The Art of Perseverance

How Nursing Taught Me Hope and Perseverance in the Midst of Struggle, Part One

I always planned to nurse my children, and when I was pregnant with Madeleine, I anticipated the bond nursing would bring with great joy. I knew that it would not be without its challenges, but I was certain that those challenges would be temporary.

When Madeleine was born, I had an hour of skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care, with her before she was taken away for newborn checks. The hope of kangaroo care is that it will help the newborn regulate her body temperature, encourage bonding between mom and baby, and establish the nursing relationship if mom wishes to nurse.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Madeleine didn't latch on during that hour, but did after her newborn checks. In that moment, I felt gratitude and elation. I felt profound wonder at what my body was able to do. After having grown a child within me, my body now had the ability to nourish that child. I was overwhelmed with joy.Madeleine didn’t latch on during that hour, but did after her newborn checks. In that moment, I felt gratitude and elation. I felt profound wonder at what my body was able to do. After having grown a child within me, my body now had the ability to nourish that child. I was overwhelmed with joy.

Nicholas captured that moment in a photo. Throughout the next three months, that photo became a reminder. That photo became my why.

Because that joy didn’t last.

Eager to move me out of the labor and delivery room and into the postpartum unit, my nurse told me to unlatch Madeleine so she could transfer me to a wheelchair. It had been fifteen minutes, she told me. That was enough. Never mind the fact that Madeleine was still actively nursing in that moment. And feeling caught off guard and vulnerable, I went against my gut, and I listened.

I have regretted it ever since.

In the postpartum unit, Madeleine wouldn’t latch. When she did latch, she wouldn’t suck. I was handed the pump and pumping parts and told I needed to pump every four hours minimum. Bottle feeding was not an option due to nipple confusion, so I had to syringe feed Madeleine anything I pumped. It was tedious. Because I didn’t anticipate having to pump while in the hospital, I didn’t have a hands free pumping bra, and so I had to attempt to nurse Madeleine, and then place her in her bassinet and hold the pump for the next fifteen minutes. I felt humiliated and vulnerable.

Getting Madeleine to successfully latch took pillows placed all around me, the IBLC (lactation consultant), and my husband, both of whom were doing different things to either support me or readjust Madeleine to encourage a proper latch. When she did latch and suck, it was incorrect and caused significant pain.

We stayed the maximum amount of time just so I could get as much help from the IBLCs as possible. One of them finally ended up getting Madeleine a pacifier because it seemed Madeleine didn’t know how to suck. She hoped that the pacifier might encourage the sucking reflex.

I will always wonder if unlatching her before she was finished in the delivery room caused some sort of negative association for her. If it somehow disrupted our relationship. We never found any sort of explanation for all the issues we had, and so I will always wonder if it all went back to that moment. That photo was the last positive picture of me nursing Madeleine until Madeleine turned four months old.

When we got home, it became worse. Trying to get Madeleine to eat resulted in crying. She would latch, suck for a minute, pull off screaming, and repeat. Getting her fed took upwards of an hour or more.

Madeleine holding onto my scapular after nursing.

I spent a lot of time crying. I had anxiety attacks before going to bed. I worried about ever getting sleep. I worried about getting her fed. There were times when she wouldn’t eat and we would have to feed her from a syringe. I would frantically pump while Nick tried to keep her calm. The only thing that gave me any hope, that brought me any peace, was seeing Madeleine repeatedly grab hold of my scapular during or after nursing.

Madeleine was born on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel after I prayed a novena to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. When I saw Madeleine holding my scapular, I knew that Mary was telling me that all would be well. I didn’t know how, but somehow, all would be well.

We saw the lactation consultant at the pediatrician many times. She could not figure out what was going on with Madeleine. Overactive let down was a suggested possibility, but it didn’t quite fit. They said reflux didn’t fit either. I was finally handed a nipple shield and just told to use that, but even that had mixed results. The only thing that ever worked was getting Madeleine to suck on her pacifier and then rapidly doing a “bait and switch” so that she ended up nursing without noticing that she had latched.

