose folded her arms on the edge of the bed and rested her head on them. If Mamma stirred at all, Rose would know — could see to whatever she needed.
In the wee hours, Rose awakened with a jolt from a disturbing dream about two women — one of them was Mamma, as she'd looked years ago, and the other one was a younger woman Rose didn't recognize. They were walking away from her, arm in arm, as though they had no idea she could see them — and didn't care. Rose called and called, but neither woman turned around —
"Oh, Mamma," Rose whispered when she realized she'd been dreaming. Her heart was thumping wildly and she felt exhausted after sleeping in the armchair beside her mother's bed. She lit the oil lamp on the nightstand. "Mamma? Are you awake?"
Her mother's eyes were open, staring straight ahead toward the door, but they didn't blink when Rose gripped her bony shoulder. Mamma's breathing was so much slower than it had been yesterday, and in the stillness of the dim room, the rasping sound of each breath was magnified by Rose's desperation.
Rose stared at her mother for a few more of those labored breaths, trying again to rouse her. Mamma's expression was devoid of emotion or pain. She was unresponsive — as the doctor had warned might happen — and Rose curled in on herself to cry for a few minutes. Then she slipped out to the phone shanty at the road.
"Bishop Vernon, it's Rose Raber," she said after his answering machine had prompted her. "If you could come — well, Mamma's about gone and I ... I don't know what to do. Denki so much."
Rose returned to the house with a million worries running through her mind. Soon Gracie would be awake and wanting her breakfast and — how would Rose explain that her mammi couldn't talk to her anymore, didn't see her anymore? How could she manage a frantic, frightened five-year-old who would need her constant reassurances for a while, and at the same time deal with her own feelings of grief and confusion? All the frightened moments Rose had known this past week, when she'd thought Mamma was already gone, were merely rehearsals, it seemed.
"Oh, Nathan, if only you were here," Rose whispered as she walked through the unlit front room. "You always knew what to do. Always had a clear head and a keen sense of what came next."
Rose paused in the doorway of the room where Mamma lay. Her breathing was still loud and slow, and the breaths seemed to be coming farther apart. Rose hoped it was a comfort to Mamma to die as she'd wanted — even though it was nerve- racking to Rose. There had been no waiting, no doubts, the day she and Mamma had returned from shopping in Morning Star to discover that the sawmill had caught fire from a saw's sparks. The mill, quite a distance from any neighbor, had burned to the ground with her father and husband trapped beneath a beam that had fallen on them. Their men's deaths had been sudden and harsh, but quick. No lingering, no wondering if she could be doing some little thing to bring final comfort.
Once again, Rose sat in the chair beside Mamma's bed, and then rested against the mattress as she'd done before. The clock on Mamma's dresser chimed three times. It would be hours before the bishop checked his phone messages. Rose didn't want to rustle around in the kitchen, for fear she'd waken Gracie, so she placed a hand over her mother's and allowed herself to drift. ...
Rose awoke from a doze to realize someone was knocking on the front door. By the time she roused herself, Bishop Vernon Gingerich and his wife, Jerusalem, were entering the front room. Vernon's rosy face, usually lit with a beatific smile, appeared solemn.
"Rose, I'm sorry you're having to deal with your mother's passing alone," the bishop said as he reached for her hands.
Jerusalem hugged Rose hard. "We came as soon as Vernon heard your message," she said. Jerusalem felt warm and stalwart, as though she'd dealt with death enough times that she no longer feared it. "Maybe Gracie would be better off with me today — seeing's how you have no family members close by to keep her until your vigil is finished."
Gratitude filled Rose's heart. Her only remaining relatives lived in Indiana. "That might be best, jah. She's still upstairs asleep —"
"I'll get her dressed and tell her what a gut time we'll have today," Jerusalem said with a smile. "Don't worry about her, Rose. We have goats and cows and newly hatched chicks and all manner of distractions at our place."
"Denki so much," Rose murmured. Vernon had recently remarried, and Jerusalem had been a maidel schoolteacher until she'd met him — always ready with a game or a song when kids were around — and Gracie adored her. As the steely-haired woman started up the stairway, Rose glanced at Vernon. "Mamma's in this room, Bishop. She'll be comforted to know you've come."
