The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “deprivation”

The Hand of a Stranger

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Var

The trouble came when I was quite young.  My father was taken away when I was about three and he never came back. My mother cried for a long time, but I never knew where he was or why he did not return.

These were times of famine and political unrest, difficult for everyone, but especially for a widow with a small child.

Eventually, it became too dangerous to remain where we were.  Not just us, but for many, many people.  So, when I was about six, we packed up the little we had and left the countryside for a large town.  It was far away – many weeks walking.

We were a miserable lot, most of us near starving, cold, filthy, exhausted, frightened. The fields we passed were mostly bare.  Drought had destroyed the crops.  But if we scavenged carefully, we might find something still edible – a buried root, a struggling vine, insects.  If we were lucky, perhaps a small animal.

We slept outside, wrapped in blankets, huddled together for warmth, or in makeshift tents.

One morning, after many days walking, my mother could not rouse herself.  Her eyes were sunken and glazed, and she struggled to breathe.  “Go with the others,” she told me.  ” Survive. Be brave. Be strong. Be good.”

I cried and begged her get up.  I was terrified. I refused to leave her until some others pulled me away from her and folded me back into the caravan, where I was carried away in the tide.

Now, not only was I starving, filthy, exhausted, cold, and frightened,  I was also alone in my mourning,  with new things to worry and be frightened about.

A few people were kind to me but they had their own worries and they could not make my problems, theirs.  Occasionally one of them shared with me from their own meager food supply — a scrap of a scrap, here and there. But most of them had to feed their own families.  An orphaned boy was not their problem.

Finally, after many, many days, we arrived in a large town. The local people did not like us country folk. They didn’t know us, didn’t trust us, didn’t want us around to threaten their livelihoods with cheap labor and a need for charity.

Some of the people in our group had family there. They, at least, had safe places to go.  Some of them had skills that enabled them to find paying work, although it was usually grudgingly. The others only had their backs and remaining strength to offer. They struggled to survive, but at least they were adults.

But me?  I was an orphan with nobody to watch out for me, nobody to care if I lived or died.  But I’d promised my mother I’d survive and I’m sure it was that determination that kept me alive. I begged on the street,  ate discarded fruit and vegetables left on the ground after the market closed, slept against doorways to protect against the worst of the elements.  I was usually chased away from several before I found somewhere to settle in for the night.

One evening, I curled up in front of a small shop that sold pots and pans and other such housewares. The store owner came out and looked me over. I picked myself up,  sure I was about to be kicked along my way.   But he took compassion on me and brought me into his shop, which was warm!  I hadn’t been warm in months!  He give me a piece of bread and some soup that was heating on the wood stove. I was so grateful, I couldn’t say anything but thank you, bless you, thank you.

He allowed me to sleep inside,  enjoying the remaining residual warmth of the fire when there was nothing left but embers. The next morning, he gave me some fresh bread and tea for breakfast, and asked me to sweep the street out front, which I did gladly, with gratitude.  He asked me to climb up the ladder to fetch things he couldn’t reach, and scoot down low to pull things out from under the counter.

He was an older man,  maybe the age of my grandfather (whom I barely remembered). I learned later that his wife and child had died many years before, and he was alone.  He seemed as happy for my company as I was for his.

As we both got older, I got stronger and he got weaker, and he came to rely on me even more.  I was there for him in his old age.  There with him when he was too infirm to leave his bed.  I sad beside him,  and held his hand as he crossed over.

The store passed into my hands.   I eventually found a wife and we had two sons, who took the business from me when I passed on many decades later.

I never forgot his kindness to me and for as long as I lived, I endeavored to pass that kindness on to others.

——————

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

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Nali

In the final years of my life, I and most everyone I knew were burdened by the heavy yoke of existential dread, knowing the Angel of Death might have been around any corner. He could have appeared anywhere, in any number of forms — so many different ways to die which, during better times, never even occurred to us.

In those days, even the very old didn’t die of old age. One might be killed by the enemy or die of rampant disease or debilitating starvation. It might happen quickly or one might wait for the end, tormented by pain.

