Navemar – Nevermore

“…here is the deepest secret nobody  knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life, which grows

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”

—e.e. cummings – i carry your heart with me

My mom would have been eighty-five years old today.  Seven years of not calling her first thing in her morning to sing “Happy Birthday”, seven years without celebration, seven years since I chose a gift for her.  Seven years and I can still hear her voice.  No one calls me ‘schatzi’ anymore.

Make no mistake, mom was a complicated woman with more reasons than most for some of her challenging qualities.  She was beautiful for sure and  incredibly talented artistically, able to make a slab of marble breathe, mold clay that came to life in a kiln.  She sketched and painted and studied – movement and the human form, meadows caught in play with the wind.  And when she lost interest in the delight of pencil and sketch pad, something bigger than any result got lost.  She was a haunted soul.  Haunted by the impact of having life, when so many of her family were lost during the war.  Part of the ever-diminishing segment of the population who bore witness to the unimaginable horror of the Nazi occupation.  Plagued with trauma I can’t begin to imagine, nor really took the time to understand as completely as I should have.

My former brother-in-law wrote her obit for the New  York Times which made the brief tribute all the more personal.  Her parents took the family out of Austria shortly before the Anschluss, “..making their way first to Belgium and then through occupied France.  the family made its way to Portugal, where on August 6, 1941, they found passage among 765 other refugees on the Spanish freighter Navemar – one of the last voyages of escapees from Europe.  [Her] children and grandchildren bear in their hearts eternal, existential gratitude for her family’s valor and persistence…Our family is particularly gladdened that [she] lived long enough to know of the safe return..of her eldest grandson…from Iraq, where for the past year he has served in harm’s way the country that gave his grandmother safe haven.”

The stories of the Navemar’s voyage are beyond the pale.  A freighter that was never intended to hold more than 30 people.  The horror was unspeakable and a subject of articles written by those far more knowledgeable than me.  My mom was fourteen when she arrived at Ellis Island.

I don’t know about why one journey ends and another begins.  Maybe dad left to make sure that my son would come home.  Perhaps mom left once she knew he was here and that all her grandchildren were present and accounted for.  All I know is that some days are far harder than others, and I suppose they should be.  It is the movement of the human form – the bend in the head, the tear rolling to the chin, the beating of the heart that carries so, so much.

68 thoughts on “Navemar – Nevermore

  1. “Like” does not do this justice. I love this. What a beautiful tribute and story. To have seen so much by 14, your mother sounds like an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Oh where to begin…first Happy Birthday to your beautiful mother..her picture is gorgeous. Your words, your tribute are equally beautiful. To put into words all that her life was, all that it contained is something only you could do. Life without our mothers is such a dividing point in time, and so today is for you too. I am without words for the rest of how I feel, the magnitude of it all…and I am so glad you wrote this, for I feel it gives me a little bit more of you. xoxo and hugs, and more xoxo

    • Thank you Bonnie..thank you..I don’t know that I really did her justice – there is so much that goes into a life – her childhood and adolescence surely..her orientation to the US another part, my dad, her circle of friends, etc…And I suppose that is as it should be – for there are so many chapters that comprise one’s story. I love your comments and feel so warmed by them..thank you and hugs and xox and more right back to you..

  3. What a loving triibute. Sending you cyber hugs with a little extra squeeze today. How proud she would be. As you are in my heart always, no further words need be said…

  4. Mimi…you just took my breath away this time. I don’t think I had ever seen the cummings poem. So appropriate. I would think that she endured all she did in order to bring such a loving, special daughter in to this world. My thoughts are with you. Sending love.

  5. Mimi, that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart and your mother’s story. I stand in awe of the sheer strength of will and determination to live that your mom, and others who endured painful, heart wrenching voyages, have.

    • It really is impossible to fathom the reality of her life as a young girl and the lives of millions of others who were subjected to incredible hardship, tested in ways that humanity should never be tested. Thank you Laurie..

