… always holding somebody up … (part 2)

Jamie and Heidi Lake 1985

“She helped restore a balance to the trembling consciousness of terrified children.”  Chaim Potok wrote of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a Vienna-born, Baushaus-trained, German-speaking artist who turned down a personal visa to enter Palestine during World War II.  Rather, she remained in a ghetto to teach children as the official art teacher of the camp.  To the Nazi’s, the camp was known as Theresienstadt.  And the Czechs and the rest of the world, the camp became known as Terezin.   From 1942-44, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis helped children create and express through nearly 5,000 pieces of art.  (1)

“Auschwitz was the Kingdom of Death.  Theresteinstadt was the Kingdom of Deceit.”  (2)Terezin posed first as a relocation station then as a preparation stop for Jews heading to Palestine; however, the humanitarian smoke screen both dangled and diluted hope day by day.

Yet, truth and beauty found its way out of that mire, in part, because of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who held no pedagogical credentials,  faithfully and sacrificially taught art and expression to non-German-speaking children in this Nazi-run camp situated just outside Prague.

‘… always holding somebody up …’  Although Terezin maintained a posh façade as a countryside resort (a featured location for Nazi propaganda films), the inhabitants knew this ghetto offered any real rest…  Perhaps, all but the children fortunate enough to find themselves under the tutelage of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.

Despite language barrier, she animated techniques.  They listened… and learned.  Time. Observe. Think. Texture.  Time. Observe. Think. Texture.  Repeat.  Mrs. Brandeis -the artist turned teacher who refused payment of any kind- ceased her own work to conserve and to share the meager art supplies with her pupils.

“She taught in the way she herself had been taught by her art teachers in Vienna and the Bauhaus:  exercises in breathing and rhythm; the study of reproductions, texture, color values; the importance of observation, patience, freeing oneself from the outer world of numbing routine and inner world of dread. 

She would tell stories, and the children would be required to draw objects she mentioned twice.  They drew flowers, butterflies, animals, cities, storms, rainbows, streets, railway stations, family portraits, holidays, merry-go-rounds.  They drew their concealed inner worlds, their tortured emotions, which Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was then able to enter and try to heal… A member of those classes who survived said of her:

‘I remember Mrs. Brandeis as a tender, highly intelligent woman, who managed- for some hours a week- to create a fairy world for us in Terezin… a world that made us for get all the surrounding hardships, which we were not spared despite our early age.'” (3)

This fairy world doesn’t seem to have been an escape, but a means to express, understand, and overcome present horrors with vivid remembrances… all while stirring future hopes.  Brilliant.  Beautiful.

Mrs.  Brandeis took great care to hide the children’s art before she was deported to Auschwitz on October 6, 1944.  She later died in Birkenau.

Some may think  her artistic endeavors were wasted.  Some may view the children’s work and wonder if any of it really matters in the scope of ‘real’ art.  But in the scope of humanity, Mrs. Brandeis’ instruction encouraged the children to keep remembering, living, hoping, even if only for a few hours a week as their minds spilled a fraction of that life onto paper.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,

but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” 

Philippians 2:3 ESV

She upheld their dignity in those days they were imprisoned.  And she preserved their dignity as she packed away each piece for had in turn churned life and hope in her.  The world needed these to remember, and she knew it.

So it is with us- as we journey the epic endeavors of life… including the pangs of grief.  We know souls who so seamlessly call out hope and happiness in the bleakest moments.  When they rally, people around them rise above disheartening circumstances and join a contagion -if only by a breath- of inspiration and ride on.  We know people who journey alongside us when we are fun… and when we are frozen… with fears… in grief.    They’re patient and tender.  And they risk upsetting us by calling us back to life again.  Sometimes, it takes some remembering, some savoring, some hoping… ‘holding somebody up.’

Who rallied around you in your darkest night,  deepest loss?

Because I was one of the closest people to Jamie, I felt the honor and obligation to “hold somebody up.”  I took over as a big sister to Michael and Holly.  Jamie loved them both, so I’d try to love them and look out for them more.  (being an only child, myself, I now know I had no idea what it means to be a sibling, but I gave it the ol’ heave-hoe.)   Sending Mother’s Day & Father’s Day greetings to Jamie’s parents as well as my own.  Even his best friend and I became fairly close through periodic letters and phone calls.  But, mainly, I thought “I need to be strong enough (or at least ok) for them.”  Overall, I think these were genuine and proper responses for a time…

However, because I was one of the closest people to Jamie… suddenly, I needed people … to hold me up…  like never before in my life.  And I’m not the greatest at being needy and horrible at expressing anything when I feel utterly weak, abandoned, alone.

