The old bakery at Vaalserquartier
The Nada Chronicles, part 5
© Hans Brockhuis ~ 2001 ~ Translation: Mirjam Coumans BA
Today is June 10th, 1824 and I’m going to write down the story of my life. The reason being a vision I had during the past night. In my dream Lady Nada appeared for me the second time in my life. She urged me to write it down before my life on this earth is over. That cannot be long, because I am very ill and have to stop all the time because I cough so much. I am not afraid of dying anymore, because Lady Nada has told me that my loved ones who are already there will welcome me. I will get plenty of time to recover from all the negative experiences I have had during my life.
My name is Thila Eldern and it is early in the morning. I see the sun slowly rising in the east. It sets aglow the side of Vaalserberg hill . I love this view, which reminds me a bit of the hills in the French part of the Southern Netherlands, where I was born. That memory is the only thing that connects me to that world. My German husband Jochem, who is a baker in the tiny village of Vaalserquartier, close to the border with Holland and Belgium, is working in his bakery. Jochem married me four years ago. Not because he much cared about me, but – as a widower – he was in need of a housewife to keep his bakery, his clothes and his house clean. Because of social reasons, he was afraid to hire a housekeeper and let her live with him, a bachelor.
By the way, Jochem shows the better of him now I am this ill. He has called for a Dutch doctor, who diagnosed me with Tuberculosis. The man cannot do very much for me and told me I am going to die soon. On top of that, Jochem made sure that his unmarried sisters Hannelore and Madelina keep me company now and then. They take turns doing the housekeeping and in my condition that is a great relief, because even writing down these words is very tiresome for me and I have to stop often.
I just have had to cough very badly again and will nonetheless go on writing. I started and I want to finish it too. I was born on August 19th, 1769 in the small town of Farciennes in the Southern Netherlands (Now Wallonia, Belgium). The name I was given at birth is Thila Labruyère. I had four brothers and a sister, Julie, who was my favourite. In my early years of childhood, she and I were always together. My father and my brothers all worked in the mine around the corner. Since my mother was suffering from a heart disease, we as daughters had to do the housekeeping from a very young age on. From the beginning, as during the rest of my life, the choices were made fór me and I have always depended on others. That was not always easy, but nothing prepared me for the horrors that waited for me, especially the ones in 1794.
Of course I have never forgotten the appearance of the Lady on the hill near Farciennes. What did she say to us again?
“My dear children. I want to speak with you about Love. Know that very soon a few things will occur that have a character of hatred, resentment and distress.” And she also said: “I advise you two that what will happen is not to be prevented, but always try to keep the Love in your Hearts, also and especially for your foes. Try to show compassion to those foes and thus show them Love, Oneness and the power of a good Heart that will finally overcome.”
More and more I realize now that back then we didn’t really have a clue as to what we had coming. On top of that, mother had already died the year before and on that dreadful day in June 1794, we suddenly were so terribly alone that I almost committed suicide. The only thing that stopped me was the care for my sister. Three days later, when I came home from a visit to the pastor, who had given me a lump of bread, I discovered the soulless body of Julie, lying in a puddle of blood on the floor of our small kitchen. My world fell apart and I cried and screamed and yelled until all went black and I didn’t know anything anymore.
The next thing I remember is the grin on the unshaved face of a rude soldier in a tent, who looked down at me and said something to me in a foreign language. Again all went black and when I woke up the second time, it was dark in the tent. I looked around and noticed I was lying in a corner on a mattress. On a field bed in the middle of the tent someone was snoring noisily. I was scared, very afraid and I thought back on the past days, when it became clear that neither father nor any of my brothers would come back to our little house. Everyone in the village knew that there had been a heavy battle near Fleurus, ten kilometres to the north and that there were many dead to mourn. And yes, one had to fear that none of the members of my family would ever return from the battlefield.
Oddly enough, back in that tent I had no more tears left. The death of my little sister and the fact that my father and brothers had gone missing seemed to be incidents that had occurred to others. Had that fantastic lady, who assured me to be always near not visited me on the hilltop, and told me to love my enemies? So far her advice had not been any good, for here I was, God knows where, in a tent with a snoring stranger. On top of that I had to go to the bathroom and I was tied down.
