I was talking to one of my classmates a while ago, and I mentioned that one time, during a family-reunion-type-thing, the obligatory grandkids photo was taken just as I went to the car to grab something I’d forgotten. Apparently, I wasn’t missed until it was printed.
We had been telling funny family stories for a couple of minutes by then, all light and easy conversations to fill the gap between theology classes. Then she told me that while my story was good, she had a better one: her dad had once forgotten her during a bombing. He grabbed her little brother and ran outside, leaving her behind.
She laughed about it, so I did too (besides, I am no stranger to the strategic deployment of humor in crisis situations). I asked her about her experiences in fleeing her country, we talked for a little longer. But her story stayed with me.
Today, in the Netherlands, we remember our dead. The focus used to be exclusively on WWII, but as that generation is dying out and other wars have occurred, our two minutes of silence have been extended to contain other dead of other wars, as well as those that died in peacekeeping missions.
I know that at 8 o’clock tonight, when the city is silent and I can only hear the flag at half-mast moving in the wind, I’ll be thinking of two kinds of victims: the dead and the maimed, and those, like my classmate, who had to leave everything behind.
It seems almost unbearably cruel to say that today, life is good. But it is, and I hope it will stay that way for generations.