Yet, so many people acted in beautifully simple ways to comfort us along the way.   I am deeply grateful for every little thing everyone did to lighten our load as we learned to grieve and live again.  Whether we remember every detail or not, I’m fully aware that your efforts and especially prayers held us up for a very long, long time.

More to come… Living Hope.

Heidi L. Paulec

 

(1) Volavkova, Hana. ed.  Potok, Chaim.  …I never saw another butterfly…: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944.  Expanded Second Ed. Schocken Books. New York. 1993. pp.xix

(2) Ibid. pp.xvii

(3) Ibid pp.xx

 

 

 

Grandma Wanda… Beyond Brilliance (part 4)

Grandma Plinsky

As months passed (Defining Time) after everything changed, our house needed some remodeling, so our mental and physical focus preoccupied us and lightened the press of heartache.  We still miss Jamie, and we always will.  And our concern for the our whole family’s response to his death remains.

A pastor at a funeral of a Godly man who committed suicide once said, “God didn’t call him home, but He welcomed him.”  Some days we may feel sadder than others.

Questions still arise.  Does the hurt ever really go away?  No, we do adjust to it.  We wish Jamie would have had a longer, fuller life.  Yet, we must remember we still have a life to live.  Hopeful living is a gift and a choice.

At every family occasion, we always feel the missing.  But I’ve felt we ought not overly focus on Jamie’s absence at the holidays or at our other grandchildren’s special events; otherwise, we let death overshadow the living.  Whether we say anything or not, Jamie is always missed.  Yet, we must also be careful to go on enjoying life without restraining one another with added guilt and unearthing grief.

We want to be there to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.”  Not with divided hearts.  Rather, we choose how we adjust, remember the dead, and encourage real living.

Has God used all this for good?  I’m sure He has in countless ways we cannot see.  I am grateful for the ways He’s allowed us to see good.  For example, one of our daughters, Gretchen worked at a bookstore.  When customers inquired after books on suicide, her colleagues referred to her.  Her assistance helped them find what they were looking for, but more than that her compassion encouraged them as well.

Our other daughter, Lori,  and I had the opportunity to share our experience losing Jamie at Wichita State several years ago.  After we shared our story, several young people approached us with tears.  They thanked us for being willing to talk on the subject.  Several were grieving losses, including some whose families decided to pretend the suicide away.  Acknowledging death is one thing, but accepting it was a suicide is another.  This denial was much more common in the past; however, this class helped me realize it is still a common method of hiding from the truth.  We must be able to talk about it.

I remember one telephone call we received from a man who didn’t believe in God and  whose son committed suicide.  This man, clearly tormented, found no comfort any where.  Up to that point, he chose to close himself off from God.  I pray for him and others like him to be softened toward God through these times, not hardened all the more.

For me, searching the Scriptures brought great strength and perspective.  At first, I thought only of Judas Iscariot as being the primary suicide of the Bible.  However, as I studied more, I realized how many there were and how profoundly God used them in life and in death.

So, how does all this help us today?  The choice is ours.  Death cannot be undone.  We can choose to be defeated daily because of how our lives have changed, or we can watch God use it for good.  We can draw others to the Lord Jesus Christ by following Him and thanking Him without restraint.  Or we can become sullen, bitter and envious of others we think are experiencing good fortune.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Hebrews 13:20-21

Join my prayer~  Lord, please use Jamie’s life and death to bring honor to Your Name by displaying Your Comfort and Goodness in personal ways that draws souls to You and restore them with Your Joy and Strength.

Grandpa Darrell Remembers… Mercy (part 2)

Grandpa Plinsky

The caller?  Our youngest son.  Jamie’s Dad.

He methodically explained all he knew up to that point in time.  I listened.  (What do you do when your youngest son calls to report his firstborn child is gone?  Gone… at his own hand.  What do you do?  Listen.)  Before we hung up the phone, we prayed.  That next morning, Sunday morning, our flight arranged easily as our son worked for a major airlines.  We were grateful for that.  The airlines made the flights, and the employees made it comfortable.  We made our way to Denver.  In shock, I remember meeting family there.  So few details remain.  It was a time of intense sadness.

