What if there was someone in your family whom you loved with all your heart and yet you had never met them? What if you cried yourself to sleep some nights, because you were so sad that you lost them far too soon?
Is all this emotion coming from you? Or are you grieving because you see how the other family members, who knew this person, longed to have them back?
Something incredible happened to our family this summer.
My husband was in my Mom’s basement helping her to “de-junk” (Mom’s words) her house as she prepared to get it ready to sell.
He found a box marked “Oma’s documents.” My Mom said, “Those are just a bunch of old receipts, you can probably shred the contents.” Wayne said, “Okay, well, let me just make sure there isn’t anything in there that you might want to keep.”
What did he find? Letters! Letters from the man my brother and I grew up with, the man we grieved for, the man who’s character was so strong it influenced who we were going to be in the world. The man we had never met – our Opa.
My Mom and I cried for a month straight. Every time we got together Mom would translate another one of the handful of letters after the other. The one I want to share with you on this Remembrance Day – November 11, 2018 is the one my Opa wrote to my Oma on January 1st 1945 from the trenches in the war zone in Germany. The last place such a kind, gentle and peace loving man would ever want to be.
DU the 1. 1. 1945
My dear, dear Maria!
Now the New Year has begun, hopefully, it will bring us all what we are wishing for so fervently.
I am well, but I still haven’t had any news from you, my dear ones. We are now getting mail
every second day. Some have already received mail from 19/12/1944, via Unna, but there was
nothing for me among them. Hopefully, darling, you have better luck and are receiving my
letters continually. At the moment I have run out of ink, but since I have some time right now, I
am standing here outside of the front door and writing with a pencil.
How are you, my darlings? Are you all healthy and how are the children doing? And please let
me also know how it was with the little sweethearts at Christmas, what they got and what the
look on their faces was like. I have here for Karin a little doll china tea set. I just don’t know yet
how I can send it. Apparently parcels up to 1 kg are supposed to be allowed. If that is true, I will
send it right away. At the same time I would also send you raw tobacco leaves which are very
plentiful here. You just have to wash them in hot water, dry them and then they taste better and I have
no more smoking worries. Darling, please let me know if it is there also common to smoke raw
tobacco leaves. Here in the Reich it is common practice. Then I could send you some.
Hoping that when I write next time I will have had some news from you and finally know that
you are all well.
A thousand kisses,
What a gift to have our Opa so alive in our family again. Almost 74 years later, he reminds us of who we came from. Just reading this letter I can feel his big heart and how he saw a positive light in a time that was so dark. He was on the front line fighting and chose to write to my Oma about how much he loved her and the children and he tried to get them excited about the gifts they would receive from him.
He did not burden them with his suffering, he had hope for a brighter future.
That’s what he believed in and that’s all that mattered.
Love you Opa, I will always cry for you.
Sending lots of love today to all of you who are remembering the men and women who risked their lives for our freedom.