When a person dies, it’s as if a library of irreplaceable volumes has burned to the ground.
My grandfather died this past Saturday. He was an extraordinary man who escaped Nazi Germany and survived the blitz in in London. He worked on antidotes to nerve gas, helped build the first production sites for antibiotics in Southeast Asia, was a representative to the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, and lived a life of integrity that few can match. He also crafted extraordinary meals, including a roast goose that would bring tears to your eyes.
He didn’t talk about his experiences or accomplishments much, and though I knew him all my life, most of the stories I have about him I heard from my father, uncle, or grandmother. He was an eloquent speaker, but believed that deeds spoke louder than words, so he preferred to let his actions speak for themselves.
For years I talked about asking my grandfather if I could interview him about his life. Right now I wish more than anything that I had that tape, but it never got made. As a historian, I understand that not everything can be documented, that all sources are inherently partial, and that records in any form can be lost, but I still wish I’d screwed up my courage and asked for the interview. As his granddaughter, I am so grateful for the insights, lessons, and memories he gave me, and I know that they are more than enough.
Rest in peace. Your stories will be told.