Trisha is a short story contest winner from South Holland Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois.
Suffering. Her life could be summarized in that one word. Suffering. Chisel that word on her gravestone. Anna’s life had never been easy, but she had the impression that not all life was easy. There was some element, so heavy, so tedious, that it weighed life down and made all forms of earthly joy mirages and hallucinations.
Anna had discovered long ago what that element was. Depravity, yes, depravity had been the culprit of every horror she had witnessed. She had witnessed the Holocaust. Unfortunately, that was something she could not forget. She would not forget! Her mind had captured those images and placed them in her memory. She thought of them almost every day.
She could never forget how they came in the middle of the night. They were yelling and screaming at the “Juden! Juden!” Anna and her family did not know that they were Jewish at the time. But later on after the war Anna found out that a little way back in their heritage, there was one Jewish man and for the Gestapo that was enough of a curse for deportation. One just one. That was all it took.
The night they were deported, her father was shot by the Gestapo. For no real reason, he hadn’t done anything wrong. They just shot him suddenly, no warning. Maybe some Gestapo didn’t like his shoes or his eyes. Her father had always been a man of dignity. His character had earned respect, but that night they shot him down like a dog. Anna’s last memory of her father was of him lying on the streets in his own blood. Maybe it had been the mercy of God that her father never reached Auschwitz. Looking back, Anna decided that it had been. When they finally reached the camp, the sun was just beginning to rise. How ironic. Before they entered the camp, they were separated into groups. That was the last Anna saw of her two brothers. They were both shot to death when they attempted to escape. Escaping back to a life that was theirs by right of birth. After that Anna’s group stood in front of a man who decided who would die and who would live for a couple months before they died. Anna was chosen to live because she was young and strong. Her sister and mother however, were sent to the gas chambers. At night, when Anna would lie awake and listen to the cries of agony that escaped the lips of the near dead, she would think of heaven. She didn’t know what heaven was like. She just knew that this camp of horror, where death, pain, and suffering were one’s only companions, wasn’t it.
Anna closed her eyes, she couldn’t think of her experience of the Holocaust anymore. There were some days that Anna believed she had never really escaped Auschwitz.
God had been good to her. In 1948, she immigrated to America. There was nothing left for her in Germany but bitter feelings. She had met and married her husband and they had had a good life together. They had children and grandchildren.
Yet recently, ghosts of her past had come back to haunt her. A week ago her granddaughter, Rose, had been diagnosed with leukemia. Rose was only seventeen. It had been a difficult time for the family. For Anna it had been a test of faith.
A knock on the door interrupted Anna’s thoughts. She opened the door to the brilliant face of her granddaughter Rose.
“Rose what a nice surprise,” Anna smiled. She always loved visits from her grandchildren.
“I hope you are not too busy Grandma. I thought I would stop over to say hello.”
“You’re welcome over anytime. Come in and sit down. Would you like anything to drink?” Anna offered. “No thank you” replied Rose. There was a pause of awkwardness hanging over them.
“Are you alright grandma?” asked Rose.
“Oh Rose I am just so worried about you. Tomorrow you start your chemo. What time do you check in at the hospital?”
“Seven, and we begin right away.” Rose replied.
“Are you afraid Rose?” she asked quietly.
Rose looked her grandmother directly in the eyes. “Grandma I am very afraid” replied Rose.
Anna got up our of her chair and walked over to the sink. She looked out of the window through teary eyes. No, she mustn’t cry. She had promised herself that she would be strong for Rose. Rose would be able to depend on her.
Rose walked over to stand beside her. “Grandma, you mustn’t cry.”
“I am sorry … I meant to be strong for you.” Anna sobbed.
“I meant to be strong too grandma and I failed, but God didn’t. I am afraid but I am not alone. He is with me, I am sure of it and that is the only thing that keeps me going; knowing that God holds me in His hands.”
“No,” Anna cried back, “you are so young. It is a mistake Rose, the doctors made a mistake. They read your test wrong. You are not supposed to have cancer.”
“Grandma, God doesn’t make mistakes.”
Anna grew frustrated and angry. How could Rose be so calm when nothing in her life would ever be the same.
“Yes, Rose, but what if you die?” Anna could barely get the words out of her mouth.
“Then I die grandma. And I am certain of my reward. Whether I die tomorrow or fifty years from now, is all in God’s will and that is so comforting. I have cancer for a reason and everything in God’s will has a reason. If I had cancer for no reason at all but just because it was by chance, then I would feel hopeless, as if my life was decided by nothing but a mere throw of dice. But in Christ there is hope. Hope that destroys all the pain and misery of earthly life.”
Anna stared in the sink as the faucet rhythmically dripped drops of water. She felt confused. Rose was so sure of herself, so sure that God was always there.
“Oh, Rose can you really mean that? What about all those people that I watched die in the Holocaust? All those innocent men, women and children. All those innocent lives! And now I have to watch my granddaughter suffer! Why does God do this Rose? Why?”
“God doesn’t give use any more than we can handle. His grace is sufficient grandma,” Rose whispered, “He assures me of this.”
Anna looked at Rose through eyes of wonder. Through her teary eyes, she looked at Rose’s beautiful hair, the hair that would soon fall out. Yet she felt peace. And she remembered the words that she was taught as a child. Not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my heavenly father, Anna thought. Not a hair.