  6. So touching and beautiful. It is amazing what humans can endure and still be loving, nurturing people. I am carrying your mom in my heart today, and thankful that even with all she suffered, she brought you into this world and into my life. Lots of hugs and kisses coming your way today.

  7. This was so touching I am a lucky woman as I stil have both my parents and one grandparent and I am fast approaching 50 myself………I do not know how I will cope without my mum she is my best friend………………….all I can say is you know she is watching over you………….

  8. OHHH Mimi my friend…’Twinkie”. I love your post. Momma’s should be here ‘forever’. I have nominated you for ‘The Addictive Blog Award’. Oh yes, you deserve this one hands down. Have a wonderful weekend. visit me… http://www.positiveboomer.net. for more information. YOU Rock!! 🙂 Renee

    • I am embarrassed by your largesse Twink!! I am going to respond to your incredible generosity today!! Thank you thank you..and I think you’re pretty awesome yourself..me ‘-)

  9. I can not imagine the horrors your mom must have experienced. It is more that a bit scary to me how quickly things can be forgotten in just a generation or two – how vast that time seems when it is really not more than a breath or two ago. I thank you for sharing this.

    A beautiful post, my friend, simply beautiful.

    • Thank you Lane, I too can’t begin to understand all she went through in her young life. And I fret too – about how quickly the collective conscience makes room for new horror instead of learning from and remembering our past..

  10. Much that I would say has been said, but this beautiful, haunted woman added more joy to the world than she likely would have ever felt or allowed herself to feel. The fact that she found your father, brought you and your sisters into a world of love from horror and pain; seeing her grandchildren thrive and survive…is a miracle in itself. Thank you for sharing her with us Mimi. I could only hope to show my mother the same respect.
    xo
    R

  11. I read this on a morning when the photo of my daughter and my mother beckons my vision and my thoughts so earnestly. This morning when I recall the day she left us, her heart beating its last in that distant hospital bed. This morning as I too remember a voice–the voice of my oma–murmuring, “Schatz. Schatz, komm mal hier.” Voices echo warmly, insistently in my heart this morning. Which has been the perfect morning to read your thoughts, your memories. And to thank you for sharing them.

    • Your magnificent words brought tears to my eyes George..the immediate understanding of these terms of endearment, these intimate words spoken to us by our oma – yours and mine. The tenderness that makes the heart beat – and ache. Thank you for your generous, beautiful message.

    • Hi Sharon, Yours is the first comment I read this morning, and I thank you so much. Her story (like so many) resonates within me all the time. If we as one world could learn from such horrendous history, perhaps we wouldn’t be destined to repeat it. I’m so glad you stopped by – and thank you for reading so many of my posts. This morning, I am going to visit your site and I’m looking forward to it!

  12. Your tribute to your mother was very moving to me… I too experienced a part of that story, and know about the scars that stay with you after watching a world collapse, as a child… as helpless… Though I didn’t know her, I feel a consolation in the knowledge that she managed to get to America, and start life over… and enjoy her grandchildren, as well as her children. That is a great consolation.

    • It warms my heart to think that I have offered you some consolation Shimon, for you offer your readers so much with your thoughts and pictures. My mother loved America with a fierceness that is difficult to describe and loved her children and grandchildren beyond measure. I don’t think she began life anew, but she did manage to extend her story so that it could contain joy and love and laughter.

  13. Wow! Since I have just started the grieving process-my Dad passed in August-this post really touched me. I especially like the line;
    “All I know is that some days are far harder than others, and I suppose they should be.”
    Really sums it up for me right now.

    • I am so sorry to read of your dad’s passing..I don’t know when one gets to the end of this process. My dad has been gone for nine years; mom for seven – and the pain is still impossible. The difference I suppose is that time allows you to put that sorrow in a place in your heart for safe-keeping, allowing you to celebrate the wonder of life and feel joy. And when you need to, you visit your sorrow and your memories with greater control over those visits..I wish you time and space and comfort and always love..

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