I knocked on the door and my sister opened it tears immediately brimming her eyes to see me standing there, opened the screen door and stepped out into my arms and began to cry. We just held onto each other. It had been so long.
I had last seen her at our mom’s funeral. For Hilda my mom and dad became hers when she arrived to become part of our family the month before she turned 17. I was 13.
She’d been raised in a difficult, challenging home environment, in charge of caring for and raising younger siblings as a five year old. There were other challenging aspects to that life– abuse, field work, drugs.
My mom and dad were asked by their good friend at the mental health hospital where Hilda had been staying, to take her under their wings. My parents had big hearts. I remember the conversation mom and dad had had with me at dinner one night about the idea, and I was game to have another older sibling.
Hilda told me about the day my mom and dad showed up at the hospital:
“My doctor came and said there was a couple here to meet me. She led me to the table where Jean and Burt sat. I remember Burt asking after introductions, ‘Hilda, what would you like in a home?'”
“I answered, ‘Conversations around the dinner table, love and my own room.”
“Burt responded, ‘We can provide that.'”
She arrived on a day in August. I had been at the pool swimming and when I was hanging up my towel saw Hilda looking out the window from her new bedroom in her new home. She waved and smiled this great smile. I waved back and smiled showing my silver-capped front tooth. This moment is engraved in both of our minds.
This began our friendship which went deep fast. We talked daily for hours. We were Friends and Siblings. She finished high school in two years and began college at the local campus. She lived with us for a while and then moved into an apartment. But still was around lots. By the time I was 17 she’d moved further away and then would be around when I was gone.
So really our last major conversation was then more than forty years back. She and her partner Claire cane for dad’s funeral in 1982. She and my mom visited once when our girls were young in 1993. Then I saw her at mom’s funeral in 2000 but our lives were separated by miles and other distances.
She would say also by shame. Hilda got into drugs and they got ahold of her and she felt ashamed to be in touch. Last time I was talking to my cousin about her, Chris had said that Hilda and a friend had dropped by years back and driven away in a bad state. “I fear she might be dead,” Chris told me.
I feared for her too. I had been praying for Hilda for years –That we’d hear from her; That she would come back.
It was three days after Easter 2019 that I received my first text. When I saw it, I cried. I was so grateful. What a resurrection miracle. She had come back from the dead. She who was lost had been found. The coolest thing was that she was not only back but wanted relationship again. She was living in Ensenada.
We sent so many texts back and forth over the months. Hilda had been robbed many times and all her documents had been taken. She found one tattered copy of her birth certificate to cross the border. In October she made the 33 hour train trip up from San Diego. Then made contact.
On that day I knocked at her friend’s door where she was staying we spent six hours together. Nonstop conversation. I exclaimed our story to one barista who was so thrilled and said, “Hey thanks for coming here as part of the celebration.”
Hilda told me that one of her most treasured possessions, taken by the robbers, was a white bible mom had given her. Mom had inscribed in the front cover, “If I could give you one gift, it would be faith in God. Love Jean.”
Faith. “I would read that inscription so many times, I suppose I should have read the Bible too,” she laughed, “but the inscription meant so much. And her prayers got answered. I finally got turned around.”
Indeed she has returned. After losing everything, she had found Jesus waiting arms wide open.
Celebrating such immense answered prayers.