When she was between two-three weeks old, she was nearing four or five hours of refusing to eat. I called her pediatrician, and was told to pump and give her a bottle. I didn’t want to do so, because I was so worried about making it even harder to convince Madeleine to nurse. But I was more worried about her being fed, and so I immediately listened. I was home alone, and so I pumped while Madeleine cried. I remember feeling like I had failed her, and wondered why I hadn’t just given her the bottle sooner.

Nick giving Madeleine a bottle at around four weeks old.

When we were out of the house, it was worse. My arms and hands ached from holding her. To even consider feeding, Madeleine required that I stand and rock her while also quickly switching out the pacifier, keeping covered, keeping her properly supported, and ensuring a good latch. I remember feeling so weak and hating how much it all hurt my hands. I didn’t know it, but I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Nursing Madeleine made that pain even worse.

She nursed best in the rocking chair at home, which made my whole body stiff and achy. At the time, I thought this was normal. I thought it was because of sitting so much.

I don’t know why I didn’t quit. It would have been easier. But during the hardest moments, during the moments when Madeleine would scream and scream, during the moments when I would cry, during the moments when I felt so deeply broken and that I had failed, I found myself praying.

Somehow, there was this quiet stillness. Somehow, I had hope and trust that it would get better. And I was determined to help it get better. I set goals for myself. Make it to three months. Make it to six months. Make it to a year.

I wanted that quiet time with my daughter. I wanted that bond. I wanted those memories. And so through prayer and sheer grit, I made it happen.

And somehow, magically, at three months, Madeleine decided that nursing wasn’t so bad. Something just clicked for her, and things became easier. There were so many moments before then when giving up seemed the better option. In those moments, however, my heart would whisper, “No, not yet. Try another day. This is not the end.”

Milk after a pumping session at work.

And it was not.

I pumped every two to four hours at work for six and a half months. I dealt with low supply and researched methods and supplements needed to ensure I was able to keep feeding Madeleine. I had to advocate for myself and ask for a space to pump. At one point, I was given a space filled with windows and no curtains and had to ask for curtains. I dealt with students ignoring signage and walking in unannounced while I was pumping. I dealt with adults not understanding what the sign was for and coming in anyway.

It was all worth it.

Nursing Madeleine at 11 months old.

I ended up nursing Madeleine until she was 19 months old. It was a beautiful gift to us both. I learned so much about giving of myself to others and persevering through difficult moments.

I had hoped that nursing with Mariana would come more easily. And while at first it did, my experience with Mariana taught me about a different sort of perseverance that I will explore in the post next week.

A quick note: to the mothers that wanted to nurse but could not, to the moms that exclusively pump, to the moms that use formula for any reason: you are enough. You have not failed. You are loving your child by keeping them fed. You still know the sleepless nights. You still know those quiet moments. None of you are less than any other mother. You are beautiful, you are a daughter of God, and you are still giving your child the gift of yourself and life, no matter how your child is fed.

When it Falls Apart

This is a post I wrote in February of 2020

Most of the time I am able to do things independently. I don’t like asking others for help. I definitely don’t like being seen as weak.

And yet there are times when the situation demands that I ask for help, even when I don’t want to at all. This requires a tremendous vulnerability, especially when I am at work. There have been times in the past few months where I have not been able to walk while at work, and have had to teach from my chair. There have been times when I’ve not been able to write on the board, and have had to ask my students to do it for me. Yet I know that in showing my vulnerability to my students, they see that their own shortcomings are opportunities for growth.

Things become even more difficult when I am unable to do anything at all. I woke up this morning unable to walk. Making breakfast was a Herculean effort for me. I used a chair to get from the couch to the kitchen and had to continually stop for breath. I have run a Spartan race, and yet I found myself quite nearly as out of breath as when I was running that Spartan, simply while trying to make my breakfast.

It is easy to write platitudes about how vulnerability and pain remind us that we cannot do it all. It is easy to write about how pain can remind one of the need for self care. It would be easy to write about how such pain reminds us that we cannot do it all and that we need Christ to redeem our sufferings. But I have written about those things before. And today, as I reflect on those things, I find that they simply do not outweigh my pain.

