Updated: Feb 15, 2019
HOW GRANDMOTHER MARGARET STARTED IT ALL
My grandmother, Margaret, was a stoic, noble, graceful, loving, and hopeful woman who was the primary source of motivation and inspiration in my life.
She modeled resilience and refused to be solely recognized for her Holocaust “victim” status. She preferred the term “survivor”. I wholeheartedly believe that “survivor” isn’t even the right identity.
She didn't just “survive” the senseless hatred and violence of the Nazis, she grabbed hold of her pain and trauma with both hands, and “THRIVED”!
Don’t get me wrong, it was not without struggle. What set her apart was her innate coping strategies and her ability to ask for help when needed. She valued the growth process, the face down moments, and led by example.
My grandmother grew up in an affluent, well known, and loving family. She strongly identified with her Jewish heritage, enjoyed many spiritual rituals, and was an active member of her Jewish community. She also valued relationships outside of her faith. Her family was well known in the business community and supported humanitarian causes. She grew up down the street from my grandfather and then married him, her childhood sweetheart.
While writing the above paragraph, I realized that this paragraph could have been written about me. Exactly.
The similarities of our stories seem to end there.
While I married my childhood love in a synagogue, surrounded by relatives and friends, my grandmother married her love impulsively at city hall with no family or friends around. My grandfather came on a day off to marry her in hopes that it might save her from being deported to Auschwitz (My grandfather was an officer for the Austrian army and he had heard a rumor that anyone married to an officer would be spared from deportation).
My honeymoon was spent in a warm and tropical location with lots of alone time with my husband David. Theirs was about an hour or two, at their family home, with no privacy. Not really a honeymoon. Arthur had to get back to his post, and the rumor turned out to be just that – a rumor. Margaret was deported that very week.
Our first years of marriage were spent having fun and getting things out of our systems before we had kids. My grandparents were apart – my grandfather in a forced labour camp, being abused, and becoming a walking skeleton, and my grandmother watched her mother and brother get taken to their deaths and barely staying alive herself.
Our stories intersect again slightly, when we started having children (although her hell seems much more understandable to the outside world).
My father Tom was born after WWII and during the rise of communism in Hungary. There was so much uncertainty and darkness, after losing almost everything in the war, yet my grandparents built up their lives once again, and became the wealthiest family in their town of Moson. It was a difficult decision to leave, since they would be leaving behind tremendous wealth and status to become immigrants with nothing. There was certainly a lot to be anxious about and my grandparents were able to rise from the challenge and escape. They came to Canada with nothing and had another child, Janet, built up a successful business, and thrived.
At a similar stage in my life, I had somewhat of an opposite experience, but very challenging none the less. After the birth of my third child, to the outside world it seemed like a perfect family and life. We had more than anyone could ever hope for. To the outside world, I had everything. Yet, I suffered severe postpartum depression and could not get out of bed. The guilt and shame made it worse since I felt like I had nothing to be depressed about. It was a vicious “feedback loop from hell” that I felt I had no escape from.
Thankfully my grandmother had tremendous experience with escaping and rising from struggle. She was at my side through this experience, validating my struggle, even though she went through literal hell herself, and sharing her courage, almost by osmosis.
She always used to say;
“You can’t give up now dear, you need to get up and make a difference in the world!”
At the time I didn’t really understand what she was saying.
Fast forward a few years. It was only once she left this world, that I understood completely. I had to become her conduit of hope, strength, and courage to others. She knew that there were big things in store for me.
While she was a more reserved and attentive homemaker who thought very simply about live and love, she saw I was a woman on a mission. While she was content to effect change within herself, I was a passionate soul who wanted to change the world. She saw that in me. She intuitively knew we could complete each other’s stories.
She saw I had the drive to combine her legacy with my passion.
With our shared experiences, and overlapping stories, I felt empowered, and knew I could move mountains.
I invite you to share this mission with me.
I would love nothing more than for others to recognize their deep connection to the person that most inspires them and share it with us!
How has your experience with this person helped shape your life and possibly the future of your family, friends, and the world?
What is their legacy… and by extension yours?
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