Just after the First World War, my mother's cousin contracted polio at 7 years of age. I have to admit that my mother always referred to her as "my cousin" and I never really asked what her name was. So I will call her Maria, and I don't think Our Lady will mind too much if I use her name, for I am quite sure that Maria is now in heaven with her heavenly Mother.

Maria's family attended Mass every Sunday, and if Dad called "out of bed, Mass time" you would do well to listen to him. This is what happened one Sunday morning. Dad called, and everyone came down stairs, except for Maria. This was unusual! Again the father called for her to come down, but there was no reply and neither was Maria to be seen. He went upstairs, and there she was, still in bed and very still. Coming closer, she looked at him with big brown eyes and he realized she could not move for she was paralyzed from the neck down. He immediately called the doctor who examined her and admitted that he thought it was polio.

In those days not much was known about this sickness and many tests were performed on the little girl without her getting any better. She stayed in her bed for a few years, and one morning she told her parents that because nothing was known about this sickness, she wanted to donate her body to the doctors for experimentation to find a cure for this terrible disease.

She told them that it would be as a sacrifice for her eldest brother to become a priest. She endured many operations, and in the end her body was so deformed that she could not lay in a bed anymore. Large sheets were somehow attached from the ceiling in the form of a hammock and that is where she hung for the remainder of her life. She died at the age of 24.

However, it was not her eldest brother who became a priest, he became a policeman.  Her second eldest brother became the priest whom she so bravely gave her life for. As we can clearly see here that it is God Who does the calling, but it was her suffering which made it possible.

My mother's youngest sister was ready to enter the convent to become a nun. Her suitcases were packed ready to leave the next day. The night before she was invited by her girlfriend to a farewell party at the girls home. The brother of this girlfriend, who was in the Army, would leave the next day for Indonesia and the party was in his honor.

The soldier, Peter, somehow started talking to my auntie and the result was that she never entered the convent. While Peter was in Indonesia they started to correspond with one another and after he came out of the Army they were married.

My mother's youngest brother, who was also in the Army went to Indonesia at the same time as Peter. And by coincidence (or was it?) Maria's brother, who in the meantime had been ordained a priest also went as Army Chaplian.

At the end of the war my mother's brother was about to go home. He had been in Indonesia for 3 years and could not wait to see his fiancee and his family. Before he left for the airport he filled some containers with petrol as it was a long way to the airport and no where in between to fill up in case they ran out of petrol. As he was holding the container, someone lit a cigarette and the burning match hit the flow of petrol.

He was shocked and dropped the container resulting in the petrol spilling all over his body. Because of shock he started running and it took his fellow soldiers five miles of running after him before they finally caught him. His arms and legs were burned away, but he still lived for another 24 hours. Maria's brother, the priest was with him until the end. Later the priest told the family that his last hours had been continually spent in asking pardon and forgiveness of any wrong he had done to his parents, brothers, sisters fiancee and friends, and anyone he had ever been in contact with. He was 23 when he died.

Maria's brother buried him and his future brother in law stood at the grave holding the Holy Water for the blessings. Someone took a photo and gave this photo to each member of the family. My mother gave me that photo before she passed away and it stands now in an honor place in my living room.

Maria's brother became a missionary and spent his whole life in Kenya where he died at the age of 98.

I wonder how things would have turned out if Maria had not given her life for others. Just the fact that these three people, who in the end became related to one another, were there at the same time is a miracle on its own. My uncle who died such a painful death was comforted by his own cousin who administered to him the last rites.

The people in this true story are my relatives, and they all gave their lives for others. How good God is, and what He can do if we only let Him.
May they rest in peace!