These are my musings and observations on my daily life, loves and the laughter that are all a part of my experience of living now in the shires of England.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Fingernail scratches

It is surprising where a simple conversation will lead.

What started with the onslaught of seasonal hay fever ended with holidays in Scarborough.

The route between the two points was, however, painful at times.

A hot morning walk meant singlet and shorts for me. But I was chilled at times during the conversation despite the heat outside.

I was talking with a fairly new acquaintance about … life, really. He started telling me that he was off on holiday to Scarborough and how unusual it was for him to stay in the country for a holiday as he usually travels abroad with his wife. Pleasant memories were shared about visits to countries such as Italy and Croatia. Then as he continued to share the delights of his many recent excursions his face fell slightly, as he remembered two visits: the first hint of sadness came as he recalled when his wife was mugged in Barcelona, and the second was a memorable but harrowing visit to Poland. He said it was a land of great beauty and sadness.

With hesitation he suggested that if I ever got the chance that I should visit the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland. “Nobody ever visits that place and comes out of it without some emotional shift,” he said with his eyes cast downwards onto the path.

“My wife,” he offered, “she broke down when she saw the children’s dolls.”

As he paused to gain the courage to continue I could see him transporting himself back to that location and peering through the buildings of horror.

“For me,” he said, “for me it was the gas chambers that did it.”

A hard swallow followed those words.

I waited in still silence because there was no expression that could fill that space. I kept my gaze on his face and saw the shifting moods in his eyes, in his cheekbones and in his lips: they quivered a bit.

“What got me,” he continued, “were the fingernail scratches on the walls of the gas chambers, that’s what got me.”

Then we were both silent for a while. He was reliving it and I was imagining it. The silence continued as the birds around us chirped without concern for our words.

Man’s inhumanity to man.

Evident in so many places.

Those people herded into those gas chambers were struggling to hang on to life as the gas destroyed their fragile frames. They reached out to the most solid thing that they could in an effort to hold on.

As I look at life today I wonder what we do when things get tough. Who or what do we hold on to? Will this structure or person support and sustain us?

Our lives are like smoke in the wind. We are in a much better situation of health and freedom than our fellow humans who were forced into the gas chambers so we should use our life to make good choices to bring health and happiness to each other and not to extend pain and sorrow. That’s what I think anyway.

The horror has occurred, we should not forget. Horrors still happen every day.

To gain some balance on this journey through life we should make the most of our lives today because the embers that produce our vitality will fade away in time.

One thing I learn anew each day is that it is important to make and keep good connections with people. Firstly connect to yourself then expand the circle of love. Love starts within and spreads like the ripples in water.

People are strength to the spirit. People are joy to the heart. People are living today, just like me.


P.D. Gourlais said...

Thanks for mentioning this story about the Gas Chambers. It's stories from survivors and visitors to Auschwitz that will help us remember and to not forget that Love is the ultimate gift we can extend to another human being. In contrast, the camp in Poland is evidence of what happens when we largely lose sight of Love. This must have been heart wrenching to hear of his personal account upon his visit to Auschwitz. I really like what you wrote at the end of this piece about people. Thanks for being one of those people who extends light around you and gives time and energy to those you care for. You are wonderful. xo Peedee

Marj said...

You are so right, love is the ultimate gift.

Thank you.
M xx

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