Most of us might recognize Rita Cosby from any number of news shows. For years, this celebrated and accomplished journalist has been uncovering facts and secrets behind some of the most important stories that have impacted our nation and world. Over the past two years, however, she’s been uncovering secrets a bit closer to home … namely, those of her father.
In her latest book, Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father’s Past, she tells a story of heroism, nationalism, faith and an undying will to survive. It’s a story that has been silenced for over 60 years and was only uncovered by the mistaken discovery of World War II relics packed away in the attic, found after her mother’s death. Below, read you can read an excerpt from Chapter 1. The loss of one parent and the discovery of another. In July, we’ll bring you a CCM exclusive interview with Rita and dive further into the story.
To learn more about Rita’s story or to purchase the book, visit quiethero.org. All proceeds from book sales will go to US troops and their families.
From Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father’s Past by Rita Cosby
“Your mother is slipping,” the nurse said. “She’s going to die soon.” I couldn’t breathe. I was minutes from going on the air. After a long silence, I finally found words and said, “I’ll get someone else to do the show. I’ll see if Geraldo can fill in.” “No,” the nurse said, “do the show. Your mother is here right now, pointing to the television. But I think this will be the last show your mother will see. Make sure it’s a good one.” The entire show was a blur. The only thing running through my head as I read off the news of the world was “my mother is watching and she is dying.” One of my producers called the hospital during every commercial break, and updated me through my earpiece. “Your mother is still watching. The nurse says she’s staring at the TV and smiling from her bed.” Immediately after we finished the show, I had a car ready to take me to her bedside. When I arrived, the nurse was waiting for me. “Your mother is a fighter,” she informed me. “She’s not going to die tonight, but just know she’s going to die soon.” My mom was sitting up in bed when I entered the room. I asked her if she’d seen my program. She beamed, her cheeks still rosy with life. “You should get some rest,” she told me, “you look tired.” My eyes filled with tears. I said, “I love you, Mom.” She replied, “I love you more.” It was the last thing I’d hear her say. Sometime that night she began to slip, and two days later she passed away.
Shortly after Mom died, Alan and I boxed up our mother’s belongings and put them all in storage. We decided to wait for a while before we tackled the process of going through the precious memories that were tucked away inside that unit. Neither of us was able to deal with the painful realization that our mother was truly gone. More than six years passed before I felt ready to delve into those relics. One fall weekend, I decided the time was right at last. I arrived at the storage facility feeling confident. I felt that I had come to terms with my mother’s death, and that time would have made this process less painful. But I was wrong—going through her old things was like reliving the pain of her illness all over again, like death by a thousand paper cuts. Pain that has been packed away, I discovered, is still astonishingly potent when reopened. I found myself surrounded by bits and pieces of her life, tasked with making the difficult decisions about what would stay and what would go. Each item I pulled from the containers ignited a new set of long-dormant emotions in me. I agonized over every little thing: clothing, letters, childhood toys. Without my mother here, even the tiniest keepsake took on a profound meaning, a memory I didn’t want to let go of. I had been sitting on the floor of that metal cage for a long time, fruitlessly trying to arrange the stuff into “keep” and “give away,” when I stumbled upon an old, tan suitcase I had never seen before. Inside were artifacts from another time, pieces of a life I’d never known. The case was full of my father’s memories—particularly remnants from the war. A worn Polish Resistance armband. Rusted tags with a prisoner number and the word “Stalag IV B.” And an ex-POW identity card, emblazoned with the name Ryszard Kossobudzki. I had lost my mother, and now I’d found pieces of a father I had never known. One thing I learned through my mother’s illness was that time is precious and fleeting. But why does it so often take adversity to connect with the ones we love? My mother was gone, and I still felt a deep and abject emptiness. Although he really wasn’t a part of my life anymore, my dad was still here. As I gazed into the suitcase at disconnected memories that only my father could bring clarity to, I couldn’t help but think that these relics could somehow bring clarity to our disconnected relationship and help mend my broken heart. How could I break down the wall that separated my father and me? How could I muster the courage to get to know him before it was too late? I’ve spoken with and investigated some of the most notable and notorious people on the planet, from Pope John Paul II to the Son of Sam, but standing there in the storage unit, confounded by these relics of my father’s life, I realized I had never really focused my investigative skills on my own past. What had happened to my father on his way to America? What kind of horrors had he endured? Why was he still a mystery to me? Who was Ryszard Kossobudzki?