I have come again to the Isle of Ancestors, for recent events have made it imperative that I do so.
My ferrywoman, the strong and capable Maeve, rows me across the bay. She senses a change in me.
“The last time you came, there were gaps and mysteries in your ancestry,” she said. “I take it some of those gaps have been filled now?”
“Yes,” I said. “And there is something I have to know.”
“I hope the island can provide the answer for you.”
I was so impatient I slipped getting out of the boat and splashed up to my waist in water. Maeve, laughing, helped me to my feet and sent me on my way up the beach.
At the apple grove, I squeezed the sea water out of my skirt as best I could, and then hurried on to the stone doorway.
The scene was just the same as before – the great hall, the dying fire in the centre, a hooded figure seated nearby. But as I sat down and said, “Greetings ancestor”, this time I knew it would be very different.
The hands that drew the hood back from the shadowed face were my mother’s hands – I knew them so well. The face that smiled down at me was my mother’s face – her eyes, her mouth, her thick wavy black hair.
But it was not my mother – it was my grandmother Hilda, whom I had never met in life.
“I knew,” I said. “I knew you would be here.”
“I’ve waited a long time for this myself,” she said. She clasped my hands in hers, and I told her what she was longing to hear – about my mother, the baby she had been forced to give up for adoption, the daughter she had searched all her life. Her story was a sad one, but common for the times she was born into, when young mothers were still ruthlessly separated from their children and told they would `get over it’. No woman should ever be punished for having a child. Hilda had never gotten over it. Finally freed to marry the man she loved, she and he had gone on searching for their child, longing to be reunited with her.
Tears flowed down Hilda’s face as we talked, that face that was so like my mother’s. The photograph we had been said showed a still young woman overshadowed by a sadness she could never escape. Now, as the tears flowed, I prayed her soul would be at peace. But there was one question I needed her to answer.
“Grandmother, many years ago – before we knew about you – my daughter spoke to a medium, who said there was a guardian spirit watching over us. All she could say was that it was an older woman, a shadowy figure – a grandmother. We weren’t certain who she meant until we saw your photo. Have you been with us all this time, and we didn’t know?”
Hilda wiped away her tears. “I never stopped looking for my daughter,” she said, “and when I found her, I could not leave her again.”
The gift we gave each other was something precious beyond price – a first and only embrace – until we meet again.