WARNING: This is not the usual, happy-go-lucky message you expect me from. You’ll need the stomach to read this one.
Last week I asked if you had a favorite old person, someone who you feel should have a chance to share their story with others. I’d still love to hear from you.
A friend from college who lives a few minutes away replied that she had come to know an 89 year old Holocaust survivor named Sara living in our area.
On Sunday, we went to visit her.
Sara lives in a beautiful part of town, in a lovely house. She seemed to have a nice life.
But when she sat down across from me, it took but 5 seconds before she got right to the details. She spoke with a presence and clarity, as if the Holocaust happened two weeks ago, not 70 years ago.
In the early 1940’s, Sara was living in Budapest, Hungary. Her family was well-to-do. She was a happy 16 year-old. Life was good.
And then the conditions deteriorated rapidly.
NOTE: As a Jew, I was well-aware of the horrors of the Holocaust. But until you hear a story directly from someone who endured it, you don’t feel the impact.
Stonefaced, Sara told me how the Nazis murdered her entire family…both sets of her grandparents, her parents, her two brothers, and her infant sister.
To lose one family member, it would scar us for life. But to lose all of them, at once?
Sara described in vivid detail the moment when she was carrying her baby sister in her arms, because her mother was taking care of her two brothers.
They were being led somewhere. She wasn’t sure where.
A Nazi guard suddenly appeared and ordered Sara to give the baby to her mom and come with him.
That was the last time she ever saw her mom and her brothers and her infant sister. They were being led to the gas chambers.
Sara was saved by this Nazi guard, who it turns out, lives in Westwood, California, and is 95 years old.
She has reached out to thank him for saving her life and attempted to organize a meeting at her temple to express her gratitude to this man. But he is ridden with guilt and denied the offer.
I learned all of this in the first 10 minutes of our conversation.
After the Holocaust, Sarah met a man who had survived by hiding on the streets of Budapest.
They married and moved to Los Angeles where they started a family and had a happy life.
Sarah told me that her husband was the kind of man who, when she was pregnant, would hold her hand in the shower, so she wouldn’t slip; and go everyday to the farmer’s market to buy her fresh fruit. He looked after her every need. She loved him deeply.
And then, her husband died suddenly at a very young age. Sara was FURIOUS with her so-called God.
You might be thinking at this point, “Dave, why am I reading this dark message? There better be a light takeaway here.”
But there is no light takeaway here. I’m asking you today to visit the darkness that some people on our planet have to face in their lifetime.
After Sara finished her story, I looked at my list of my questions and tried to broach the subject of happiness. It was a word that didn’t have meaning in her mind.
I tried to bring up forgiveness but quickly realized that was a STUPID thing to say and I dropped it fast.
What can you say to someone who has been through this kind of pain?
I was most touched by the tender love Sara felt for her deceased husband.
She said he barely made any money, and that was always a struggle. But the richness of his love was the greatest part of her life.
And I clung to that lesson. I needed something to hold onto. A small flicker of light in a dark afternoon.
The whole time that she spoke with me, I felt annoying and ashamed.
I felt “ashamed” because I never took the time to really “go there.” I never “felt” the pain and the extent to which people suffered during the Holocaust.
I felt “annoying” because did she really want to be telling me this story and reliving the nightmare?
As I was leaving, I reached out to shake her hand. But Sara pulled me in close and gave me a hug and a tender kiss on the cheek. She invited me back.
And I realized that this 89 year holocaust survivor seemed to find “something” in telling her story to me.
Just as important as being loved is being heard.
It felt like the very least I could do, to sit and hold space with this special lady who was kind enough to light a candle on her dark past.
To think what she had been through, and that she was living in my neighborhood.
I encourage you to seek out the elderly in your community, on your street, maybe even in your home.
Hopefully they never had to endure the darkness of the Holcaust, but surely they have something to teach you, something to release from their heart, and in the process, strengthen yours.
And if you don’t have time to seek out an elderly person, can you spread the word and bring the elderly more into the conversation in your home, at your work, in your community?
There is a non-profit called Search and Care that helps the elderly who are like Sara, with stories we need to hear, but who don’t have resources or family to support them.
For example, many of these elderly have pets that are their main source of love.
But often, the elderly lack the mobility to take their pets for a walk or get them to the vet. Search and Care helps them take care of these basic needs.
Here is the quickest way you can help:
Spread this message to 3 friends who would LOVE this message of helping the elderly in need.
****Please CC me on the email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will send you a super special gift that will LIGHT UP your heart!
And if you want to send it to more than 3 people, that would be even more awesome and deeply appreciated!
Most importantly, I want to thank you for taking the time to “go there” with me today.
I realize this may have been tough to read.
The only way we can truly know the most loving and healing Light… is to know the darkest of dark.