The bishop hung his black hat on a peg near the door and followed Rose into the back room. He stopped a few feet from the bed to observe Mamma, who lay staring straight ahead, unseeing. Vernon stroked his snow-white beard as the sound of her breathing filled the room. "We can be grateful that your mother's beyond her pain," he said softly. "Her soul has heard God's call and her body is preparing itself so she can go to meet Him. It will all happen in the Lord's gut time, and our job now is merely to wait. They say the sense of hearing is the last to go, so let's pray for her, shall we?"
Rose joined Bishop Vernon at the bedside, bowing her head as he took her hand and placed his other hand on her mother's shoulder.
"Dear Lord and Father of us all," he intoned, "we give thanks that You never leave us, and that You are caring for Your daughter Lydia, preparing her a place with You in Heaven. Bless Rose with the strength and wisdom she'll need to wait and watch, and to tend to her burial. We thank You for the gut life Lydia lived, and for the promise that she will soon ascend to be with You. We pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen."
Rose let out the breath she'd been holding. Upstairs, she heard Gracie talking excitedly to Jerusalem, and it made her smile.
"Do you want me to stay with you?" Vernon asked. "Some folks get uneasy, being alone with a loved one who's about to die."
The sound of footsteps coming down the upstairs hallway — some of them quick and some slower — determined Rose's reply. "I'll be fine, knowing that Gracie's with you," she said as she started for the doorway. "If you take her with you now, she won't be frightened by her mammi's condition."
Vernon nodded and followed her from the room. Rose put on a bright smile and held out her arms when she saw her daughter bouncing down the stairs, wearing her favorite yellow dress and a fresh white pinafore. Wisps of strawberry-blond hair escaped Gracie's kapp and her smile lit her entire face.
"Mamma, we're gonna milk the goats!" Gracie cried as she launched herself toward Rose's arms. "And we gotta count the baby chicks —"
"You'll have the best time ever with Jerusalem and the bishop," Rose said as she held her daughter close. "You can say your alphabet and your numbers —"
"And play games!" Gracie added. "And maybe bake cookies!"
Rose smiled gratefully at Jerusalem as the older woman reached the bottom of the steps. "It'll be a wonderful time — because you'll be a gut guest while you're at the bishop's house, jah?" Rose asked purposefully.
"Jah, Mamma," Gracie said as she wiggled to get down. "We're havin' French toast for breakfast, so we better get goin'!"
Jerusalem chuckled as she took Gracie's hand. "We'll gather some fresh eggs first, and it'll be the best breakfast ever. But you'd better stay sharp at the table, Gracie, because Vernon loves French toast and he might try to snatch yours!"
"Nuh-uh!" Gracie exclaimed. At the doorway, she turned to wave to Rose. "Bye, Mamma! Be a gut girl while I'm gone!"
"You too, missy," Rose replied. She walked out to the porch with Bishop Vernon, and his gaze expressed his silent wish for her strength and consolation. She watched the buggy take off behind a fine bay mare, waving when she saw Gracie looking out the rig's window.
When the vehicle reached the road, Rose went inside and dropped into the nearest chair. The house was too quiet. The hours would crawl by without the sunshine of Gracie's presence; yet Rose believed she'd done the right thing, letting the little girl go with two dear adults who would keep her busy — and who would answer Gracie's questions about her grandmother's condition in a wise, patient way. When it came to matters of the soul and practicality, nobody was more gracious than Bishop Vernon Gingerich.
After listening to a couple more of Mamma's labored breaths, Rose left the bedroom doorway to brew a pot of strong tea and slather a couple slices of bread with butter and jelly. She returned to Mamma's bedside with her breakfast tray, and turned the armchair slightly so Mamma's eyes wouldn't be fixed upon her while she ate.
Rose poured a cup of tea, muttering wearily when some of it sloshed onto her tray because her hands were shaking. As she took a bite of the buttered bread, a sob escaped her. She drank some tea and sank back into the chair, wondering how long it would be before her mother passed. Already the waiting weighed heavily upon her.
After she'd finished the slices of bread, Rose set aside her tray and turned to check on Mamma. Her mother's face was still frozen in a slack, emotionless expression as her eyes continued to gaze at nothing.
Excerpted from "A Mother's Love"
Copyright © 2017 Charlotte Hubbard.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.