An elderly woman fears she is now too old to fulfill a sacred trust. She tests her children to discover which of them is willing and worthy to take up her legacy.
Dina was now eighty-three, and her health had taken a turn for the worse. Not even six months before, she had been spry and energetic, and now she could barely get out of bed.
She looked up at the portrait of a man in uniform on the wall opposite her bed. “I haven’t forgotten my promise,” she said softly. “Never to forget, remember? I won’t go to my rest without passing on my trust…”
Dina knew she could easily extract any promise from her children, but once she was gone, would that promise be forgotten? She had to know, so the next day, Dina put her plan into action.
She asked her oldest friend, Gail, to call her children and announce her death, and the funeral, which would take place in five days’ time.
Promises that are easily made are easily broken.
Gail was also to transmit Dina’s deathbed request: “Your mother was tormented by the thought that she hadn’t gone to her father’s grave. She was devoted to him and went to the cemetery every Sunday –“
“Unfortunately, this last month, she was just too ill to go… Tomorrow is Memorial Day, and she begged me to ask you to go in her stead, to pay your respects.”
“Oh,” Dina’s oldest daughter Teresa said politely. “Of course, my poor mother… God rest her soul. I’ll go first thing tomorrow morning!”
Next, Gail called Kevin, Dina’s middle child. Kevin heard the news of his mother’s death and expressed polite regret. “Poor mom,” he sighed. “She was never the same after her dad passed away. As for this cemetery visit, don’t worry.”
“I’ll be there. I know how much her father meant to her. He was a great man, and she’s always been so proud that he fought for this country.”
“Thank you, Kevin,” Gail said. “I know Dina would be so proud of you!”
Then Gail called David, Dina’s youngest son. After she announced Dina’s death, there was a shocked silence on the other end of the line. “Mom?” David gasped. “Mom is dead?”
Gail heard him start sobbing and quickly explained Dina’s ‘last wish.’ She was surprised by David’s response. “I’m sorry, I can’t think right now…Please…I don’t know…I’ll think about it…”
David hung up in tears, and for the first time, Gail thought this might be a cruel prank to play on Dina’s children. “I don’t know, Dina,” she said. “Poor David was a wreck!”
“Yes,” Dina said sadly. “But Kevin and Tessa hardly turned a hair…And I need to know, Gail, who is going to honor the family’s legacy. Whoever does, gets the money, too.”
“I thought you were going to split the money three ways!” cried Gail. “Isn’t that what you’d decided after your husband’s death?”
“Yes,” Dina said. “But I want to see who really cares about me and about my wishes. Who will honor my request long after I’m dead.”
The next day, Dina was at the cemetery sitting by her father’s grave. She’d bought him a bouquet of poppies. She remembered her saying goodbye to her dad when he’d gone off to war.
“Promise you won’t forget me, baby girl!” he’d said, swinging her up in his big strong arms. Daddy had gone to France, and he never came back, but Dina never forgot him.
She’d promised herself his grave, and his memory would be honored, and now, as time passed and none of her children showed up, she knew no one would come. No one would care. Not for her father, and not for her.
Dina got up and was about to leave when a voice cried: “MOM?” It was her son David. He was standing on the path closest to her father’s grave, and he was holding a bouquet of flowers.
“Mom!” he cried. He dropped the flowers and ran to embrace her, tears running down his cheeks. “Mom, mom… Some crazy woman told me you were dead…”
“I’m alright, David!” Dina said, secretly ashamed she’d caused her youngest son so much pain. “It was just… I’m so sorry, son. But I had to know who cared about me and who’d keep their promises.”
David looked around. “Where are Kevin and Tessa?” he asked.
Dina shook her head sadly. “They said they’d come, but they didn’t show up,” she explained. “I guess promises that are easily made are easily broken!”
The next day, Dina broke the news of her survival to Tessa and Kevin. She also announced that she was changing her will. The whole of her considerable estate was going to David.
“Why?” screeched Tessa. “It’s not fair!”
“Yes, it is,” Dina said. “David was the only one who loved and respected me enough to come to the cemetery and honor my father. You and Kevin didn’t even shed a tear for me, so believe me, I’m not shedding a tear for you!”
What can we learn from this story?
- Promises that are easily made are easily broken. Tessa and Kevin immediately agreed to go to the cemetery but forgot their promise. David, who was too upset to decide, honored his mother’s wishes.
- We take the memories of our departed loved ones into the future. Dina made sure her dad was never forgotten by teaching her son to honor his heroic grandfather.