And yet, we fought on.  There was no other choice but suicide. Some did choose that option. It was hard to blame them.  The toxic stress flowed through our veins, carried by our blood, infecting every cell in the body with its black poison.  It was more than many could bear — knowing that death would likely come soon, but not knowing how or when, not knowing how much suffering we might have to endure before the very end.

There was never complete joy.  Even the few moments we managed of it, here and there – an embrace between old friends, a stolen kiss, some food in the belly, a familiar song or smell or taste that reminded us of better times —  were always eclipsed by the shadow of the Angel’s ominous, black wings. The taint of blood, ever in the water.

The dread gnawed at me, ground me down. Like an automaton, I kept moving, putting one foot in front of the other, but it didn’t matter to me where I ended up.  It was pointless to make a plan, to have a goal or destination.  I had no control over my life and eventually gave up trying to exert any.

One day, I was caught by soldiers. I didn’t care enough to resist. One of them pulled his pistol out and took aim at my head. In that brief moment between knowing I was about to die and actually dying, I had but one emotion:  relief.  At last, the waiting and anticipation were over.  No more waiting tensely for tragedy. The ending of my story was finally known.  The tightly wound coil inside me sprang open and all the stress left my body, empty of it before the bullet hit my flesh.

Though I was gone, others managed to survive until it was all over. They lived, eventually, in peace and plenty, had children and grandchildren. But even in their many joys, they never forgot the shadow.

 

 

 

 

A Member of the Tribe

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Ipo  (we haven’t heard from him in a while, have we?  He’s always interesting and insightful.)

When there are not enough resources for all,  human beings become more tribal.   The only way to win a war — over water or land or food or work — is to align with the more powerful side.  An individual alone cannot hope to take what he needs in times of scarcity;  those who are stronger will kill to take it away.  An individual needs the protection of his tribe.   The bonds might be familial, geographic, political.  They may be bonds formed only in times of scarcity and tossed aside as unnecessary when the famine is over.  But they are, out of necessity, strong; sometimes a matter of life and death.

In this way,  scarcity and lack of resources fractures society, causes rifts along formerly peaceful lines,  and becomes an impetus for war.

Humans have abused their planet – their waters, their land, their air —  and they have multiplied their numbers beyond what the earth can sustain.  The cracks are forming.  Social norms are shattering.  Everywhere it is “us” and “them.”  Wars erupt across the planet,  scattered and explosive, like lightening from space.

Sometimes,   humans recognize that the opposing force is stronger  and more likely to win. Allegiances shift.  People claim they have lost faith in their cause,  but at its root, they believe the other side offers a better chance at survival.

Acrimony is inversely proportional to available resources.  The fewer the resources, the angrier the mobs.

In order to have peace, the fewest number of people must be left wanting.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.

Will to Live

girl_affected_by_famine_in_buguruslan_russia_-_1921

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Nur

When you are healthy and happy, secure and well-fed, you believe you can withstand any hardship. Sacrifice, discomfort, deprivation are all abstract, as they were for me until the end of my life.   Before then, I never understood what it meant to have nothing.  I never understood starvation or thirst.  I never understood the true meaning of “the will to live” until I lost mine.

The deprivation began slowly. Shortages of this or that.  We made do, hopeful that things would soon go back to the way they were.  But they did not improve.  Rather, they got worse. The things we took for granted were no longer available.  We had to find other ways to survive. There was no place else to go and no way to get there, and even if there were, we wouldn’t have had the strength. All of us, men, women, and children were starving. We fell sick easily and succumbed to things that would not have killed us if we’d been strong to begin with. Slowly, we dwindled in number. Those who were left were skin and bone.  Hollow ghosts of what we once were.  Eventually, it became apparent that few, if any of us, would survive.  Deliverance, salvation, was never going to come.

There was no honor, no satisfaction being the last to die. I’d been welcoming the end for a long time.  I simply did not have the energy to stay alive.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

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