Remembrance with Tears – The Darkest of Times…

‘Tell me there’s a heaven
Where all those people go
Tell me they’re all happy now,
Papa tell me that it’s so.’
Chris Rea

Holocaust survivors have returned to Auschwitz to lay wreaths to commemorate the 1.1 million people who died there during the second world war.

Ninety percent of those murdered at Auschwitz were Jewish.

This year Holocaust Memorial Day marked 75 years since the mass murder camp was liberated by Soviet troops and 7,000 prisoners were freed. However, almost half of these people would die as they were too ill, starving or exhausted to survive.

Ahead of the liberation, the Nazis blew up the last of the furnaces/gas chambers they had used so monstrously at Auschwitz. They then moved 60,000 prisoners westwards to other camps. Many of them died on these Death Marches. The Nazis knew that the arrival of the Russian Army was imminent and were trying to destroy evidence of their heinous crimes.

Last night I watched the UK Holocaust Memorial Day commemorative ceremony which took place at Westminster Abbey and was televised.

No matter how many times I read or hear about the atrocities that occurred during the holocaust I cannot comprehend how people could commit such evil deeds. And it is right that I cannot understand. No one who loves their fellow man ever could.

Survivors now are in small numbers. But last night I watched and listened as some of them who were able to attend the service spoke so movingly. One particular reading from a Second World War Veteran broke my heart. He spoke about a young boy of eleven years old who arrived at the camp, was separated from his family and left amongst unknown prisoners in that most terrible place. One night, he lay in a bunk with only a stranger’s feet to cuddle. In the morning it was found he had died in the night. As a mother and a grandmother, hearing this was almost too hard to listen to and the tears poured down my cheeks. But how could those who witnessed losses such as this cope with such unimaginable pain? We cannot know of all the individual suffering, the desperate fear and hardships, the hunger and illness, the waking and wondering if this would be the last day they would glimpse the sky.

Today, I CAN go outside, I CAN look up and glimpse the sky. I can breath the fresh air, smell the newly mown grass. But I can’t guarantee life will be like this forever. I can be hopeful and even assume I will be able to live out my days in safety, without fear of invasion or worse. But how can we know for sure? Nobody really knows what developments could be around the corner.

We have to rely on our memories so that we can try and protect our world and question our leaders. Just because we have supposedly intelligent leaders it doesn’t mean they always get things right as we all know. But what is memory? It is an empathetic mingling with other people’s stories, where you allow their stories to affect you in such a way that you are changed; your mind , your heart, your nervous system. You are changed in such a way that you cannot ignore the suffering of others. And because you cannot ignore the suffering of others, both from the past and in the present day, you can learn to educate people in a positive way.

Time and time again, when hearing the stories from survivors, their pleas are that we move forward but that we never forget. No matter how hard it is to be reminded of man’s inhumanity to man, and even writing about it is hard, we must never forget. Yet in the Jewish tradition, mourning death really takes place in the service of  choosing and celebrating life. There is a place for mourning and grief and a place for encountering dark places in history, but that place always returns to life – that is human nature – what we do to celebrate life helps ourselves and helps others. We need to think about how we can make the world a better place for today. Our lives are better made up of the small things that really are the big things – being free to watch the sunset, dance in the rain, to bake a cake, to laugh out loud. Life is made of moments and choices we share with our beautiful families, our friends and communities. We need to make our choices good choices.

I have never met any holocaust survivors but I have listened to many of them being interviewed and listened to many telling their own individual stories. It seems to me that there is a strong thread that connects them. They have encountered unimaginable evil, they had walked through the valley of the shadow of death, yet they have had an incredibly tenacious hold on life.

As people who have seen the dark side of humanity they are an example of the human spirit’s ability to adapt, rebuild and recover.

So if any of us encounter dark or traumatic times, we can learn to keep going, to draw a sense of hope when all seems bleak, and reach out to those who need us. Most of all, we can remember, and comfort those who are alone.

 

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Why I Like Sunsets

 

Sunset, also known as sundown, is the daily disappearance of the Sun below the horizon due to Earth’s rotation. As viewed from the Equator, the equinox Sun sets exactly due west in both Spring and Autumn.

Someone once noticed that I have many pictures of sunsets in my photography collection and I must admit, I can never resist stopping to look at a beautiful sunset wherever I am.

I was looking through my photographs recently and realised I had hundreds of pictures relating to sunsets. I think the stunning beauty nature brings us is always awe inspiring but why do I find myself so moved by sunsets?

You know, when one is sad, one can get to love a sunset’      Antoine De Saint 

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I believe it is because it takes me beyond my physical dimension. There is peace and silence. I sense that time stops and maybe there is even an understanding of eternity. Dormant spirituality is awakened. How can such beauty be transient? I can feel the  enormity of creation, and see the breath-taking colour palette laid before me.

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Peace above the chimney tops..

When we stand in peace and stillness , we can let go of any pain, anger, fear or sadness, at least for a while. We can take a breath, renew our thoughts and know that the sun will rise again tomorrow.

  ‘Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn’.      Ralph Waldo Emerson 

When you’ve had a challenging day look outward instead of inwards….

 

And just to show the sun does rise again…a beautiful sunrise taken from my back garden:

How DoYou Define Love?

This week I said goodbye…..

A short blog today….

This week I said goodbye to my beloved father.  I loved him dearly and miss him very much.

I have been lucky to have been embraced by my wonderful family and friends and the love between us all has been incredible.

 We try and cope with life’s sadnesses as best we can, and when times are really bleak we can be truly touched by acts of kindness from ordinary, yet extraordinary people.

From the young guy in the coffee shop who, on learning of my trouble, rushed over with a piece of cake and a kind word and told me to call in anytime I felt like I needed a chat, to the elderly and infirm neighbours of my dad’s who struggled out to pay their respects; to the guys next door who I have only just got to know and who embraced me with a loving hug when I was standing in the road in tears; and to the countless people on the end of the phone lines who didn’t know me, but did their best when I was trying to sort out paperwork, and to the lady who served my dad at the post office counter every week and who referred to him as a perfect and kindly gentleman, my spirits have been truly lifted.

For anyone else going through a bereavement, my thoughts are with you.

A very good friend sent me this message:

Maybe we feel we lose, but this is only in our perception. Nothing gets lost, it just changes form. I am with you’.

 

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As the sun goes down in one part of the world, it rises in another.