Father and Mother did suffer deeply because of my disaster. But I will never fully grasp the agony Grandma had to bear. Only a person who has suffered as much as Grandma can understand how horrific, how immeasurable and ineffable her pain was. Not only had my accident dashed, with one stroke, the joys of motherhood she had found after years of loss, but it had also made her feel guilty for having caused the suffering of others. Mother could just as well have said the opposite of what slipped from her mouth, such as: Dont worry, Daaj, we had bad luck; it was nobodys fault, but not even that would have changed anything. Mother never forgave herself for having loudly and rashly accused an elder, an old person who at the end of her hard, lonely, and almost meaningless life had unexpectedly found a glimmer of hope that she might end her life among people who loved her, and that she might leave behind somebody on this earth who would remember her fondly and benefit from her efforts.
As Grandma joined in and fought against the force with which the earth pulled me toward itself, her hands fought directly for my life. While admittedly her strength could not compare with that of Father or Mother--who at that time were young, healthy people--her meager strength was out of all proportion to her will. With numb arms and a stiff body she fought against gravity, determined not to give up the fight. She had to be replaced almost by force when others noticed how terrible she looked with her clenched, toothless jaws and her convulsively trembling head. Still, it was better this way, and not only for Grandma. Otherwise she would have remained crouching in front of the stove, feeling unneeded, if not rejected, while chores piled up by the hour, only to be taken care of by Father and Mother.
Eventually, the burn healed and I survived--something I need not go into here--for which I am eternally grateful. I am grateful not only for the sake of my own small body and soul, but also for the sake of the people who suffered because of me, and above all, for the sake of Grandma and that tiny glimmer of hope she came to so late in her life.
Galsan Tschinag, The Blue Sky, translated by Katharina Rout. (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2006). Copyright © 2006 translation by Katharina Rout. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions, www.milkweed.org. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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