Sunday, May 11, 2008

Miracles And Mother's Day

Born in the corner of hell that was the Auschwitz concentration camp in the last year of World War II, a daughter shares the remarkable story of a mother's choice to bring new life into a world filled with death. It's an inspiring example of the strength that can come through faith: the consolation that when you commit to doing the right thing, you will find a way to do it... because you must.

When 25-year old Vera Bein was shipped to Auschwitz in May 1944, she was almost two months pregnant.

From People Of The Book, we can read the stirring account of Bein's daughter, Angela Volgar, whose birth certificate testifies that she had been Born In Auschwitz:

"My mother felt so terrible for all the people who had lost their children. They lost their babies, and she brought one back," Polgar said.
On Dec. 21 Bein felt labour pains. She climbed to the top bunk in her barrack, and there, aided by two other inmates, gave birth in secret to a baby girl.

It's a miracle that she herself survived, let alone both her and her daughter:
At selection on the platform, most visibly pregnant women were sent to die; so were babies, children, the obviously sick and the elderly. Others were spared for use as slave labour or fodder for medical experimentation.

One of the only times Angela Volgar's mother Vera Bein ever discussed her memories of that terrifying time was in an interview she participated in with her teenage granddaughter for a school assignment in 1984. From that tape, Bein relates these details:

"I felt the pain and told the Block altester (the barrack's inmate supervisor) that I feel cramps and pain. She asked me to climb on the top of the bunk, and she came with me and she helped me to give birth to your mummy," Vera tells her granddaughter on the tape.

"She knew how to do it, because she was the daughter of a doctor, so she had an idea about cleanliness and how to help a woman in labor. She brought hot water and clean sheets. She cooked a pair of scissors in hot water to sterilize them" before cutting the umbilical cord, she said. "So everything went quite easily." The infant weighed one kilogram, a little over two pounds "Mummy was so weak and so tiny, she didn't cry. So nobody knew she was born."...

The only other infant survivor, according to Auschwitz museum records, was a Hungarian boy, Gyorgy Faludi, born the day of liberation with the help of a Russian doctor.

An important lesson we sons of mothers may learn from this story, and from the example of our own mothers, is how the act of making life meaningful is an ongoing one, a flame forever on the verge of having its light extinguished. For nourishment it requires a reaffirmation of commitment, a refueling of motivation, and a renewal of spirit on an ever-recurring basis.

To feed this reconnection we may wish we could readily find our inspiration with little effort, through existing resources lying physically at arm's reach; but as with Vera Bein's example we must learn to look within, so that even the most horrific tragedy may not impede our ability to see the miraculous treasure trove of inner strength waiting to be tapped into, and brought to light.

Witnessing new life arise from "nothing" seems miracle enough. Yet the miracle continues as the new life continues, as a mother's love for the child they gave birth to is itself forever reborn day after day, year after year, remaining undiminished even as other children may be added to a growing family. It grows, because it must.

The miracle of life, like the miracle of a mother's love, is one beyond physical limits. It is infinite.

And, through the blessing of memory, combined with the wisdom we may accumulate through advanced age and experience, with grateful eyes we learn to see that its light remains upon us, even beyond a mother's death, allowing the miracle to become eternal:

[Angela Polgar] remembers her mother for many things: the odds she overcame, the perseverance she embodied, the pain she concealed for so many years under a mask of optimism and a survivor's dream of renewal."

A heartfelt Happy Mother's Day to Mother's everywhere. God Bless you all, and thank you for teaching us what it means to have faith.

[Great thanks to Suzanne at Big Blue Wave for pointing the way to this amazing story.]

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