This weekend, while I was in Texas looking through the box of my grandfather’s letters (there are over 160 of them), I decided that I would post the letters in chronological order. It seems the most logical way to let the story unfold.
I’m already deviating from this plan.
I came across a letter from Päpä (in honor of Mimi I’ve decided to write it this way) written in November of 1944 that I cannot get out of my mind. I meant to grab it in the stack of letters I brought back with me, but somehow I missed it. My father has promised to copy it and send it along. Once I have it, I’ll post it here. It’s certainly worth reading.
In the letter, Päpä describes a trip into town he and his supply sergeant made. I’m not certain where exactly in France they were, but he mentions the area of Commercy, France.
They stopped at a bakery to buy some cookies to take back to their unit. The French family who owned the bakery was so thrilled to have the American soldiers visit that they insisted on feeding them pie and having their youngest daughter play the violin while they ate. During their visit, the owner of the bakery told a story to Päpä and his supply sergeant to describe just how terrible the German soldiers were while occupying France.
One day the Germans came to the home of a family down the road and insisted on taking the children to work in their factories. When the father refused to let them take his six-year-old son, the German soldiers killed him and then shot the young boy in both legs, leaving him fatherless and crippled.
Once while driving home from a Sunday church service, I listened quietly from the backseat of the car as a couple of college friends were engaged in a fierce debate over the theory of relativism. I was a nervous and self-conscious girl at the time and thought I wasn’t intelligent or articulate enough to engage in the conversation. But at some point I felt I had to say something lest my silence be misunderstood as consent.
I blurted out, “What about Hitler? Surely you can’t say that he was justified in what he did!” My friend paused for a moment and then, shrugging her shoulders, said rather impassively, “I can’t say that he was wrong. He was only following his truth.” The darkness in her statement was palpable. I was sick to my stomach as we all rode home in silence.
Of course, when relativism is followed to its end even Hitler bears no guilt for his actions. And the little French boy whose legs were shot and his father murdered had no right to demand justice, in this world or the next. But there is something within us that cries out this cannot be so.
I will end this tonight with a quote from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis. It comes from a BBC radio broadcast series he did during World War II. You can read it here.