Yom Hashoah 2023
The Shoah has been a lifelong companion.
As far as I remember, the Shoah was in my parents’ eyes, in my father’s rage and helplessness, in my mother’s sad heart.
Sometimes concrete, mostly ambiguous, the grief of lost lives, broken generations, rootlessness and confusion between life and death has been a tutor and a master, a lifelong maze to slowly conquer.
Every step of the way has been a surprise, a discovery, and a blueprint for receiving and sharing healing. Now, just before entering Yom HaShoah, is a good time to look back and reflect.
My first steps in discovering the impact the Shoah had on my life were like walking in the dark. I experienced the experience without knowing or understanding. Terror of police and authority, fainting in packed trains or metro, feeling nausea or intense heaviness in my body.
Therapy did not help. Prayer and meditation some.
When the tools became available, trauma therapy helped. Step by step, patiently waiting for the next layer of pain to rise to my consciousness and allow for it to be processed. Does it sound simple? The “how” did become easier with time. The “why” and the “what” are more of a challenge. I still have the need to find meaning.
Many times, I found the blessing in the dark. Listening and trusting my inner voice: “Go to Bergen Belsen and look for your grandmother’s records”. We knew she died there on May 6 1945, 3 years after being arrested and deported to Auschwitz, 3 weeks after the camp was liberated by the British army and 2 days before the end of the war. I found some of her records and I also, incredibly found her grave after 73 years. The only grave in our Shoah family. My inner voice entered months of dialogue with grandma Bella. And there emerged a sense of restored dignity, of quantic healing, a sense that there is a choice even in those inner and outer abyss-like places.
Maybe the next step will be to place Stolpersteine stones for my grandparents, uncles and aunts in Paris, where they lived, and where some of them were born. At least for those we know about.
Honoring and respecting their memory is healing, allows us and those around us to become whole again. And the healing impacts everyone involved, reaching our collective consciousness, giving a chance for our world to be whole again.
As the sun is setting, announcing the beginning of Yom HaShoah, my thoughts go to the search for meaning. What if the book of death, as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks called Auschwitz, is there in our individual and collective memory to constantly remind us of the value of Life, and of the need to nurture it, invest in it, and teach it to our children. This way, the book of death becomes a source of hope and light to honor lost Life.
Dr. Cathy Lawi