by Scarlett Rose
This week, I’m frustrated.
There are too many tears.
Too many tears and seemingly not enough hands to wipe them.
I am frustrated by the ugliness of attitudes and the destruction caused by the Holocaust. I am frustrated that it was the kind of destruction that is still at work to this very day. I am frustrated that it has left survivors alone. I am frustrated that the trauma has destroyed so many families.
I am frustrated to visit 93 year old Alexander and the only words he uttered the entire visit were about seeing a young girl get shot in the head by a Nazi guard for trying to escape the death camp in which they were both held captive. I am also frustrated that such a story is all he feels he can offer us, who were perfect strangers ten minutes earlier. I am frustrated that such a story has scarred and defined the rest of his years.
I am frustrated- no, infuriated, to visit Evgenia and see the way she and the other nursing home patients are suffering. What I saw today still doesn’t even seem real. Today we watched as nursing home staff force fed massive spoonfuls of hot food at an impossibly fast rate into the mouths of many of these feeble human beings. Obviously understaffed and probably overworked, there were not enough personnel per resident so they fed a row of people at a time. Instead of patience, the staff forced more hot food in their mouths. The full spoon was rammed again and again into their faces. With tears in their eyes I watched as the food dripped in globs onto their chins and their clothes. When they finished their meal, they were pushed in their wheelchairs to their room.
All done as if there wasn’t a living, breathing human being sitting there.
Dehumanization is a dangerous, dangerous thing.
We fed Evgenia. We slowly and carefully fed her. She was grateful… more than grateful. She cried as she told us that she was really getting tired of being treated like a dog.
I wondered how many times in her life she has felt this way.
When we stopped in to see Riva, she was crying over the death of her husband. I am frustrated to learn that she had not been visited by anyone in weeks, and is in too much physical pain to even leave her apartment. So, she had no choice but to sit on her sofa and cry. For weeks. Weeks. Pain aside, she labored for several painstakingly long minutes to raise herself from her couch and prepare tea and coffee and cakes for us on her nicest dishes. I asked if I could hug her. She kissed my cheeks and my forehead and my hands and stroked my hair like I was one of her own as she told us the story of her life. As she finished, she told us,
“When I am home alone and crying all day it is very lonely. There is no one to share my pain with. How wonderful it is to have someone come that understands your soul.”
Almost every time we visit a survivor, tears are shed. Sometimes from them, and sometimes from us. It doesn’t matter if they were an evacuee, part of a ghetto, or an inmate of a death camp- their soul still hurts, and it still seeks love and care. It still seeks a Healer.
And I’ve only just told you about three.
Meanwhile, in the midst of their pain, these survivors sit at home waiting for a knock on their door. It seems to me that their hearts almost get back logged with so much emotion that the second we enter into their homes it just comes pouring out. It’s such a blessing to be on the receiving end of that outpouring. It doesn’t matter if they are happy tears or sad tears. Both are a gift.
Each time they get an opportunity to love and be loved, they get an opportunity to heal a little more. It’s good for their soul. And the unconditional love they show me is good for mine.
Even the tears we shed can be a good thing.
“He will swallow up death forever. The sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove His people’s disgrace from all the earth.” Isaiah 25:8