As I write this I am laying on the couch. No matter how I lay down, I am in pain. There were a few moments today when I found myself thinking that I would rather be in labor. Perhaps the distance of time has helped me to forget how great the pain of labor is, but that is where I am right now. At least with labor, there is a baby at the end of it.

I think we are often expected to find the good in our pain. There is this unwritten lie that says that if we cannot find the good in our pain, that we are simply complaining if we talk about it. That lie prevents us from one basic human need: to have our pain heard and understood.

Today when my daughter woke up, my husband had to bring her to me. I have only left the couch twice today, and both times left me utterly exhausted. My pain is not responding to any normal pain medications. And though I called my doctor today as soon as her office opened, I have still not yet heard back from her.

It feels humiliating, being unable to do so much. And yes, I know that this is an opportunity for vulnerability and growth. But I also know that I simply need to process my pain. Often we do not give ourselves and others that opportunity.

Adding to this physical pain is the emotional pain of isolation. I have tried to connect to others and to make friendships, and yet I find myself feeling woefully misunderstood by those with whom I meet and interact. my husband and I were trying to figure out who could pick up my daughter today from daycare since I am currently unable to do so. We were also trying to figure out if anyone could come here and help me. We came up with a very short list consisting only of Nick’s family members, but they live an hour away from us.

I say all this not for pity, but because I firmly believe that there are many other moms and families living in this situation. We have isolated ourselves when we need a village. We have idolized the independent mother and father who can do it all. We have put individualism on a pedestal, and we have lost the sense of interconnectivity with those around us. We have created a culture in which we focus so much on ourselves and our own families that we forget to reach out to others. And in doing so, we make things so much harder for ourselves.

I do not know that I have any solution for these problems. But I do know that something must change. We must go outside of our selves and beyond the excuse of ” I’m busy. ” We must learn that connecting with others is a vital part of self-care, not just for ourselves, but for our whole family. We must be willing to be vulnerable with those whom we meet. And since many of us are in the situation, we should try to cut the small talk altogether and just focus on building relationships.

We also must learn to accept our pain for what it is. Whether it is physical or emotional pain, we should be able to talk freely about it and have it heard and understood. We should not have to make excuses for our pain. We should not have to justify our pain. And yet, so many of us do.

And yes, we should recognize that pain is an opportunity for vulnerability and growth. We should recognize that pain is an opportunity to unite ourselves to Christ on the cross. But we should also recognize that pain is simply a part of living. And that pain is necessary for the human experience. Pain does not always need to be fixed. Sometimes pain simply needs to be spoken about and heard.

For if we do not have pain, then we do not have vulnerability, and if we do not have vulnerability, then we do not have true relationships, and if we do not have to relationships, then we do not truly have love. And what other purpose then can we have for life then loving Christ, our families, and those around us?

Simply stated, pain helps to lead us towards a deeper love. And it is in hearing and recognizing the pain of those around us that we can be led to deeper relationships thus generating a true and purified love.

Daring Greatly

I resigned my teaching position this past Tuesday.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, and yet, simultaneously, it has been one of the easiest.

It is hard to leave what we know. We like the familiar. We enjoy routine. And…we also like regular paychecks and the stability of having a current position. Additionally, I truly love teaching! It is a passion of mine, and there is nothing quite so rewarding as watching students studiously engage with Shakespeare after discovering that there is a treasure trove of bawdy jokes hidden underneath his foreign language and seeing a struggling student truly get a difficult concept for the first time. It is invigorating to see students engage in our current events through the lens of the classics, and I will truly miss that.

I gave a lesson to my students earlier this year about identity, in which I had them make identity charts to practice characterization. When making my own identity chart, I wrote the following, “daughter of God, wife, mother, teacher.” I told the students, “These are the four things that most define me, and they go in that order. I have to be a daughter of God before I can be a wife, a wife before I can be a mother, a mother before I can be a teacher.”

Our lovely Mariana Caeli was born in October, and I went on maternity leave. Mariana’s life has brought so much love and laughter into our home. She is so different from her older sister, Madeleine. Mariana is a quietly happy, sensitive soul. She reminds me to find the quiet and choose joy, while her sister Madeleine shows me the joy in exuberant laughter and persistence. Mariana’s life has in and of itself been a new beginning for our family.

