There are days that ooze a certain kind of melancholy without them having to try. I don’t know if it’s in the grey sky that never seems to get clear these days, low hanging clouds that no ray of light can get through, thus making these days be darker than they’d need to be. Or maybe it’s all in me after I stayed up too late and slept too long.
When I think of her, I think of greatness, of self-sacrificing and undying love. There are stories I heard so many times it’s almost as if I was there even though it’s impossible for me without having travelled in time.
Growing up in difficult times, the Second World War started when she was only five years old. Still, she was one of the lucky one’s, her family stayed intact throughout it, her father wasn’t sent away as he was needed in the steel mill. Food was scarce and so was everything else except love. Getting an education was one concern that didn’t even make her top five; surviving was at the top.
She once said that she never expected to live past the age of twelve with bombs being dropped all around her forcing her to spend days and many, many nights inside of the closest bunker. And my heart gets heavy with sorrow thinking about this woman growing up, living a life so much beyond her own expectations, out-living too many of her family members.
When she was eleven the war stopped and she had a little brother only about a year old. He was born into the ugliness of war, hardship and despair. Despite spending most of his first year in a bunker, he made it, he didn’t die like so many other infants did due to lacks of ventilation, sunlight and fresh air.
She did see a soldier die right in front of her but nobody sent her away for therapy. These were the times children saw things way beyond what anyone, child or adult, should ever see. Every child of that generation wears the same scars of growing up not knowing if they’ll even be able to celebrate their next birthday. Again, she was lucky. The day her town got bombed out she was supposed to be in the heart of it with her friends but her family didn’t let her go with them. Almost as if they knew something bad was bound to happen that day. Her friends remained unscratched, they got inside a bunker but their parents were beyond fear, not knowing if their children were still alive or lying beside the dead people and horses in the streets these girls ran over to get home as soon as anyone opened up those bunker doors for the first time the next morning.
I cannot imagine running back home, stepping over dead people, dead animals, destroyed buildings. Being afraid it’s not over yet, that anyone would see me while my sole concern is safely getting back home and praying for my parents to still be alive. These things are beyond my imagination and I’m glad these are different times now. I grew up in a peaceful country that, even after more than 60 years, has not been able to completely step out of the shadow of what they brought upon the world.
Back to this magnificent girl that was just about to grow up and become a woman; to be courted and married to a handsome fellow with impeccable business sense. Her life was always hard in some way or another. When she wasn’t worried over bombings anymore she worried over having enough to feed her children, not knowing if this latests business idea of her husband was pushing them all over the abyss or not. But it wasn’t, even though they did get close a couple of times. Then he started to get sick and she had to keep the business up and running, take care of her children, her mentally unstable mother-in-law, a household. Somedays she was so tired she couldn’t help the crying. Too many tears to count were shed in private.
It got better with time though, not his health or her constant worrying but they made enough money to live well, for their kids to be able to get a university education, drive their own cars. She has come a long way but it seems as if you can never keep the heartbreak away from her for long. She had to bury her husband after years of taking care of him. Years that weren’t easy with heart attacks and long, fearful nights spent beside hospital beds. She lived more than 20 years without the love of her life and I believe, she never truly got over it.
Then the year she buried both her mother and her brother came. Yes, mothers usually die before their children but that doesn’t make things any easier. Finding your younger brother after he’s already been dead for a week in his apartment is another thing I cannot imagine. How many times can a heart break and be mended back together?
Truth is, I don’t know the answer, but if her life is any indication, it is a lot. She was left behind too early by too many family members. In the end, it came down to her, two children and one grandchild. She never stopped worrying, it will always be a part of her. Worrying over things that need no worrying but are set so deep inside her soul that she cannot help it.
Children are not supposed to die before their parents and if it does happen it leaves them in a state beyond repair. She was always concerned about her first-born, the child’s health was fragile even when it was young and needed attention. The child grew up to be strong but made some terrible choices in life. Nothing illegal or life-threatening but terrible nonetheless. Then cancer came and took the child away, leaving a mother heartbroken yet another time. A mother never expects to outlive her children, not when they made it to ages over 50 but it happens and it’s ugly. It’s horrible but nothing can keep this woman down. Not for long anyways.
She is so strong and I’m blessed to have been told her tale. To me, she is the bravest and strongest person. Her story is by far unique, there are too many people out in the world with similar or even worse stories of their own. Nevertheless, she makes me believe that muddling through hardships is possible, that I never need to loose my spirits even if it’s hard, just to hang on to life itself. A heart can break many times but it can be mended back together even though it may never be the same again. She has always lived for others, worked all her life so she could leave her children something behind. Her soul was not a wasted one and neither was her life, not by far as she serves to me as a daily reminder to be strong and never give up.
I wish I could go up to her and thank her for giving my life perspective, for giving me strength and making me believe in human beings. I wish I could go and thank her for all the things she was never thanked for in her life because they were things she was supposed to do and nobody had time for politeness. I wish I could ask her if she thought it was worth it, going through the hard times or if she’d still do it if she knew what was for her to come. But that’s just the thing. It’s sometimes better not to know, it would spoil life itself, if you’re just looking for the next crisis that may or may not be ahead. Better just think of her.
And never give up.