In the late 1890’s, my Italian immigrant grandparents boarded a ship and closed the door on their old life. They traveled to America in search of their dreams. Many years later, the door would mysteriously open with every kind of painful suffering entering in. A promise love, death, and three ghostly shadows that followed and haunted. Premonitions and dreams that saved and prepared me for the worst. The only hope in sight was the Catholic faith and much determination to survive. Incredible to imagine that this life was ever lived.
My mother Katherine was 15 years old working in a bowling alley, when a young man walked in one night that would forever change her teenage life. He later joined the army and they exchanged love letters. Katherine waited two years on her WWII soldier. They married and moved to New Jersey to start their family. Their first two children passed away, which caused great tragedy and violence to enter in their marriage that crippled their promised love to be together. They had a total of six children.
It became the center piece of my mom’s life to grieve over the loss of her two children. Alcohol became a pain reliever for the both of them. My mother complained about seeing dark shadows in their home. She would often see a tall man dressed in black with no head just wearing a black Zorro hat, walking down the hall then disappearing through the attic door, where her husband spent most of his time alone. Her husband only laughed at her complaints. She had a priest to come and bless every room in the house. For even that was not effective, the marriage ended. My mom remarried and she had 3 more children. I was the last child, she had.
The man she married, promise her the moon. To her grave disappointment, he became a nightmare towards her and the children from her first marriage. To add more to her pain, she learns that her first husband died suddenly in a liquor store. My mom was devastated. She began to drink more and pass out for hours.
In the meantime, the older children took care of the younger ones. My mom would often have nightmares at night waking up screaming in her bed. She would point to a vision, she seen on her bedroom wall of her first husband rising up out of his coffin. My mom would complain of seeing three dark shadows. Strange noises, pictures falling off the wall, her things were misplaced. Her second husband laughed at her complaints. He believed the alcohol was causing her to hallucinate. She believed it was her two children and her first husband haunting her. My mother divorced her second husband, leaving behind her home and two children. But, the three ghosts followed her.
I was six years old, when I received my holy communion on Easter Sunday. I was a happy child. I was very close to my mother. My mother broke the news, she was getting married again. I did not like the man, she planned to marry. I begged my mom not to. My teenage siblings were not too thrilled either.
My mother became furious at me, one night because I said please don’t marry him, he is a bad man. She marched me to the bedroom she and I shared. She reached up and unscrewed the light bulb. She warned me because I was bad, I was going to see the Devil tonight! Then she slammed the door and lock it. I ran over to the door screaming let me out! I pounded on the door, screaming in terror of the dark. I ran to my twin size bed and grabbed my stuff animals and held them tight.
In the corner of the dark bedroom a light grew. Then a pretty woman appeared in a flowing white gown, floating in the air. Her arms were open wide inviting me to come to her. I was scared stiff. In a blink of an eye a tall handsome man appeared. He had a lit fire in his eyes. He then began to laughed horribly at me. I flew to the locked door screaming,” let me out!” I was so scared the tall man was going to take me away. I had enough courage and faith to whispered “In the Blood of Jesus.”
The tall man and his laughter vanished.
After my mother got married, we all boarded a greyhound bus to visit out new home in Tennessee. Her new husband who lived with his elderly parents in a 19th century shack. He only own his cowboy-hat, car, guitar, some clothes and a beer can, he drank around the clock. This hilly-billy lifestyle was very different from our life back in Mississippi. My teenage sister refused to live like a hilly-billy and demanded, we leave this instant. My mother was blinded by love. Due to constant pressure, my mom put the teens on a bus back to Mississippi.
Three weeks later, My mom and I travel back also. To my mom surprise, my sister was very upset over our mother’s decision to stay. Saying, she chose her new husband over us. My angry teen sister threw us out of the trailer. The next day, Mom stops by the post office to pick up her monthly check and then the last stop was at the greyhound bus station.
My mom purchased a ticket and tells me to sit down on a wooden bench. She proceeds to tell me, I was not going. I began to beg, “please don’t-leave me.”
Tears were busting out my eyes as she said, “someone will see you and take you back to the trailer park. I will come back for you, I promise.”
My chest swelled up in pain. My throat was strangling me in paralyzing horror. She told me to stand outside by the street corner and look for her, she would wave at me,” and she did. Tears were falling out of my eyes as I stood on the busy street corner, when I heard my name called out. It’s a white station wagon pull up asking me, where is your mother? Gone, I answered. I went back to the trailer park.