It has not been without darkness, however.

At Mariana’s first well-appointment after we brought her, her pediatrician’s office had concerns about her weight. This prompted that pediatrician’s office to schedule office visits for the next four days in a row. They had me start a routine of triple feeding in which I nursed Mariana, gave her a bottle, and pumped, every 2-3 hours. They had no plan for me to stop this, though this is supposed to be a short term intervention lasting a maximum of 72 hours. They knew I had a history of anxiety, and yet, the urgency with which they were talking about Mariana’s weight made me feel that they were concerned that she might just waste away.

We switched pediatrician practices, and were told that all this was wholly unnecessary, but by that point, the damage had been done. My anxiety was on high alert, and now I needed to work with an IBCLC to stop this routine without absolutely destroying my milk supply.

Once the isolation of Covid was added in along with my chronic pain, it was a tried and true recipe for postpartum anxiety and depression.

Each week I was grateful to be home with my girls. And each week I dreaded going back to work. I began to have panic attacks about work. Would I be able to keep up with pumping? How would I fare with the commute? What about sleep? How could I take care of myself and be a good wife and be a good mom and be a good teacher?

I kept trying to turn off the thoughts and just enjoy the time. I kept telling myself, “I can do hard things. I can make it through this.” I felt so much guilt for dreading the return to work, because I truly do love teaching. I felt like I was drowning.

As I reflected and prayed on the matter, I recalled that I start each year with a lesson on Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech. For those unfamiliar, I’ve put it below:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

After reading the speech, I then prompt students to reflect on what it means to fail while daring greatly. We discuss the value of failure and the lessons that can be gleaned from it. We also discuss the final line, “so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” I ask them to consider what this may mean in light of their faith, and I lead them in discussing what it is to live their faith on fire for the Lord. We discuss the stories of the martyrs and look at how they have failed in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of the Lord they know the “triumph of high achievement.” I want to instill in my students the value of failure and by doing so help them to embrace a radical vulnerability. I want them to welcome failure as a friend. To see failure as an opportunity for growth.

As I recalled this speech and the lessons I wish my students to clean from it, I had to ask myself: Am I daring greatly? Am I embracing the possibility of failure? Am I meeting life with a radical vulnerability?

And so last week, I reached out to my school to prepare for my return. And last week, they offered me a lifeline: the opportunity to resign if I felt I could not handle it. And as I reflected on the desire to be willing to fail while daring greatly and to be radically vulnerable, my decision became clear. I will be forever grateful to my administrators for their understanding.

Leaving was hard, not only because I felt an obligation to fulfill my contract, but also because I struggled with wondering if I was just giving up. I thought about my students, and I was sad that I wouldn’t see them again. But then I remembered what I had told them: “I have to be a daughter of God before I can be a wife, a wife before I can be a mother, a mother before I can be a teacher.” And then the decision became easy.

Throughout this entire postpartum period, I realize I have been consumed by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of giving up. Fear of being an imposter. Fear of being not enough.

I realized it was my fear holding me back. Would I be able to get a new position if I chose to return? If I took this time for myself and my family and explored these different things, would I fail? Would I be a terrible stay at home mom? Would I be able to break out of survival mode without my work?

And then I remembered the lesson I give each year on daring greatly and realized none of that matters.

It doesn’t matter if I fail. It doesn’t matter if no one likes my work. It doesn’t matter if I’m not always the best stay at home mom. What matters is that I try and do it anyway in spite of my failures, so that I will not be one of the poor and timid souls that know neither victory nor defeat.

And so when I focus on daring greatly, I am so excited about the possibilities ahead of me. I am going to be writing here about life, faith, fitness, and motherhood. I’m going to chronicle my journey with postpartum anxiety and my fitness journey. I have the Great Books series planned out! I am going to explore freelance options and tutoring. I’m going to work on my novel. I have some exciting projects planned that I will eventually be able to share with you all. And most importantly, I am going to focus on getting myself well again so that I can be a daughter of God, a wife, and a mother to two beautiful girls. Once I am well again, I will consider returning to teaching.

