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It Should Again See Light

It Should Again See Light


Several years ago, a physician from southern France contacted me. His granddaughter had taken ill with a disease that baffled the physicians there. He called after reading several of my articles on disorders of the autonomic nervous system. His granddaughter’s symptoms seemed to match those I had described, and he asked me if I could help. I readily agreed, and for many months I collaborated with the child’s French physicians by telephone and by fax, directing their diagnostic testing. At last we came to a diagnosis, and I prescribed a course of therapy. During the next several weeks, the child made a seemingly miraculous recovery. Her grandparents expressed their heartfelt thanks and told me to let them know should I ever come to France.

In the summer of 1996, I was invited to speak at a large international scientific meeting that was held in Nice, France. I sent word to the physician I had helped years before. Upon my arrival at the hotel, I received a message to contact him. I called him, and we arranged a night to meet for dinner.

On the appointed day we met and then drove north to his home in the beautiful southern French countryside. It was humbling to learn his home was older than the United States. During the drive he told me that his wife had metastatic breast cancer and was not well, but she insisted upon meeting me. When introduced to her, I saw that despite her severe illness, she was still a beautiful woman with a noble bearing.

After dinner, we sat in a 17th-century salon, sipping cognac and chatting. Our conversation must have seemed odd to the young man and woman who served us because it came out in a free-flowing mixture of English, French, and Spanish.

After a time the woman asked, “My husband tells me you are Jewish, no?” “Yes,” I said, “I am a Jew.” They asked me to tell them about Judaism, especially the holidays. I did my best to explain and was astounded by how little they knew of Judaism. She seemed to be particularly interested in Chanukah. Once I had finished answering her questions, she suddenly looked me in the eye and said, “I have something I want to give to you.”

She disappeared and returned several moments later with a package wrapped in cloth. She sat, her tired eyes looking into mine, and she began to speak slowly.

“When I was a little girl of 8 years, during the Second World War, the authorities came to our village to round up all the Jews. My best friend at that time was a girl of my age named Jeanette. One morning when I came to play, I saw her family being forced at gunpoint into a truck. I ran home and told my mother what had happened and asked where Jeanette was going. ‘Don't worry,’ she said, ‘Jeanette will be back soon.’

“I ran back to Jeanette’s house only to find that she was gone and that the other villagers were looting her home of valuables, except for the Judaic items, which were thrown into the street. As I approached, I saw an item from her house lying in the dirt. I picked it up and recognized it as an object that Jeanette and her family would light around Christmas time. In my little girl’s mind I said, ‘I will take this home and keep it for Jeanette, till she comes back,’ but she and her family never returned.”

She paused and took a slow sip of brandy. “Since that time I have kept it. I hid it from my parents and didn’t tell a soul of its existence. Indeed, over the last 50 years the only person who knew of it was my husband. When I found out what really happened to the Jews, and how many of the people I knew had collaborated with the Nazis, I could not bear to look at it. Yet I kept it, hidden, waiting for something, although I wasn’t sure what. Now I know what I was waiting for. It was for you, a Jew, who helped cure our granddaughter, and it is to you I entrust this.”

Her trembling hands set the package on my lap. I slowly unwrapped the cloth from around it. Inside was a menorah, but one unlike any I had seen before. Made of solid brass, it had eight cups for holding oil and wicks and a ninth cup centered above the others. It had a ring attached to the top, and the woman mentioned that she remembered that Jeanette’s family would hang it in the hallway of their home.

It looked quite old to me; later, several people told me that it is probably at least 100 years old. As I held it and thought about what it represented, I began to cry. All I could manage to say was a garbled “merci.” As I left, her last words to me were “il faudra voir la lumiere encore une fois”—“it should once again see light.”

I later learned that she died less than a month after our meeting. This Chanukah, the menorah will once again see light. And as I and my family light it, we will say a special prayer in honor of those whose memories it represents. We will not let its lights go out again.

