" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

May 02, 2009

Unimaginable Reunions

Tomorrow I am going to interview an Australian man who never knew his father because he was born four months after his father was shot down over Holland in World War II.

Mike Alexander, now 66, never imagined that there was anyone alive on the planet that could give him insight into his father; enable him to know a little about him. For 66 years, he has believed no such person existed. His mother spoke little about his father when he was growing up. When his mother and stepfather died in 2006, he began to research.

His search led him to Salt Spring Island and an 88 year old Irish man named John McMahon.

McMahon can still recall the night when the Lancaster bomber he was in with Leopold Alexander (and four other men) was shot down. He was the only survivor and woke up in a field with his open parachute around him. He was taken in by a Dutch family but was soon discovered by the Germans and was taken prisoner of war for 2 years.

McMahon recalls how excited his friend was about the baby he and his wife were expecting all those years ago. He met that "baby" yesterday for the first time, 66 years later.

I'm really trying to figure out what the most significant thing I can ask them is. What's the most important thing about this reunion? It might seem obvious but it isn't. Would everyone want to meet the last person that was with a parent they'd never met? What sort of emotions would come up? Would they feel relief? Would all the grief for the father he'd never known come up. Would they be at peace being able to hear directly from someone about the man. What would it change from here on in for that man?

It reminds me a bit of that book, For One More Day, by Mitch Albom. The book explores the question, “What would you do if you had one more day with someone you’ve lost?”

I guess when you meet the last person to see the father that you never met, alive, it is a bit like getting to meet your father in person. We'll see.

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