Monday, March 8, 2010

Just a Reminder

Do you ever get a thought or image stuck in your head? I've had this little problem since last Wednesday night. I've thought about it when I wake up in the morning and dreamed about it after going to sleep at night. I've imagined having to be the one asking the question as well as be the one giving the answer. What is it, you ask? It's a haunting story Mrs. Nagy shared with us when we had her over for dinner last Wednesday. She shared many stories. Amazing stories. Incredibly sad and heart-wrenching stories. This one has stuck with me. I guess, in a small way, it reminds me how I feel whenever I think back on the movie, Sophie's Choice. That movie still haunts me. I guess because I just can't imagine being in that kind of position. I pray I never am.

When Mrs. Nagy was in the concentration camp, she was there along with her brothers, her mother and both sets of grandparents. She told this story with a little bit of humor because she still found it funny. Her paternal grandparents had different belief systems. Her grandfather was a Christian and knew he would one day be with his Lord in Heaven. Her grandmother didn't believe in Heaven nor God, for that matter. When it came time for the once-a-day "food" distribution (a small cup of clear broth they called soup), the grandmother would take the soup from the grandfather and drink it along with her cup of soup. Grandfather had nothing to eat. She figured he was ready for Heaven and she wasn't. She announced to everyone she would outlive him and was going to make sure he died before she did.

It came to pass when one day the grandfather came to Mrs. Nagy's mother and asked if she could share her cup of soup with him. He was so hungry. Mrs. Nagy remembered the incident quite well. Her mother looked at him and told him no. She told him she didn't eat herself, but gave whatever she had to her children. She had the great responsibility of making sure the children survived this hell on earth. Mrs. Nagy said he dropped his head, turned, and walked away dejected. He died the very next day. He starved to death along with thousands of others. Now here's where Mrs. Nagy laughed...the grandmother died within an hour of the grandfather. Even though she took his food every day, she only outlived him by an hour. Mrs. Nagy thought this was heavenly justice for a woman who had been so cruel to her own husband.

One might imagine the seemingly cold answer "no" hadn't any emotion whatsoever. I would like to think this poor woman, watching her own little children slowly being starved, was overwhelmed with grief as she told her father-in-law she couldn't share her soup. I wonder if she wanted to go after him and tell him she was sorry. I wonder if her circumstances were so desperate at this point that no feelings dare be shown. Weakness meant certain death. What strength it would take on this mother's part to refuse such a request. What compassion it would take on the grandfather's part not to impose his will upon his daughter-in-law. My mind plays it out many different ways. I end up in the same place each time. The cruelty of man upon his fellow man is a reminder of the fallen world in which we live. In the words of Elisabeth Elliot, "It is for this we have Jesus."

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