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Love Message on a Sign Board

My late husband, Benny, passed away from a sudden massive heart attack some years ago. We met during the last year of WWII in 1945 when he was a 2nd lieutenant in the 8th Air Force stationed in England. He was 18 and I was nearly 16.

When he returned to the U.S., we corresponded with each other for three years, sharing our love of poetry as well as other subjects of interest. But I eventually stopped writing and became engaged to a man named Peter near my 18th birthday. Benny also had got engaged to an American girl named June.

One evening, Peter, my fiancé and I were returning home from an evening out when I suddenly said to him that I had received a letter from the young U.S. airman I had told him about. The letter said that his mother and sister had invited my mother and me to visit them in Michigan. Immediately I thought : WHY DID I SAY THAT? It was untrue and I cared about Peter and had no desire to make him jealous. Exactly one week later I did receive a letter from Benny with that exact invitation from his family.

We went to the U.S. for one month. Benny and I were together from morning to night for that month in Michigan, and both realised in our hearts that we belonged together. He said he wrote that letter inviting us to visit, desperately trying one more time to get in touch with me. Letters took one week to reach England and we both were convinced that somehow I had picked up on his strong emotions at the time he wrote it.

It was the right decision. We were later married for thirty nine very happy years, and were blessed with two lovely daughters who gave us six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

One of the poems Benny and I exchanged during our correspondence was Elizabeth Browning's beautiful "How do I love thee, let me count the ways." I had been widowed for seven years after his sudden heart attack and was living in England. One day, a friend and I were driving through the center of a busy town, talking of poetry we liked, and I said, "Benny and my favourite poem was Elizabeth Browning`s poem…" and just as I started to quote the lines, we passed one of those electronic boards that advertise Pepsi drinks or brands of cars, etc. As we passed, the words "How do I love thee, let me count the ways," flashed over the board for just one split second, then returned to the usual advertisement.

I asked my friend if she saw it too, wondering if I had imagined it. She looked rather stunned because she had read it too. The last line of the poem is . . . "And, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death." How can I not see it as a sign from Benny?

June Benedict

Posted June 7, 2011