5th May 1945
It’s difficult for me to write you as we are complete strangers, but I’ve heard of you through B.. and no doubt I was mentioned to you perhaps in a letter.
To explain my writing to you – in B..’s (or did you call him Tommy?) well anyway, in his personal effects one or two of your letters were returned and I felt I must write and break the news to you – even so I’m afraid it’s very delayed.
Last July – the 21st, I heard that B.. was reported missing over Essen. One of his crew was reported POW seven weeks after and he wrote us that he was the sole survivor. Since then, I have heard officially that B.. and the crew are buried at Schoppingen in Germany.
Unless you have heard from any other source I don’t doubt this news will be a great shock to you. Naturally, it was a very bitter blow to me – after four months of married life. He was a good guy and well thought of.
I found your home address in amongst books, papers etc and I’m hoping your mother or wife will pass it on to you wherever you are. If you have written at all, I expect your letters will have been returned so you’ll know now just why.
I trust you are in good health and spirits at the latest turn in this darned war.
PS Tommy has a daughter too – what a pity he didn’t know she’s beautiful.
The above letter was written to my Uncle Ted. It’s one of a few letters he received, that have survived intact from his time serving during and after World War II. I was going through some of the letters today and this one made me sit quietly and think, as it has done every time I’ve read it. Yesterday (27th January) was Holocaust Memorial Day, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the nazi death camps. The letters that my uncle received tell only a fraction of the human stories behind the tragedies, behind the atrocities. The letters are a sobering insight into the true cost of fighting tyranny. The memorials serve to not only remember those that lost their life but to remind us that we must never let it happen again.
I personally find it slightly surreal and incredible that on the same day that we remember the millions that died in the nazi death camps because of their religious belief, sexual orientation or political standing, POTUS signs an order “protecting the United States from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism, and ensuring a more rigorous vetting process”. Interestingly, though this order is publicised as an action of his first week in office, the actual order has yet to be published. Its widely reported that this presidential order bans refugees and those from 7, predominantly Muslim, countries.
There seem to be no such qualms about publishing the order that reinforces the intention to build a wall between the US & Mexico.
Actions have consequences. It’s simply physics. Actually, I may take the liberty of rewording that, there is, in my opinion, nothing simple about physics! Newton’s Third Law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Now Newton may have been talking about motion, but the law is just as applicable, I think, to human behaviour. In simple terms, actions have consequences.
I was speaking to my friend (the little minx from my last blog post). She told me how she had come to a new school, struck up a friendship with a boy and had no thoughts about who and how people were linked by friendships. Her actions had completely unintentional consequences. She said that she just lacked an awareness of what was going on around her and she feels that trait has actually followed her through her life. She had no idea of the profound effect her actions were having on me. She gave me another example of a throwaway comment she made that was relayed back to her decades later. Again, she spoke with no thought for the consequence. She wasn’t being deliberately cruel or spiteful – she doesn’t have those bones in her body -, from her perspective, in the case of X, all she was doing was making a friend and the case of the throwaway comment, she was just thinking out loud. We all do it. We all do it multiple times a day. What we don’t all do is have the awareness to realise when we should just keep quiet. Little Minx (she’s gonna hate me for dubbing her that) has learned the lesson, though. She now has enough self-awareness to recognise her occasional lack of sensitivity to what it going on around her.
The point is (yes, there is a point) we aren’t always aware of what is going on around us. We don’t always know what battles others are fighting. That harsh word spoken to you by a colleague may be the consequence of a turmoil they are experiencing of which you have no knowledge. I try to remind myself of this. I admit, I sometimes forget to remind myself of this. It’s not always easy to disconnect from a hurtful comment, but if it comes from a person who isn’t usually deliberately hurtful, then maybe it’s time to ask them if they’re ok or if you can be an ear for them. Maybe if we were all just a little more considerate, charitable and kinder toward each other, there would be altogether less pain in the world. The only actions you can control are your own. The only reactions you’re responsible for are your own.
It’s now Sunday and I’m thinking about P..’s words about her daughter. Her father, shot down over Germany, fighting a war to end tyranny and persecution. Her mother’s letter to a stranger to explain a lack of communication. An act of kindness to put a potentially troubled mind at ease. A simple declaration of facts without effusive emotion, but leaving in no doubt that the writer was a caring, kind person. Widowed after only 4 months of marriage and mother to a beautiful child who would never know her father. All actions have consequences. The ones you see, the ones you anticipate and the ones you have no idea about. Be mindful of this as you go about your day.