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Irish Eyes Forgive

Original Post Date:
June 6, 2014.


It’s been 72 years to the date, that
D-Day happened in our history.

I have told the story of how my
Great-Uncle stormed Omaha Beach on
June 7, 1944 with the 29th Infantry Division.
How he was wounded.
Spent 4 weeks in a French Medical Tent.
Then was killed in combat on 07/13/1944.
Laid to rest in France.
Only Son.
Easky, County Sligo, Ireland.

But, this is not the story I’m going to tell.

March 1, 2008.
Haining, Zhejiang Province, China.
Oasis Bar & Grill.

I was accompanying three co-workers of mine, at a local pub rat from Australia.

We arrived to Techno music blaring, people dancing, pool playing, and many drunk foreigners.

My eyes met another foreigner.
I sat across from him as he spoke with a heavy European accent.

We shook hands, opened a bottle of Chinese red wine, and exchanged life stories.

His name, Thoerge Kerntopf.
He went by Thor.
He served in the Bundeswehr.
Deployed to Somalia and Bosnia(where he was wounded. I noticed the ear and face scar, but he provided me with the details of his war paint).
He resided in Indonesia with his wife
(no children).
He was on a business trip.

Some how, after a few bottles of wine, the past began to secrete, pouring in slowly.

I asked him if he was from Berlin.
His accent was noticeable.
He said his family was.
I cringed.
In my head, the numbers began computing.
Years. Plus. Minus.
I didn’t want to know.

I asked about his Family.
He became quiet.
Maybe the wine was killing him.

He then said
“It’s something we don’t bring up. We never talk about it.”

I blurted, “My Great-Uncle was 19.
He lost his Mother when he was 11.
He was my Great-Grandfather’s only son.”

He hesitated.
His eyes lowered with tears.

He said he was sorry for my pain.
He then whispered, “We were supposed to meet. Think about it.”

Then I knew.

He opened his heart.
“My Grandfather was a Nazi.
I don’t talk about it.
It’s a secret within my Family.
This is why I joined the Army.
I wanted to help others.
I did.
I’m sorry.”

It took every molecule of my lineage not to cry.

My first thought?
His grandfather killed my

My face turned a deep shade of red.
I was sweating anger.

Thor sensed my change.
He grabbed my hands.

He again told me this meeting was

He asked me to have a late night dinner with him.

I was floating.
I couldn’t breathe.
I said Yes.

Midnight Noodle shop at 3:00a.m
I ordered.
We took the food to go.

We ended our destiny in his hotel room.
He took his black shirt off.
He laid down.
Closed his eyes.

I opened a Rum Breezer.
I sat on the opposite side of the room.
I couldn’t move.

He said in his German Accent
“Sarah, you healed me.
Please lay next to me.
I just want to lay here and hold your hand.”

And I did.

The next morning it hit me.
I was further away from my own forgiveness as I wept in my dormroom.

I called my Husband.
I told him everything.
He was quiet.
I then confessed,
“I could have killed him.
Revenge for the pain my family has suffered. Revenge for my People.
For my Great-Uncle.”
That broke the shocking silence.

I never saw Thor again.
I left China a month and a half later due to my husband being re-deployed to Iraq.

Sometimes, I don’t know what or how I
feel about March 1, 2008.

But, two people, long ago enemies, held hands with certainty.
Forgiveness is a possibility.

Maybe one day I can.

“Brothers, sisters, where are you now?
As I look for you right through the crowd.
All my life here I’ve spent,
With my faith in God the Church and the Government.
But there’s sadness abound,
Some day soon they’re gonna pull the old town down.

One day we’ll return here.

So come back Billy, won’t you come on home?
Come back Mary, you’ve been away so long.
The streets are empty, and your mother’s gone.
The girls are crying, it’s been oh so long.
And your father’s calling, come on home.
Won’t you come on home, won’t you come on home?

Come back people, you’ve been gone a while,
And the war is raging, through the Emerald Isle.
That’s flesh and blood man, that’s flesh and blood,
All the girls are crying but all’s not lost.

The streets are empty, the streets are cold.
Won’t you come on home, won’t you come on home?

The streets are empty,
Life goes on.

One day we’ll return here,
When the Belfast Child sings again.”
Simple Minds

Dedicated to my late
Great-Uncle Charles ‘Brother’ Moffatt who was killed in action on
July 13, 1944.

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