He arrived with his daughter to sit on the couch for long hours while she translated his story. It was, he said, the first time he’d ever told it.
He’d been a teenager when Chiang Kai-shek went after the Red Armies of the Chinese Communist Party in 1934. To get away, the Armies undertook the military retreat known as The Long March. He joined them, running for nearly a year.
He told of crossing the mountains in the snow and coming upon people who’d sat down to rest and frozen in their places. By the way his hands shook, I thought this must have been his most difficult memory.
A year or so later, I heard another older man share a memory for the first time. He stood up in a roomful of people after hearing a lecture about the Holocaust. He’d been an American soldier during WWII, he said, and had been among the first to liberate one of the camps. His lips quivered as he described walking by a pile of bodies, the remnants barely recognizable.
There must be many people harboring memories they’ve never shared. And there are some who know that sharing painful memories shatters any power those memories ever had over them.
I’m all for that.