“Why?! Why did you –” I could not finish the sentence, could not let myself say those words. So instead, “Why did I have to see it?! Why?!” That expressed it, or at least enough of it. My next words came out in a wild, shrill crescendo of rage: “How could you have done that to me?! How could you?! How?!”
For days I had exuded searing misery. I cried at home, on the train, as I walked down the street, even at work in a very conservative, very correct law firm. My office was also the document repository for a mega-litigation but I emitted such pain that my co-workers sent lower level employees who knocked timidly and only when absolutely necessary. Occasionally I would hear, “Are you alright?” as I opened the door just enough to pass out what was required. But mostly they simply took what I proffered without comment.
Mine was an ancient pain beyond utterance and I could not have said whether I was angry or sad or filled with hate. And until now words had not come along with the tears only pain. But when words did come it did not surprise me that rage accompanied them. That too was ancient. In this time of looking into the past, of accepting that what was there was part and parcel of me and could no longer be ignored, rage had finally been given safe passage and was quite pleased to emerge whenever necessary.
I have no memory of a time when God was not a palpable presence in my life and I had become accustomed to his voice: a soft absolute certainty within the ears of my heart that I usually understood without words. But this afternoon a voice rang clearly and though my physical ears could not hear it, that voice filled my cavernous office: “Your grandfather’s life was worth no more to me than the lives of those who killed him. Your parent’s lives were worth no more to me than the lives of those who killed them. Your life is worth no more to me than the life of every other person I have created.”
In that moment I saw again the scene that had been replaying itself in my mind for years, the scene that had finally left me overflowing with misery. Two men in fatigue green uniforms faced Grandpére separated from him by his desk. Marmar and I stood across the room, perhaps five feet away. I was about three. Even though it was all excruciatingly familiar, there was something new this time. Usually I saw it from the height of a three year old. With the confused lack of knowledge of a three year old. Experienced the numbing shock as a three year old. But this time my perspective was different. This time I observed from outside, from another height, another place.
The commander spoke. The other soldier took a gun from his holster. I knew what the gun held, knew its contents were real, that they must be real, that it was fitting for them to be real. I watched him level the gun at Grandpére and waited in an eternal instant; I knew I watched choice. And when the soldier moved his finger and Grandpére was thrown against the wall I heard myself moan in agony not because Grandpére was dead, not even because I had seen it, but because of their choices.
The most important people in the room that day were those soldiers and years later I finally saw it. But at the same moment the ugly hatred that had filled my soul, that I had suppressed when it longed to demand of God why he had let my Grandpére die began to well up inside me once again: What those soldiers had done to me was all that mattered. What they deserved for hurting me, for hurting him, that’s what counted. (I could feel my face pouting.) Yet I was curious: I wondered how they had felt. I asked God if they had had children, had had little girls like me. If they would want their children to see such a horror. I wanted to know what had happened to them: If they had found healing, had sought forgiveness. God did not answer. The ugly hatred tugged at my attention but I wanted to know. It was intolerable that they should carry that ugliness forever, intolerable that they should never be free of it. I heard myself asking God to please make them whole.
That request opened a new flood of tears but not tears of misery, nor of rage, nor of hatred. Now I cried because something hard and painful had been pulverized and was being washed from my heart. I cried because I realized that my beloved Grandpére had loved those who had killed him. I cried because I was worth no more than anyone else. And I cried because I realized that God had offered me choice and showed me that I could love the unlovable.