My Parents' Experiences as Polish Slave Laborers in Nazi Germany and Displaced Persons after the War
Friday, October 10, 2014
When my mother was dying, she insisted
for a long time that she could beat death.
She had survived the murder of her
family by the nazis, years in concentration camps, living from hand to mouth in
America, an alcoholic husband suffering from PTSD, two cancers, arthritis that
crippled her body, a bad heart that would sometimes simply stop, and a lot
She had hope. She was up front about
it. If you asked her what kept her alive, she’d tell you.
I didn’t know where it came from but
she had it. She didn’t believe in God, didn’t believe in others, didn’t believe
in any philosophy. They were all worthless, one of her favorite words.
There was nothing that kept her tied
to life accept her sense that there was some good thing that could happen and
turn it all around. This kept her going for 5 years when she was dying and
And then it left her.
One day I called her and she said, “Johnny,
I don’t have hope anymore.”
It was gone, gone because she knew
that there were no more miracles that could keep her alive.
But then five brutal years later, it
came back, at the very end of her life.
At 83 she had a stroke that left her
paralyzed over 85% of her body. She couldn’t move her hands or feet, couldn’t
eat, couldn’t move her lips to speak.
The doctor said there was no hope for
recovery. She would just get worse.
In the hospital, I asked her if she
wanted me to take her off life support.
She struggled to speak, and when the
word finally came out, it was “No.”
And what did I do?
I went home and wrote a poem:
Hope is kind.
Hope is a door and a window.
Hope is the silly neighbor
child we ignore when we are children ourselves.
Hope is the lesson learned too
Hope is friday and sunday
Hope is a train going so fast
that not even time can catch it.
Hope is the brother of sorrow,
the sister of grief.