Anxiety has been my dragon, but I know that it is a dragon I can slay with God, my husband, and my family all rallying to my support. And rather than living in fear, today I choose a new beginning. I choose to see an opportunity for growth during this period.  I will embrace opportunities for failure. I will embrace vulnerability. Most importantly, I choose to dare greatly, for it is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or how the doer of deeds could have done them better. Rather, the credit belongs to the man in the arena, for if he fails, he fails while daring greatly.

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Song Amidst Sorrow

Ten men stand gathered in prayer.  Maximilian Kolbe leads the group and begins to sing.  The men join him in song, and their praises echo from within Cell 18 of Block 11.  The men are shut in an underground bunker in Auschwitz, sentenced to die because of a prisoner escape.  And yet, in the midst of this great darkness, the men were singing. Their leader, Kolbe, chose to be there.  One of the men chosen to die had been Franciszek Gajowniczek, a Polish army sergeant. But Gajowniczek began to cry out, “My wife! My children!”  Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward courageously, saying, “I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.”  And so after two weeks in the bunker, watching the men around him die, continuing to pray and sing, Maximilian Kolbe–instead of Franciszek Gajowniczek–died from a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

Biography

Maximilian Kolbe was born Raymund Kolbe on January 8, 1894 in Zdunska Wola, Poland.  At a young age, Kolbe had a vision of the Blessed Mother offering him two crowns–one white and one red–for perseverance in purity and for martyrdom.  Kolbe asked to receive both crowns.

The vision ignited within Kolbe a desire to serve Christ.  At 13 years old, Kolbe left to attend the Conventual Franciscan Seminary in Lwow.  He took the religious name Maximilian in 1910. He was ordained a priest and returned to Poland in 1919.

Kolbe taught the faith through radio broadcasts and publications.  His monastery near Warsaw gave shelter to Jews during the Second World War.  After his monastery published a series of anti-Nazi pamphlets, Kolbe was arrested and sent to Auschwitz on February 17, 1941, for hiding Jews.  

In July 1941, one of the Nazi commanders found that some prisoners had escaped. He ordered the execution of ten men.  When Maximilian Kolbe courageously volunteered to take the place of Franciszek Gajowniczek, the switch was allowed.

After two weeks, the guards came in with a lethal injection of carbolic acid.  They needed to clear the cell to make room for additional executees. Kolbe calmly accepted his death, never ceasing his prayers for the men that were persecuting him.

Franciszek Gajowniczek was reunited with his wife in 1946, but his two sons died in the war.  He attended Maximilian Kolbe’s canonization in 1981 and survived to the age of 93. Each year on August 14, he returned to Auschwitz, honoring the man who gave his life to save him.

St. Maximilian Kolbe and I

There are some saints that chose us, rather than us choosing them. I first remember hearing of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the saint with both the crown of martyrdom and the crown of heroic virtue, when I was in middle school. His story, that of a priest in a concentration camp that gave his life to save another, has stuck with me ever since.

For nearly two years now, St. Maximilian Kolbe has held a special place in my heart. Upon learning that I was pregnant, Maximilian Kolbe became one of my patrons as I asked for a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery, and healthy baby.

Madeleine’s middle name was originally going to be Cecilia. Neither Nicholas nor I felt strongly attached to the name. When we discovered we were having a girl, Nicholas and I knew that her middle name needed to change. There needed to be some connection to Maximilian Kolbe.

Nicholas suggested “Kolbe” as her middle name, but I felt it was too masculine. For a week or so, we prayed and struggled to find alternatives with a tie to St. Maximilian. Finally, we went to Mass.

During Mass, Nicholas turned to me and asked, “What about Immaculata?” It was perfect. Not only was it a tie to St. Maximilian Kolbe through the Militia Immaculata he founded, but also it was a tie to the Blessed Mother and a nod to me, as my birthday is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

He has been her patron ever since.

I first became fascinated by St. Maximilian Kolbe after a trip to Poland in 2015. There was no time to visit Auschwitz, but I saw multiple mentions of him throughout the trip. His courage and selflessness impressed upon my heart the great value that is a human life. Upon my return, I made him the subject of one of my creative writing assignments.