With great effort I rose up to go outside, but the noise woke the man and I heard him say: “bonjour,” with a heavy accent. I turned around and looked in the brown eyes of the soldier. I told him I had to go outside to relieve myself and showed him my tied hands. He smiled, shrugged and signed with his arm I could go. In bad French he made clear to me that I should not try to run away. Although it was June, it poured outside and a frosty wind was blowing. I had to cough and after I had relieved myself under the lustful look of a guard, I quickly returned to the tent. I shivered, I was cold and I was scared.
To make a long story short, I appeared to be in the ‘custody’ of a company of Prussian soldiers who had fought in the Fleurus battle. There were a number of casualties and Sergeant Bachwerder was leading this shabby troupe. I was forced to serve the needs of the soldiers, as was another girl, Dorette, who was from Charleroi. The first time I satisfied one of the soldiers was a nightmare and all the following times weren’t any better. Bachwerder himself never touched me but still he allowed others to do just that. During the day we had to wash their clothes and do all kinds of other chores, and furthermore I felt ill.
Slowly the company pulled back to Prussia-land along the river Meuse. The weather did not improve at all. My cough attacks got worse and increased in number. More dead than alive, and under the threatening looks of the soldiers I dragged myself along. With each step I got further away from the familiar environment of Farciennes and I got even more discouraged. I could not cry. It was as if this did not really happen, and I hoped and prayed that everything would be all right in the end. Of course I knew that I could not get Julie back but even though I knew better, I kept hoping.
When we arrived in the city of Huy, where we were stationed in the garrison on the ‘wall,’ the weather improved and my health got a little better as well. Bachwerder tried to teach me his language and by the time we arrived in Aix la Chapelle (Aachen, they say here), I could have a simple conversation in the German language. Madame Hanna Bachwerder took me in as a housekeeper without pay, and gradually I became familiar with daily life in the big city. It took a long while for me to start feeling at home a little bit and I kept feeling that gnawing uncertainty about the well being of my family and the memories of that horrible time in Farciennes. That is why I did not long for what was my home, because what would I find there? Others would certainly inhabit our house by now. None of my family seemed to be alive anymore. I got more and more convinced of that as I gradually was getting used to the atmosphere in the house of Hanna and Heinrich Bachwerder.
One day there was a knock on the door and there was a man calling whom I did not recognize at first. He said in French: “Bonjour Thila, on est là.” I was startled. Could it really be true? “Pierre,” I stammered, “is that really you?” I had a lot to tell my brother. He confirmed that we were the only ones of the family who had survived the battle near Fleurus. The Dutch had robbed him of his freedom as well. He had been imprisoned in Delft, but escaped and had gone back to Farciennes, where he heard about the sad fate of our family.
He had started wandering again and found out where I stayed and had finally found me. Of course I wanted him to stay. I did not feel the need to go back with him to Farciennes because the wounds were too deep for that. Pierre told me with certain repentance in his voice that he could not stay. Wandering had pleased him and thus he had visited many cities. He liked it so much that he could not bring himself to go on further with me. Bitterly I thought to myself that he could have but did not want to. Thus it happened that Pierre disappeared from my life anew, after being together for more than a month. It had been good to speak my own language again with him, but it was clear that he was elsewhere with his thoughts and in a way I was relieved when he left. I watched him as he disappeared around the corner, he waved his handkerchief once more and I never saw him again. I’m sure he saw many countries, cities and towns and most of all the female inhabitants.
However, life went on. I did the housekeeping and in the evenings I talked to Mrs. Bachwerder while we did needlework. Heinrich had left the Service after the war and worked some blocks away as a broker. His business went well; for he and his wife wore the best clothes, but for me there never was any pay. The few times I carefully asked, they told me in a friendly but stolid way that I should be grateful they gave me food and a roof over my head and that I could not wish for more.
During all these years I dared not call my soul my own, until Jochem Eldern came into my life and everything changed. He was a baker in the city, but after the death of his wife, a good year earlier, he had been looking for a bakery of his own, and for a housekeeper. He was sick with grief over his Mathilde (my baptised name is Mathilde as well) and thus actually did not want to marry. It just happened to be not socially acceptable to have a housekeeper alone living in. But above all, he wanted to leave the big city to get rid of the memories of his wife.
