Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
|Thursday, I was in our county seat with a friend. We stepped outside to leave and were enveloped in a cloud of odd smelling smoke. “Crematorium,” she said and pointed to the tall smokestack behind the funeral home from which the smoke was pouring. “That is a dead body you smell.”
As I had my car door open, the smoke quickly filled it. Driving away, I kept smelling it. I looked around. The entire downtown was full of that smoke. I thought about the Nazi crematoriums and how they must have smelled. As I gained distance, I opened my windows to blow out the smell and drove on to buy ingredients for Christmas dinner.
This morning the incident returned to me. My stomach got tight, thinking about all those “imperfect” people gone up in smoke, while people nearby claimed they had no idea what was happening. I guess, if no one told you that smell was human flesh, you could chalk it up to manufacturing. Having grown up in the 1950’s in Pittsburgh, PA, I know all too well how bad that can smell.
I remember a visit I had with my Uncle Paul when he was about 80. He told me as an Army officer, he had been assigned to clean up one of the death camps at the end of the second world war. He arrived the day after it was liberated. I asked him what he remembered most about the experience. His response: “The smell.”
As a nation, we do both good and evil. Sometimes, as in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are confused by the fact that the act was meant to do good, to end killing. Why not blow up entire cities of our enemies? They don’t matter as much as we do.
Who does matter? When I was twenty-nine, I had a hysterectomy. I was very sad that I would never have children. One of my sisters-in-law said, “when you don’t have children, all the world’s children are yours.”
What about the world’s children when you do have children of your own? What about the world’s children grown into their dotage? To whom do they belong?
My childhood was spent with 4 brothers. I didn’t want 4 brothers. I had nothing to say about that. My parents taught us to share. “Why should I share with them? I don’t want 4 brothers.” Dad would say “they are part of you and you are part of them.” I am glad I learned to share. It feels good to share. It clears away loneliness. It gives me a sense of connectedness.
Did you know that trees connect at the roots and when one tree is injured, the others feed it? Even after it is dead, they feed it. I just learned that. It rests in my mind right next to the question: “Why should I pay for someone else to retire?”