Rest In Peace Uncle

Some say that there is no such thing as closure when a loved one passes on.  I think it depends on the circumstances surrounding that passing.  In my family’s case, it took sixty-seven years for the truth about my uncle’s passing to reach his family.

This photo of Gerardus Petrus Zegers, my uncle, lives on a bookshelf in my mother’s bedroom.  My mother told me that in this photo he is about sixteen.  The scarf he’s wearing was knit by my grandmother.  She also told me that every time she looks at it she wonders what happened to her brother.

According to my mother, in 1943, in Driebergen-Rijsenburg, the Nazis began rounding up able-bodied boys and men to work in their camps.  Two of my mother’s brothers were taken.  My uncle Henk managed to escape and was hidden by a german family.  Gerardus was not so lucky.  He ended up in a camp called Mittelbau-Dora which was a satelite camp of Buchenwald, in Nordhausen, Germany.  While researching I scoured the available photos, on the internet, of arriving prisoners for the scarf my uncle was wearing in a desperate attempt to verify that he was among the laborers.

When the allies bombed the German manufacturing facilities that were above ground the Nazis opened Dora in an abandoned mine.  Here they manufactured their V2 ballistic missiles.  The same missiles that were the cornerstone of the American space program after the second World War.  Sixty-thousand prisoners from 21 nations passed through Dora.  In Camp Dora and Buchenwald, an estimated 20,000 inmates died; 9000 died from exhaustion and collapse, 350 hanged (including 200 for sabotage), the rest died mainly from disease and starvation. In April of 1945 the  104th Timberwolf Army Infantry  and Third Armored Division liberated the surviving prisoners.  Over 1,200 patients were evacuated, with 15 dying en route to the hospital area and 300 then dying of malnutrition.

When news of the liberation reached my family in Driebergen, my grandmother went to the train station daily to greet her son, Gerard, and welcome him home.  He did not come home.  She followed this routine daily for years with the same result.  We didn’t receive any information about the exact fate of my uncle.  Many years later another uncle and brother of Gerardus, Piet, received special permission to cross the Berlin Wall, in hopes of getting information about his brother from the Communist government.  They were not forthcoming.

In March of this year, after researching the internet, I came across a website called the International Tracing Service.  I filled out their application for information about my uncle.  I waited until May and when I heard nothing from them I forwarded my earlier email again.  Finally in September I received a letter from them with the information that my family had waited sixty-seven years to hear.  My uncle Gerardus Petrus Zegers passed away on the twenty-eighth of April 1945 of tuberculosis.  It isn’t clear if he was among the fifteen that died on route to the hospital or one of the 20,000 souls that passed during his imprisonment.  according to civil records he was buried in Nordhausen Cemetery in Grave No. 2.

My mother said that it was too bad that her mom and dad weren’t still alive to finally hear the news of their son.  I reminded her that he is re-united with his mother, father, and two brothers in Heaven.  This Remembrance Day, I honor my uncle, Gerardus Petrus Zegers.

Oh Canada!

“Oh Canada, our home and native land…”  I don’t want to be a wet blanket on the Canada Day festivities but as I think of the history of this country, the Confederation we are marking,  I can’t help thinking about the people whose backs we are standing on.  Here is an article written by  Susana Deranger that explains far better than I can, the blood shed by her ancestors at the hands of ours!

http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/our-home-on-native-land

I recently wrote an article citing the cruelties that were perpetrated on the Natives of this country during colonization.  I was reminded by a writing instructor that I was not telling the truth; that it would be prudent to mention that the Natives themselves were not entirely passive toward each other and inter-tribal wars existed here before the coming of the white man.  I suppose, to explain that it is just human nature to conquer and kill, I could go all the way back to the garden of Eden and cite the story of Cain and Abel.  My parents lost family members during WWII at the hands of the oppressors we call Nazis.  I have to wonder why that suffering is recognized as valid and the Native losses are not.  It is in the telling of our history that we are supposed to evolve our “human nature” into a more enlightened race of human being.

Happy Canada Day?  For whom?

The First Commute

I’ve had a lot of firsts this year.  I couldn’t tell if I was nervous with excitement or fear.  I hadn’t set an alarm clock since high school.  A solid breakfast and a lunchbox hadn’t been my morning routine either.   I used to jog to work, but that would be a ten-hour jog at six mph.  I slumped into the driver’s seat and reluctantly started my commute.  Preoccupied with new job jitters, I rounded the corner.  The panorama that revealed itself made me involuntarily gasp.  The contrasting beauty of nature, black and white, delicate pink, sky blue;  a commute that will never lose the awe-inspiring, God-like appeal.

Photo credit belongs to Douglas McIlroy

Healing Waters

By funk5ive

Sometimes life just goes by.
You know you should be paying attention,
then something catches your eye.
The imagination of a child,
an angel shape in clouds of white,
the pain in a loved ones eyes.

Sometimes the well is dry.
You go to fill your heart with joy,
then you see you can’t and why.
The tragic wrongs not yet ignored,
a mournful love never regained,
the pain in your own blue eyes.

Sometimes it’s time to cry.
The healing waters from God Himself,
If you don’t you know you’ll die.
But the dam in your eyes,
and the lump in your throat..
deny, deny, DENY.

Sometimes a friend is nigh.
You know you should accept their love
but your faith will not comply.
So you think of the child,
and the angel clouds,
and your soul begins to cry.

Picture credit :

By funk5ive

I Ran Away Today, From the Din

I found a place with silent butterflies.
Fluttering by in complete silence to human ears.
Do butterflies hear a din?
I wonder if their wings make a noise that only they can hear.

I found a place with uncountable crickets.
Each one rubbing out their mechanical song.
Separate and then together as one.
Eventually to be removed from my consciousness, then back again.

I found a place with grasses ten feet tall.
Swaying in the wind, whispering all the while
of creatures hiding within.
They marked the path of the wind, invisible until it touched them.

I found a place of endless prairie sky
with sculptures in the clouds.
A handle bar mustached gent, a Meer cat, an angel on the wing.

I found a bridge of planks across the stream.
The families cycling by tap rhythmically all in sync.
I hear snapshots as they speak, a moment in their lives.

I found a place I hoped that God would speak,
to calm my worried mind, to quench my thirsty soul.
I waited quite a while and didn’t hear His word.
Picked up my book and pen, and wrote these very lines.
Then a stunning thought, He was speaking all the while,
in the wind, the birds, the clouds.
Then the grasses gently bowed, like smiling Asian men,
who always seemed to know, I’d get there in the end.

© 2009 Angelique Maatman

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