This is the fifth of seven winners in the Deseret News' annual Christmas writing contest, "Christmas I Remember Best."
They say time heals all wounds, but I am not sure about that. Certainly when the years drift into the mists of the past the ache dies gradually, but sometimes a little phrase of music or the unexpected comment of a friend resurrects an emptiness and a dark cloud floats across the heart.
In 1942 our little branch of the church in Birmingham, England, became part of a gigantic restless wave of people coming and going. We would see servicemen and refugees for a Sunday or two, and then they would disappear and we would never see them again. The whole world seemed to be in a huge flux.
As everyone else, Lisl appeared out of nowhere. She had long, black hair, but it was her eyes that drew me. There was something in them — a deep sadness — that seemed out of place for a lovely teenage girl. We became friends as the weeks went by and, remarkably, she was still here.
She didn't talk about herself very much; in fact, hardly at all. But I had the strange feeling that she desperately needed a friend. I had no idea how badly her situation was until unexpectedly she opened up.
It was getting close to Christmas, and I thought if I really tried I might be able to find a chicken and I could invite her to my folks' home for Christmas dinner. Food was tightly rationed, but once in awhile city people could get food from the countryside.
I invited her but she smiled sadly and said: "I don't think I will be here." I was used to this with other temporary friends, but I was very disappointed. We looked at each other for what seemed to be a long moment, and then she started to talk.
"I am a Jewish refugee from Germany. My friends helped me escape, but my parents were arrested and sent to a concentration camp, and we are expecting the worst."
I had absolutely no idea of what to say. I made some useless comments of sympathy and then went home.
I saw her once more. Very delicately I enquired if she had heard about her parents, and she said in a voice that nearly broke my hear, "They were sent to the gas chambers."
Then she told me she was being sent to work in a hospital as she had had some nurse training. "I feel I should do something for the injured soldiers as they are doing so much for us. It is all I have left to give," she said quietly.
I held her hand for a brief moment, and it was cold. "It was nice knowing you," she said, and the ghost of a smile briefly flickered across her lips. I wanted to hug her but for some reason I couldn't, and she turned and melted into the crowed.2 comments on this story
I rode my bicycle home. My mother looked up from her sewing and asked, "Where's your girlfriend?" I replied, "She's gone," and she nodded.
A lot of people were "gone." They could be a victim of the blitz or a fatal sickness brought on by food shortages and long hours of work or just caught up in the flux and carried off.
Time moved along and I got married and had children. I was very happy. Still, in a corner of my heart, there is a picture of a lovely teenage girl with long, black hair and haunted eyes.