On my way to the fabric store yesterday I caught the end of an interview with a woman named Eva Kor. She was a Holocaust survivor and I was instantly drawn to her story. When I arrived at the store I sat in my car, quiet and still until she finished her tale.
She and her twin sister Miriam (what a great name!) were spared the gas chambers where their family perished because a Nazi doctor wanted to do experiments on them. For years after her time at Auschwitz Eva was angry. Then in 1993 she had the opportunity to meet a man she referred to as a “reluctant Nazi” doctor who was also at Auschwitz. After he helped her with something she knew was difficult for him she decided to thank him with a simple letter of forgiveness. He had lived with guilt and horror all his life and she knew what it would mean for him. Writing that letter and going through the process of forgiveness was so liberating for Eva that she decided to forgive the doctor who had performed atrocious experiments on her and her sister.
I was inspired by this woman. I thought of all the wrongs anyone has ever done to me. All my hurt feelings over petty offenses. She says that happiness and freedom are found in forgiveness and I believe her. I feel changed.
Stories this uplifting make appearances in my life here and there. Sadly, I can’t recall many and I fear that the story of Eva will eventually be forgotten. I worry that my own desire to change will not even endure as long as Eva’s memory. But I am comforted by these words, introduced to me by a family member at Christmas.
“I no more remember the books I have read than the meals I have eaten, but they have made me.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote is a great consolation to me because I have felt affected by many books I have read, but looking back can not remember them. But I believe that those moments when our hearts our touched by books, people or music we are change permanently, even if our conscious memory of them grows dim.