By Blair P. Grubb, M.D., Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, Ohio.
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Anonymous Louisville, KY USA December 9, 2010

Heartbreaking. Children are wonderfully non-judgmental. Just when we think we have learned as much as we can of the German occupation we hear of another terrible loss. Thank you and please don't allow that light to go out again. Reply

Anonymous Mesa, Arizona, USA December 7, 2010

It Should Again See Light O light of Menorah that enlightens up my soul, in a wonderful meditation that brings love and shalom. I am not a poet, but wanted to express in simple words the sentiments this story broght me. I cry many tears when I see the suffering the Jewish people have gone through history. May our G-d have mercy on those who caused us to suffer such loss. Reply

Dr YK Goldberg Toronto, Canada December 7, 2010

So beautiful I was brought to tears by this elegant expression of love and respect. The naive and pure love that children have for their "best friend" is the love that G-d set in our hearts. That is the true light. To love and honour each other, that is the light of G-d, the light of Chanuka.

Thank you for this beautiful and poignant story. Reply

isaac blum brooklyn, ny via December 14, 2009

memorabilia sad,terrible things happen during the german occupation.I know it first hand. Reply

Samuel China June 13, 2009

Light heart breaking. Really is. Reply

lila Imas via June 4, 2008

family's story I wonder if you can look up the story of the family who were taken away. The doctor would know their last name, or it can be researched. very sad, Lila Reply

Eli Trisker Montoe Township, NJ/ USA December 10, 2007

The Menorah That was a very touching story & sad. Stories about the Holocaust are so sad. It is hard to belive how the Jewish people were treated & killed. It is hard to believe how a man can have so much hatred in him. Reply

Anonymous November 30, 2007

Beautiful!!! Reply

sara gershuni jerusalem, isrrael via December 20, 2006

the hannukiah I was moved by your story. As a daughter of a shoah surviver i feel the power of judaism . Just as the menorah was kept and its light appears again, so do we the jews enlight the world and don't perish.
thanks for sharing your story with us Reply

Doris Leavitt Santa Cruz, CA USA via December 17, 2006

Thanks for sharing this very moving and meaningful story! Not only did it bring tears to my eyes; it also helped to remind me of the light within, God given, that we must remember to keep lit until it's time comes, decreed outside of ourselves, to go out. Or perhaps it is the "ner tamid" within us that we pass on well beyond on our physical being. Reply

Celia Leal Sao Paulo, BR December 15, 2006

Il faudra voir la lumière encore in fois I was very moved by this story:
I believe in God´s miracles: And specially this year I was envisaging participating in a Shabbat / Chanukah celebration tonight. Unfortunately it was not possible: But I came to site and read this beautiful account: It was meant for me, I think, to read it now. For a number of reasons, my son is recovering from a health condition. Perhaps your menorah is meant to illumine our lives, too.

My deepest regards. Shabbat Shalom. Chanukah Sameach! Reply

Dixie Herron Bookheim Shreveport, La December 31, 2005

This story touched my heart. Children accept the ones they love unconditionally. It's not until we become "wise adults" that the innocence of childhood is lost.
My prayer for the New Year is to accept and love as a child, to stay true to what is right and be honorable and unprejudiced towards all people.
Children are far wiser, love more deeply and trust completely because their hearts lead them, not their heads. Reply

Rosemary Adelaide, Australia December 28, 2005

It should again see light Good evening from Adelaide, South Australia.

I want to thank you for this beautiful story, although I am not a Jew, I do feel the depth of true love and emotion behind every word you have written.

You must feel so very honoured to be given a treasure that was protected firstly by the friendship of a child for another child, then the understanding of an adult who still held the love of her childhood friend within her own beautiful heart.

Life is truly an amazing thing, you saved the life of a child, to be repaid in true honor with a gift that would never have been expected.

It was my pleasure to read this story. Reply

Anonymous Little Canada , MN February 3, 2005

Il faudra voir la lumiere encore une fois This story is very moving and reminds me of my homeland far away. I could see and feel the presence stories characters in a very vivid way. The author has described these people and this place very accurately.

Yet there is a little detail that requires more precision. The phrase "Il faudra voir la lumiere encore une fois" has more meaning than just "it should once again see light." Falloir, here in the future tense, is a verb that expresses obligation, even necessity. Here we can therefore translate the sentence as "It will be absolutely necessary to see the light again." or maybe " We will need to see the light again"

I am not a Jew yet I know that Chanukah is the festival of light, I also know that the Jews are, by essence, the bearers of the light. The woman in the story expresses here the desire to have both the menorah lit again and the yiddishkeit shine as brightly in France as it has done in the past. Reply

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