Several days were spent together with family and relatives awaiting Jamie’s body released from the morgue in the mountains and transported to Denver.  Wanda and I went with Carlton and Kathy to the funeral home to choose a casket and vault.  Over the years, Wanda and I  had buried both our Dads along with a step-father.  In addition, recent to that time, we made all the funeral arrangements for Wanda’s mother, so we had some idea our limited experience would be helpful at such a time.  We appreciated the funeral home representative who was respectful, helpful, and non-pressuring.   He left us alone, so we could take the time we needed to think through all the details.  We are simple people, so deciding how many pillows are sufficient for burial can seem complicated.  Difficult though it was, Wanda and I were thankful we could be of some help in this process.

Then the day came.  All the men of the family went to the funeral home to view the body before the rest. Tears flooded me.  My expression, “What a waste!” A whole, hopeful life ahead.  Jamie was so intelligent and hard-working.  Humble and compassionate.  He could have been a doctor, a lawyer, or a business man, but he did not grant himself the opportunity to live out his capabilities.  Those 17 years were not a waste, but all I could see, as a grandfather at that moment, was all he had ahead of him.  Vanished.

 As written in The Fierce Good-bye: Hope in the Wake of Suicide, a response to a daughter-in-law’s death:

“I stood beside the coffin a few moments, my brain a turmoil of confusion.  Grief, loss, and pity flooded over me, but the most overwhelming feeling was one of waste.  For those who are desperately ill, death can be a welcome relief.  Sudden death by accident or heart failure always shock and devastate.  But suicide, deliberate self-destruction, especially of a talented and gifted young person appalls.  The unfulfilled dreams, the unfinished work, the uncompleted promise, mock like demons.”

The Fierce Good-bye: Hope in the Wake of Suicide G. Lloyd Carr and Gwedolyn C.Carr 27

After those intense moments, God’s grace did a healing work helping me to focus more on being thankful for the remaining family members, especially the grandchildren.  God granted strength to free my focus on this horrible death and shift to the life we who remain are called to live.

continued… Grandpa Darrell Remembers… Mercy (part 3)

Grandpa Darrell Remembers… Mercy (part 1)

 

Grandpa Plinsky.png

“While thoughtful when choosing his words, he confidently spoke in his soft-spoken manner.”

(For Photo Collage Captions, See Notes at the End of Grandpa Darrell’s (part 3)Perspective.)

PERSPECTIVES:

When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story.   However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives.  Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted oral interviews from their responses.  These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person.  In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.”  Both sections are written in the third person.  Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.

We welcome you here.  This remains tender space for us.  So join us accordingly.  Know you’re also welcome to subscribe to receive email links as we publish pieces here.

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Reflections on the Interview:

On January 13, 2007 I interviewed both Grandpa and Grandma individually in their home in Wichita, Kansas.  The home in which they raised their family.  Prior to the interview, Grandpa Darrell and Grandma Wanda Plinsky both wrote multiple pages in their own handwriting along with filling out the initial project survey I sent to them.  This made the interview much easier for me as I could just ask them to expound some or recount what they had already penned.

As I was preparing to go on a writing retreat following these interviews, I decided last minute to ask Grandpa to describe himself.  And I love his succinct reply.  Can you tell Grandma Hazel was his Mom?

“Think before I speak.  (Hope what I say is right.)  Much less talkative than my wife.  {smile}”

Grandpa’s ease and peace stood out to me throughout our conversation.  While thoughtful when choosing his words, he confidently spoke in his soft-spoken manner.  Although this conversation, nearly 15 years after Jamie’s death,  Grandpa Darrell did not seem to camp too long on any particular questioning element to Jamie’s depression and subsequent suicide.  His desire:  Remember Jamie.   Be grateful daily to the Lord for His grace, mercy , and constant comfort.

Brief History:

Darrell Plinsky was the firstborn child to his parents, Ernie and Hazel. His family farmed.  He attended a one room schoolhouse from grade school through high school in Beverly, Kansas.  As an athlete, he lettered in basketball, football and baseball.  From what I have been told, he threw a mean knuckle-ball.

He attended Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas prior to farming some for his Uncle Hermon.  Uncle Hermon’s son was killed in Africa while serving in the US Army during World War II.  Eventually, Darrell signed up for the military draft.  He chose to serve in the US Navy.  After bootcamp he was sent to the Aleutian Islands, Alaska where he boarded the ATR-32 ship, a fire fighting vessel, traveling with a fleet of ships bound to bombard the Japanese Islands.