I fell on my bed and cried. Day and night, I cried for my mother. I drove my teenage siblings nuts. I could not sleep, I could not eat, I refused to go to school, all I wanted to do was cry, I could not stop. My thirteen-year-old brother at the time, tried to smother me so I would shut-up. Due my many absents from school the authorities were called and they found out we were living alone without our mother.
We were placed in family court custody then foster-care was our new home. I was frightened, my 6-year-old world was turned upside down in deep trauma. The teens were adopted out. I stayed at the foster-home waiting for my new parents. When someone asked if I knew how to contact my father and I did. He was given custody of me. The judge put a statewide warrant on my mother for child neglect. I held onto my hope that I would see my mom again, when everyone told me, I wouldn’t.
Life with my father and my two sisters whom I barely knew was strange to me. I would sit on my father’s steps and cry wishing and praying my mom would come back. One day, my sister and I were checking the mailbox, when a car pull up besides us and the car door slung open and my mom said Val, get in. Life changed drastically, my new stepfather was mean and always drunk. My mom enrolled me into the second grade, and it was Christmas break. I believed in Santa Claus with all my heart.
My stepfather went out into the woods to cut down a tree. He drugged back the most pitiful tree in the woods and stuck in a five gallon lard bucket. My mom and I made ornaments out of egg cartons and strung popcorn on the tree, but the rats ate the popcorn off. It was Christmas eve and my mom was telling me, I better go to sleep so St. Nick can bless my presents. I looked over at the pitiful Christmas tree and said, How can he bless my presents, when I have none under the tree?
She told me, St. Nick has my presents in his big red bag now go to sleep for he will not come if you are awake. She kissed me goodnight I laid on the couch for I didn’t have my own bed. I stared at the pitiful tree until sleep took me. Daylight broke and I was eager to find out what Santa Claus brought me.
It was very cold and my stepfather was building a fire in the next room in the cast iron wood stove. I ran to the pitiful Christmas tree and fell to my knees in great disappointment. I called for my mom to ask where are my presents. For she did not have the heart to tell me. She handed me a vegetable can that she wrapped in used Christmas paper. She then filled the can with peppermints and said Merry Christmas.
My stepfather’s family came over and he had nieces and nephews close to my age. I went outside to avoid them. My stepfather’s nieces follow me outside. I was petting on a white dog named Snowball. They were holding their new dolls, wearing their new clothes and asking me what did I get?
I walked away, I had nothing to say or show, only embarrassment. One of the girls came out with my Christmas present, the vegetable can that had peppermints in it. They made fun of it saying, I was too poor to have Christmas. They asked, if I wanted to hold their new doll or if I wanted their old clothes. I said no and ran off. I was so sad that Christmas morning. Snowball and I walk over to an old log andI sat down on it. I looked up at the sky and ask God, Why did you forget me? I Walked back to the old house.
My mom told me there was no food to cook a Christmas dinner, because every dime went towards booze and cigarettes. I flopped in a chair sideways watching cartoons trying to forget that I was hungry and heartbroken. Snowball began barking as we hear a car pulled up in the driveway. My mom and I peeked out the window. To my surprise, it was my homeroom teacher and other teachers from my school were carrying big boxes of food, brand new clothes and toys. My mom said God works in mysterious ways. I looked up and said, He sure does.
My life as the last child was filled up with many uncertainties like, food, clean water, clothes, a stable home, and my mother. I worried about my mom every day. It was my job to take care of her, since my older siblings were gone. She drank to forget. I remember she vomited, and I was cleaning it up with a towel. She began to cry to me about her two children and explain how miserable her life was without them. She reminded herself daily with three lit candles of what she lost and it kept her depressed and lonely.
She was so desperate to see them again. She even tempted suicide. She would sit on the edge of her bed in the dark and summons them to visit. It was a scary, when she tried to introduce me to her two young children, who she believed were outside her bedroom window. I would beg my mom to go back to bed and I would tell her, her children were not outside her window. I was paranoid to go to school. My mother would say things like, I will be dead on the floor, when you get home from school. I was terrified of losing her again. I lost interest in school because my life at home was dysfunctional beyond belief. At the age of 11 I was put in a reform school for not going to school. When I turned 16, I became a unwed teenage mom.
She became desperate and began using witchcraft. Seeking help from the devil. I told her that it was dangerous to seek the devil. You must pray to God and ask Him to help you. She said, she did, and it did no good. She hid her witchcraft books up in the closet and took them out only at night, when everyone was asleep. I was married at this time, and I was taking my daughter to school.
