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Never forget

Good morning, Netizens...

For the late Mrs. Wilkerson:

I will remember you for all the days I draw breath, for I constantly recall our days at the nursing home, when I was much younger than today, terribly naïve and innocent in the ways of the world. We gathered, quite by accident, on wooden lawn chairs beneath the trees, and since I was courting your granddaughter in a slipshod manner at the time, I was being quite respectful, very careful in my words, for I did not know you that well.

You always wore long sleeves, and your English was heavily-accented with German, but I never gave it a thought until the afternoon you had a minor heart incident while we were sitting outside in the glory of the day beneath the eucalyptus trees in San Jose, talking about nothing of consequence. When the medics came rushing with their self-importance, they rolled up your long sleeves and I instinctively knew the meaning of the pale blue serial number tattooed on your arm, and yet I said nothing.

In the coming months I learned you had Multiple Sclerosis and as your grammar began slowly degenerating, even after I broke off the relationship with your granddaughter for an unremarkable number of reasons, I continued coming by to visit with you at the nursing home when time permitted, and finally in your last months of life we began talking hesitantly about your life in Dachau, and how life in the German concentration camps horribly changed you and yet made you strong.

You told me how it was, and how you were stoic when your husband died, but I noticed at the time you never said how he passed on in the depravity of Dachau. You showed me one of your most-precious possessions, a faded picture of you and your husband just after your wedding day, and while we talked of it, your forefinger tapped it as if emphasizing that was a cherished and sacred memory that, although burdened down with a sack filled with pain, you never had forgotten.

At some point in our series of conversations, you listed the names of your cousins, nephews and nieces, all of whom simply disappeared while you were in Dachau, and how there are no records of their deaths anywhere. It was as if they simply ceased to exist; Hitler's Germany could do that, as I have since learned. But I made you a promise to remember these things all the days of my life, to pass them onward so that none will ever forget.

A few years ago I encountered and interviewed a White Separatist in Montana who looked at me with bright blue eyes and attempted unsuccessfully with his innocent mien to convince me that the Holocaust was all a myth and that I must be delusional to believe in it. I told him about those days from long ago, and the pictures of missing relatives you shared with me.

I made and kept a promise to never forget.


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.