Jochem was friends with Heinrich, Bachwerders eldest son, and one day he asked father Heinrich to give his housekeeper – me – to him. Hanna and Heinrich talked it over and concluded they could miss me now because their children had left the house for years already. From the beginning it was clear that as usual my opinion did not count. Thus it befell that in the winter of 1820, in front of the Bachwerders, Jochem asked me to marry him. I was confused. At first sight it seemed he really cared about me and I stammered yes without realizing what that meant. The marriage took place on March 20th 1820. Not in the cathedral of course, but in an insignificant little church with almost no audience and in a self-made wedding dress. Heinrich and Hanna were there, as well as some passers-by who happened to have been attracted by the chiming of the bell in the wooden tower, and Jochems parents.
From now on I was Mrs. Eldern and the next day we left on foot for Vaalserquartier, a settlement I never heard of before. Actually it is a suburb of Vaals, a small town on the other side of the border, but fact was he could run his own business here and I was good enough to take care of his food, drinks and house. In short, life like I had known in Aix-la-Chapelle was continued almost seamless here. The only difference was I had to share the bed of my husband from now on, which was more of an obligation than a pleasure, although the man was not very interested in my little person.
That was four years ago. My health did not improve with the climbing of the years. In the past winter, which was very cold again, my coughing attacks, which actually never really stopped, busted out very severely. Now I am at the end of my life and I have the chance to write down the words of Lady Nada like she spoke them to me last night in the vision I mentioned earlier:
“Hello dear Thila. Again I come to you and today I will tell you a very beautiful tale. It is a tale about peace with and within yourself, about Love, intelligence and the bond between here and there. It is so beautiful the way you are listening to me, who comes to you from another dimension, where we feel very specially supported by your effort. There is so much light around you. A golden column of light is shining from the top of your head, far into the universe, where it can be seen by many beings. The seeds of courage, power, trust and foremost of love that have been planted by you, are being felt at great distances in the universe.
“It is also important to know that it is always good to raise your inner purity to a grade of perfection that allows you to do, that which you expected to do with your life, before you came into this life. To realize that it is good to be honest with yourself and others. It is important as well to try and push the purity of body and mind to a high grade of perfection in order to reach an inner enrichment of your mortality and thus of your immortal soul. And that, dear Thila, you have realized unconsciously. In spite of all the hardship you had to endure in your life, you have still kept my message in your heart. Peace with yourself, in spite of all the attacks of your enemies, and that in relation to everyone. That is why I - and many others with me - are tremendously grateful to you.
“From the beginning you have been true to the understanding that God asked of you to acknowledge the Godly spark within you and continue to the fulfilment of that what is really important for the progress of your and everyone’s soul. You always have kept the thought alive that you would never do onto others what you did not want them to do to you. That brought love in your own life, so that you have been able to bring love in the life of others. By continuing on the path you started on, you became a happy person without realizing it. Still you will become much happier, but that is going to be in the other life to which you are being called now.
“You have always given unconditional values to others by giving them a smile. By bringing joy in the life of others, by behaving like a human who enjoys life herself and who has joy left to share, you have really done that, although for the most part inadvertently. It was not always easy, especially during the times your illness came forth, and when you were unsure. But even then, and just then also, you kept alive the love you experienced for others, for humans and animals. A love you have felt yourself on the moments you were allowed to savour the euphoria of happiness.”
“For all this, dear Thila, we thank you, because despite everything, you almost always managed to practice the message I gave to you thirty years ago. Again I tell you that I know that it has not always been easy, because your earthly body abandoned you often and many have not respected that body. Therefore, dear Thila, you are now so tired and ill. We thus invite you to lay down this exhausted body. It will do you good though, to write down a few lines and leave an account in your own words of everything that happened during these thirty years. It will help others to stand up against the difficulties and bad luck they find on their paths with the same courage. To let them realize that for them eventually the love, peace and light will overcome as well. Soon we will come for you, my dear Thila. Your mother Agnes will be there and of course your little sister, Julie, to wait for you and to take you in their arms.”
“I thank you, dear Thila, for this life full of value(s) and now I recommend you to God the Father in his Love.”
That was last night. It was quite a tale and I am surprised that I am able to write it down almost literally. When I heard all those compliments I actually was a little proud of myself. I had not realized that apparently I did well enough after all. Fact is, I never forgot the words this lady spoke way back in 1794 and now I realize that evidently I have unconsciously germinated the seed she planted in me back then.
Again I had a severe coughing attack.
Worse than all others and I am so tired that I cannot write
on. That is not necessary anyway, because the tale has been
told. I will now fold up the papers and put them under my pillow,
where Jochem will find them. I am not afraid to die anymore
and I look forward to see my dear Julie again…
St. Pietersberg Hill