To my amazement there was 666 wrote across my windshield in red lipstick and up and down my windows. Satanic drawing in my driver seat. This was going on for a while. I was getting tired of cleaning my windows. I was determined to find out, who was doing this to me and why. One night, I was awakened by my mother talking and I heard a strange male voice talking back to her. I was curious of whom she was talking to at such a late hour. I peeked in her bedroom and she was sitting on the edge of the bed talking and the male voice I heard, stop. I went back to bed thinking; I will get up early and watch my car and just maybe I will see who is doing this. I waited in the kitchen in the dark.
While I was waiting, I hear my mother enter the room so I hid. She went out the back kitchen door. I ran to the back door to watch her. I was in shock, while my hands covered my mouth. I watch her write on my windshield and car windows. I gained the courage to ask, why are you doing this to me?
She responded, He made me do it.
Who made you do this? I asked. The devil, she said. He promised me, I could see my two children and my husband again. He lied to me. She wept in my arms. I asked her, can you describe what he looks like. She said, a tall handsome man. She told me, Beware! He is after you, he wants to kill you.
All I wanted was to see my two children and my husband again. I never wanted to hurt you. Will you forgive me. I told her yes. I loved her unconditional. I pleaded with her to stop using witchcraft. She always told me, she would. She was addicted to it. She wept in my arms like a frighten little child. That moment frightened me, of how desperate she was becoming.
My marriage was falling apart before my eyes. I kept having dreams of my frightening past. I would wake -up screaming. My husband changed towards me. He would work late hours and he avoided me at home. He did not approve of me being a Christian. I read the bible whenever he was asleep or at work. My dreams turned into nightmares that my husband whom I trusted and loved was going to kill me and our two daughters. I shook off the crazy dream.
My husband began to act strange towards me. My dreams kept warning me that my husband was planning to kill me. I decided to leave him. No matter how crazy it seemed. One cold January day, I waited on him to come home. I felt coldness and uneasy feeling sweep over me. I jumped up to leave. but, by that time, he was pulling up in his car. I sat back down. I remained calm. He was sweating and pacing the floor nervously. His deranged face was telling me to Beware! I calmly said, “I will come back another time.” He shouted, “you are not going to leave me!”
I planned for us to go away. I rose up from the chair I was sitting in and took my daughter and quickly went to the door. He left the room, then came back with a loaded 22 rifle in his hand. I jump out the front door, when I heard the first shot. He fired another shot, when I open my car door. I heard the third and final shot, when I heard my husband beg, please don’t leave me here to die. We are supposed to die together. I walked back in with caution. I found my husband on the floor with a gunshot wound to his abdomen.
I called 911 and left. I remember pulling over to the side of road, when the ambulance flew by me. I watched in my rear view mirror as the paramedics rushed in the house. Jesus stopped the devil in his tracks. Jesus sent dreams to prepare me and to save me and my children from death. My marriage ended in divorced. We are friends now and he is happily remarried.
The heart broken tragedy my mother suffered, caused me to suffered in many different ways too. I suffered from separation anxiety. I battled with the fear of being alone, darkness and nightmares. My mother left me again. But this time, death took her away. Her last words were as she smiled, my wish came true, I going to be with my children and my husband.
I never fully understood my mother’s pain until I lost her. I realized something, her wish did come true, she was now gone to be with the ones she loved so dearly. I was left behind devastated all over again. After my mother died, I had a dream, and she came to me. Val someday, I will come back for you and we will be together again. My worst fear was being alone. My childhood fear was a gripping stronghold on my mind. My fear attached itself to me, like a tick.
Jesus has shown me so many times, how much He cares and loves me. Jesus gently reminds, I will never leave you nor will I forsake you. I am a living testament to that. It doesn’t happen overnight. I have to trained myself daily to trust God. I pray to Jesus to help me get through a difficult day, when fear tries to take me back to my dark past. Jesus shows up to remind me of my bright future. I will keep believing; The best is yet to come. He blessed with the courage to write my story. It is still painful to share but I am getting better at it.
The good news is Jesus leaves His light on to let me know He is there. Glory to God, He will come and unlock the door as many times as He has to, to let me out. I am remarried with 3 grown children and my 4th child is 14 months old. I have three grandchildren. I thank Jesus every day for saving me, the last child.
My hope is for this testimony to bless and inspire, with love, Valerie Crader