Eternity has the figure eight on its side as a symbol: 00. There are no mistakes, only lessons. And holding an actual prisoner of war diary from 1943 yesterday, and seeing the hand writing, the exquisitely detailed drawings, and knowing that it was the dreaded concentration camp tome of Nancy’s husband Denys Sinclair, the person who actually played the gramophone record while the 50 who had drawn the short straw went down into the long escape tunnel of what was to become known as The Great Escape, filled me with reverence for the past. We build all our lives on happenstances, circumstances, chance, and choice.
These three a.m. sessions of my writing this Blog pale so very much in comparison to what Nancy’s husband to be, and his best friend, Nancy’s brother wrote while in the Stalag Luft 111 Gestapo Kriegsgefangenenlager. Nancy has also several postcards they were allowed to write, each of course highly censored. The past is as real as this moment of my typing. And it finds its way based on what we do, as well as by what is done unto us. I am up early because of jet lag. Yesterday was a 20 hour day. But I gain sleep; the night before I was up at two. And it was my choice to come here. And I am well fed and well quartered. There is no guard at the gate.
Because of this, that. Because Nancy’s twin brother, Denys, drew a short straw he was one of the 50 to escape. And because he escaped, like all the escaped prisoner of war pilots of Stalag Lufte 111, he was caught, and he was shot. The verbatim transcript from a German officer, stamped Top Secret, reveals Himmler to be the comptroller. Because of Himmler’s decision despite much dissuasion, because of Himmler’s unyielding ardour to provide example to all other Prisoner Of War would-be escapees, the famous 50 were shot. Famous? Who will still know their names? Who knew them, besides family and friends, even then? Recently we’ve had children killed with a heroic teacher trying to defend them from a crazed gunman. I cannot recall her name. Do you?
Nancy's shock still could not bring to recall the year of the suicides. “I think it was weeks, maybe months apart,” she told me last night, around 9:30 p.m. And her body subtly writhed with pain in the relating of a dreadful period in her life when both her beloved sons, in their 30’s, took their own lives. Ian was found hanging from a tree. His younger brother, a short while later, out of great grief and inability to deal with what his brother had done, tied a rope onto a balcony railing, and jumped over. Both left a wife, and both had two children. Because of this, that. Then Nancy’s second eldest daughter, Diana, just as recent as 2008, having contracted cancer, died. Contracted? As if we bargain and sign and seal and deliver our lives? And yet, we do.
Choices. Denys Sinclair, the best friend made in the concentration camp by Nancy’s twin brother, Denys Street, subsequently sought out Nancy, and married her. And they had five children, and in 1959 they immigrated to Australia. The confusion arises in names. A twin brother shot at wartime, Denys Street. That brother’s best friend, Denys Sinclair, finding Nancy and then marrying her. Add to that Nancy’s Belgian mother, Denise, and clarification attends whomever we discuss. Linda, Diana, Ian, Fiona, Nick. Or Arthur, Denise, Douglas, Denys. Nancy. Pat.
So too for much of life. Clarification becomes paramount. Lest our mistakes are ones we pay for.