On the 10th wedding anniversary of the parents: wedding of the parents, Antoinette plays the pastor
Part 1 - French Switzerland
Antoinette with three of her four sisters
The Five Sisters in the Mountains
Antoinette leafed through a photo album of her childhood, which immediately awakened memories and joy within her: “This is my oldest sister, Claudine. She was also born in January, a year before my twin sister, Marianne and I. The three of us were very close. Marianne and I looked so much alike that even our parents sometimes confused us. When I was cheeky, my father sometimes accidentally gave Marianne a clap. Our personalities were very different; while I insisted on my will and could get loud quickly, Marianne was always level-headed and a calm girl. Particularly striking was her strong faith, which she expressed in early childhood through regular prayer and reading of the Bible. Before her 10th birthday, she had read the entire Bible and was convinced that one day she would become a missionary in Africa. She prayed a lot for that; she really seemed particularly close to Yeshua (Jesus). I also remember how she sometimes admonished me to have more respect of our parents and listen to them.” Antoinette laughs and her face reflects great joy.
She continues enthusiastically: “My parents told us that they only learned about us twins when we were born! I still don't know if they were serious. I mean, they must have known about it, my father was a doctor... But that's how we tell the story in our family. The little baby here is Isabelle; she came a few years after us. And in this photo is our great-grandmother with Claire, the fifth in the group. Together we had a very happy childhood."
Antoinette Brémond was born in the French part of Switzerland in January 1927. After a year, the family moved from the city of Genève to the small village of Chesiéres, which lies at 1200 meters above sea level. Her father worked there in the middle of the mountains as a country doctor. Her parents were both protestant Christians, which is why Antoinette enjoyed a Christian upbringing. She tells me about many childhood memories, such as a secret language she invented, plays for Christmas and other occasions, of how the girls were sometimes allowed to visit their grandmother for a few days at their luxurious estate (she was of noble descend), and how they prayed together as a family each night.
Antoinette describes her parents as very loving: “They always had love for each other and for us. Every Sunday we children had to go on a small “excursion” with the father in the mountains - regardless of the weather. Sometimes we climbed the rock or stayed in a hut overnight. Meanwhile, mother could rest a little.”
"The Last Story"
Antoinette shows me a special picture. I don't know exactly what she means when she says it's the last story. She explains: “Once, my mother said that she could have had ten years of pure happiness in her marriage. A decade, since we were twins ten years old, when we went skiing in the mountains on May 16. Here you see Marianne. You know the story ... " Antoinette's face suddenly becomes very serious and after a short pause she continues, "... the story of Grand Saint-Bernard?
On the ski tour we passed this monastery, which we originally wanted to visit. My mother was actually too tired, but Marianne had dreamed of the St. Bernard rescue dogs the night before and now insisted on looking at the dogs. She hurried on ahead, over the little hill behind which the monastery lay. Only when we got to the top of the hill, did we have a view of the monastery and Marianne, but we couldn't see what was going on there. My father was with her already, but we still didn't quite understand ... was he feeding the dogs? Only when we got closer did we realize that the dogs had attacked Marianne and at that moment they started attacking us. They were usually locked away before visitors arrived, but this time they had been forgotten. My parents defended us with the ski poles and finally we were able to flee to the monastery. I don't know how much time passed, maybe five minutes or an hour, before my father came to us and said: "Marianne est morte" (Marianne is dead). My parents cried ...", there is peace on Antoinette's face as she remembers, "In these moments I felt a very, very strong love of my parents for me."
The family stayed in the monastery overnight and ended the ski tour the next day. On the way home, Antoinette's younger sisters kept asking for Marianne. Even her baby sister kept calling for her: “Manna! Manna! Manna!” (Marianne). Then Antoinette remembers many people, the preaching of her uncle, and above all, lots of flowers...
She continues: “During this time Claudine and I walked together to our sister's grave every day, which was about 45 minutes away. On the way I kept hearing people on the street saying, "This is her twin sister!" Even my father said to me that if he looked at me, he would see Marianne. We only wore black for a year and got a lot of visitors. From that point on, we started to pray more as a family, and in general, our faith grew stronger.”
Antoinette's niece was named after Marianne and has also received an exceptionally strong faith. One day she visited the monastery for two days. When she stood in front of it, she began to praise God. The monks found out who she was and asked for forgiveness. But Antoinette's father was never angry in his heart at the monastery.
The twins in the snow
To be continued...
At the age of 14, Antoinette and Claudine attended secondary school. For this, the two had to move back to Genève, where they lived with different relatives. The two sisters could only go home one weekend a month, which was very difficult for them.
Antoinette says: “I grew up in a Christian family, but at 17 I wanted faith to play a larger role in my life. I had the impression that it was good to do what Marianne wanted, which she could no longer do. So, I wrote to my parents that I would become a missionary in Africa instead of Marianne.”
Antoinette also wrote to a mission society in Paris that the Lord had called her on a mission. She didn't really want to, but she still wanted to be obedient. Antoinette received a refusal on the grounds that she was not yet ready for the mission. Upon hearing that, she was quite relieved. Antoinette later studied natural science at the university. She says slyly: “I just wanted to find a job that would make it impossible to send me on a mission. In my imaginations, missionaries were always single. But I had met someone I wanted to marry…I wanted a family."
Life Goes On
On the way to the ski tour, May 16