I t was a nightmare within a nightmare.

The first nightmare: Her husband was missing in action. More than three weeks had passed since the telegram arrived, three weeks of haunted misery. Yes, she believed with all her heart that Abe was alive, but if so, where was he? Starving and tortured in a POW camp? It seemed the only possibility and it opened her imagination to images too horrible to contemplate.

Annie had forced herself to keep to her usual schedule, and that included “nachas visits” to her in-laws. They had once been such a source of pleasure: she’d loved watching Bubbe’s face light up as Mutty gobbled down the spaghetti and meatballs she’d cooked especially for her great-grandson, or Dora singing songs with the only child of her only child.

Now, though, they were especially painful. Her mother-in-law was a shell of her former self, absently hugging Mutty, but clearly thinking of the son she was convinced was dead, and even Bubbe, resilient, optimistic Bubbe, often shed tears.

Sitting in the Levines’ kitchen where Mutty was devouring a hunk of homemade chocolate cake, she once again heard the telephone ring, once again went to answer it.

Once again it was Papa on the line, with news of a telegram that had arrived for her.

A nightmare within a nightmare.

Should she race home in a taxi, as she’d done before? No, there was no point: whatever news Western Union had must be shared with Abe’s family without delay.

“Please read it, Papa,” she said quietly. Her heart was beating so hard she wondered if she would even hear him on the line.

A moment’s delay and then Papa, his voice thick with emotion, began to read:

THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY HAS ASKED ME TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR HUSBAND CAPTAIN ABRAHAM LEVINE WAS RETURNED TO U.S. MILITARY CONTROL IN BELGIUM AND WILL BE EVACUATED TO ENGLAND FOR MEDICAL ATTENTION. HE WILL BE RETURNED TO THE UNITED STATES BY SURFACE TRANSPORTATION WHEN IT IS MEDICALLY INDICATED. YOU WILL BE INFORMED OF HIS ARRIVAL DATE.

“He’s alive!” she screamed to Abe’s mother and grandmother, and then she was crying, laughing, hugging Dora and Bubbe, grabbing Mutty from his chair and dancing with him, sobbing onto Bubbe’s shoulder.

Now she could have the luxury of tears. Her Abie was coming home to her. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 542)