At the end of World War II, Darrell returned to his hometown.  He’d received many letters from Wanda during his many months away.  He made a point to see her the first night home.  Later, they were engaged and married about a year later.  They raised three sons -David, Timothy, and Carlton- and two daughters -Lori and Gretchen.  Darrell also attended Bible College in Colorado.  His spent his working years at Quartzite Stone Co. (two years) and Tweco Manufacturing Co. (37 years).  Additionally, he served at Calvary Bible Church for 50 years.

My Dad (Darrell and Wanda’s second son Tim) shared several observations of Grandpa Darrell during my growing up years.  For example, Grandpa was a morning runner before running was cool.  Additionally, my Dad said he gratefully remembers his Dad getting up before the rest of the family stirred.  He began every day reading the Bible and on his knees in prayer.  This quiet consistency laid a solid foundation for my Dad who did the same for me.

He and Grandma Wanda continue to faithfully pray for their entire family every day, plus any additional heartfelt concerns for any within their circle.  I’m deeply grateful for their persevering love and care for each of us – far and near.

Although retired now and in his 90s, Darrell still maintains home projects although his pace has slowed some.  He and Wanda still live in independently and are a true testimony of consistency and joy to their family.

prepared by Heidi L. Paulec

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Perspective:

Grandpa Darrell Remembers… Mercy

That Saturday evening in January of 1992 found us at our older daughter’s home caring for their children as she and her husband went out for the evening.  Wanda (my wife) answered the phone.  She broke down as she handed the phone to me.  I knew something serious had happened—a critical injury or a death.  Although naturally talkative, Wanda is not one to emotionally react like that without sufficient cause.  The caller?  Our youngest son.  Jamie’s Dad.

continued…Grandpa Darrell Remembers… Mercy (part 2)

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“… light inaccessible …” (part 3)

photo (26)

Growing up in Wyoming meant many long drives across the Great Plains to attend sporting events or even pick up groceries.  From time to time, I rode alone with my Dad in his pick-up with the windows down.  His observant eye spotted everything- from a pronghorn herd hidden in a grain field to rain streaking the sky hinting storms moving in… I think he taught me to see… really see God’s creation with childlike wonder.

For quite some time, I suggested my childhood died instantaneously when Jamie did.  However, slowly, my senses softened and my lungs expanded again.  The gripping tension in my chest weakened.  And the darken vision of what this “after” life would be… unfolded albeit slowly, mysteriously.

In the dead of winter, we recognize the dormant season.  Willows, once cloaking forts, stand naked and exposed.  Snow shrouds the growth underneath.  Yet, when the cherry blossoms in the spring, when the tulips and daffodils unfurl, when the dawn’s rays rise and the birds sing, do we hide our heart’s recognition of new life?

Little by little, my heart, soul, and mind gained strength reaching deeper than the grief.  Out of the well, fresh awakening and delight saturate my soul.  Withholding gratefulness is an option, but an option that’s sucks life out of us.  Thanksgiving directed toward the “Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise” helps us see and breathe- breath by breath.

In the vivid wonder of eternity’s embrace, do I hide and hoard this fresh nourishment?  Am I not utterly compelled  to share?  Who really cares?

Honestly, both response have been mine over the years since Jamie’s death.  The hiding and hoarding are the yielded responses to fears… especially of vulnerability most people stutteringly steer to avoid.  Discerning when to shine solely from the soul and when to speak continues to be a delicate dance.

Struggles taunt me still, but daily His Word and His Creation revive and refresh the wonder of Who He is and who I am in Light of Him.  He chooses to use seeing people among us to encourage and lighten our loads.  Let’s remember to thank Him and thank them… even if the words don’t come for decades.

And He chooses to use us, too.  Sometimes, we see…and choose to look the other way.  When we hear whispers to reach out, no matter how simple, let’s heed and act.  We never know exactly how He chooses to illuminate Light and breathe Life again through our simple acts of obedience… including sharing our keen eyes of His Hand among us.

Artist and saint alike grope in awe to comprehend the incomprehensible disproportion of the glory of God and the humility of the Incarnation:  the Master of the Universe, become of the earth, earthy, in order to be one with his creatures so that we may be one with him.”

– Madeline L’Engle Walking on Water pg. 154

While our earthly breath is temporary and often labored, the Breath of Life breeches shadows and breathes the delights of eternity into dry bones… and grieving girls.