Maximilian Kolbe continued to pop up in various ways. I was working on an application to Dynamic Catholic in 2016. The topic I was assigned for my sample writing assignments? St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Last week, I began setting up my classroom. I looked at the saint outside my door, the saint designated as my classroom patron: St. Maximilian Kolbe, Patron Saint of Journalists.

I very nearly cried.

Just today, Nicholas informed me that St. Maximilian Kolbe’s birthday is January 8th. I was baptized on January 8th. Clearly, I am meant to have a connection with this saint.

This year, in all of my classes, we will be beginning class with prayers written by or asking the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe. He is a saint that demonstrates that there is light amidst darkness, hope amidst despair, love amidst great evil. And that is the sort of saint that many of us need in our lives to continue to hope when all else seems stacked against us.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pray for Us

St. Maximilian Kolbe, we ask you to help us to grow in selflessness and generosity.  Inspire us to sacrifice ourselves and our desires for the good of others. Help us to remain joyful even in the midst of great darkness and suffering, and to pray especially for those that have wounded us.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, you were willing to give your life to save the life of another.  Help us to more deeply recognize the sacredness and infinite value of each human life. Grant that through your prayers, all families, prisoners, and drug addicts may find joy and peace in Christ.

If you would like to read more about St. Maximilian Kolbe, you can find a creative piece I wrote on him here.


To Be a Light

A Short Story about St. Maximilian Kolbe

You didn’t know me. 

            You didn’t know my name, my heritage, my religion.  You knew that I had a wife and two sons after I cried out, begging humanity for mercy.  You knew that I faced certain death amidst the harsh, cold, prison walls.  You did not know what sort of death awaited; you only knew that death was certain.   

            Yet amidst that blood-streaked gray sky, you raised your hand as I stood in front of the crowd looking out.  You walked forward, moving closer to me. You moved steadily towards what could only be death, and for what?  To save a man whom you felt had more to lose than yourself. 

            You looked at me, your eyes filled with clarity.  You moved amidst the crowds, pushed through the throngs of people, walked up to the soldiers clothed in green.  The hundreds present were silent—in that moment, the world seemed to stop.   

            The gates were foreboding and grim and spoke of death.  The wind howled and roared against the barren wooden barracks.  The entrance to this forsaken place was filled with a lie.  You knew this, you knew that you were condemned, you knew that you were the walking dead, and yet you spoke. You dared to look them in the eye, you dared to bring light into the dismal darkness of a never-ending gray night.  You did not quiver in your speech, did not hesitate, you breathed those words as if they were not even a thought. 

            Your voice was clear and strong, “I am a Catholic priest.  Let me take his place.”  The words echoed through the darkened, hallowed camp.  Never was there so deep a silence amongst that somber mill of death.  You were being led to your death.  Later we would learn that you were locked in that tight, cold, barren, iron cell for two weeks as they attempted to starve you to death.  You watched as the other nine around you died.  You watched and you prayed.  And as you prayed, they watched you.  We now know that they watched you and tried to kill you, starve you, deny you of water—but you lived.  You would not die, and they were mystified.  You prayed for their souls, for your murderers, for those whom others would call merciless bastards.  In your last moments, you prayed for mercy.  While you were present in that cell, those iron bars were your chapel, the concrete floor your altar. 

           You extended your arm to receive the lethal injection.  I wonder if you knew that they were tired of waiting.  They told us that you did not flinch, but reached out to them, almost as if to embrace them with God’s Mercy.  Later accounts would say that you looked at them with love as they extended to you only carbolic acid.  You died praying.  You died in silence amidst a hall of murder as a martyr of charity, as others would later come to know you. 

            You did not know that my sons would be lost to the war.  You could only pray from the heavens as I remained in that camp for over five years.  You did not know if I would only be put to death another death another day, but that didn’t matter to you.  You looked at me and saw a human, where others saw a worker.  You looked at me and saw a soul, where others saw only weak flesh and bones.  You didn’t have to say anything, but you chose to give life by sacrifice, to sacrifice to generate hope, to hope to be a light.