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A Shout From The Attic: Peace

...There was an air of joyous realisation, exaltation, as the golden sun warmed away five years of care and triumphant sounds spilled into the bright blue air from the bandstand in Greenhead Park. This was a great time to be alive...

Ronnie Bray tells of the coming of peace at the the end of World War Two - and of a much greater peace.

It seemed that summer would never end, as day after day of hot, dusty sunshine came, and each day lasted well into the night.

Rivers of gas tar, persuaded to flow by beckoning fingers of golden yellow sun, oozed from their hiding places between the cobblestones and formed agreeable-smelling jewels in the road where roguish fingers unstuck them, rolled them into balls and carried them away as prizes. Many sticky spheres were left in the grubby pockets of too-large and well-patched short school trousers, to be found by mothers on wash days, and sometimes found a day or more too late.

The loaf sized sand coloured cobblestones that paved the streets never looked as bright as in that summer when the birds sang louder and there were more cheerful people and smiles than before or since.

They were carefree days for children. Fathers, older brothers, favourite uncles, and others were coming back from the war. To their own, each man was a hero and was for a short time, treated as such. Places filled with them, some grown fuller and more manly, others returned less full of manhood than when they marched off to war, and many a transient uncle disappeared in some haste as fathers came home for good.

Through the town and into the parks on these glorious, peaceful days, groups of servicemen in hospital blue uniforms and red ties, settled their minds to peace and recovery, knowing that this time they were not going back to the fighting. The guns of the world had fallen cold and silent, and they were glad.

Stories were shared with little drama, and foreign notes and coins flowed from these travellers who, though artless, looked through eyes antiqued by what they had seen and experienced, their hearts firmed against undue sentimentality by what they had done.

Yet, it would not be long before the talk of soldier and civilian turned to other things, and the memories of war were burned away by the heat of summer and the aura of peace that overlaid everything. But not quite everything.

Some could not forget, but looked with hollow eyes at scenes gone that others could not see and would never understand. These, who walked like question marks, were more dead than those laid in their shallow graves under foreign soil, remembered and mourned by sad souls who knew not where their sleeping heroes lay. For those bereft with no place to let their tears fall, there would be no end to sadness or mourning until they joined their lost ones.

Some blighted souls were condemned to watch interminably the same searing scenes in the never dark theatres of their tormented minds. Death would be a welcome closure to their tragedies and lamentations.

For the rest, there was an air of joyous realisation, exaltation, as the golden sun warmed away five years of care and triumphant sounds spilled into the bright blue air from the bandstand in Greenhead Park. This was a great time to be alive.

German and Italian prisoners of war played football in the park against British wounded, and small boys, some of them fatherless children of war widows, ran among them kicking and shouting with no sense of grievance for past enemies. War soon became a memory too distant to intrude, when peace broke out in that summer long ago.

I was ten years old that year and remember the feel of peace with undiminished pleasure. Walking in the park bathed in the golden splendour of that season, my thoughts flying free and almost joy within me at some intangible and unutterable sensation, I darkened as I remembered that I must soon go home. Thinking of home and what it was cast a shadow big enough to blot out the sun, even in such days when it seemed so big, so bright, and so warm, and never would again.

I understood that life was not fair, and had somewhat awkwardly accepted this as a universal truth, but I kept some dreams, and my dreams kept hope alive within this fragile world. Home! Why should I have to go back there? Yet, where else can a child go? The world was not then made for children, and is not yet.

It did not seem fair that I must leave the world of sunshine to run through the dim passage to go into the dark world in the cellar of 121 Fitzwilliam Street. I never set foot in that house but with reluctance and immediate depression of spirit.

The air outside was buzzing with the day glow not yet spent. The warmth of the world, that summer worth remembering, hung in the air like layers of curtains, and the sound of peace filled the park and the streets and everyone’s mouths and ears, but could not penetrate the gloom once the back door closed as a tomb door slamming shut, leaving all within to the dust and decay of living death.

It was a parallel world co-existing but separated from the joy of outside people and outside things that could be heard quietly through the thick stone walls, but could not be shared or enjoyed by the denizens of that twilight world.

Now I look into the faces of children and wonder what their homes are like and if anyone loves them as much as they need to be loved, or whether they feel the trap closing when they go indoors, and if peace and love and celebrations can not go in with them, and the laughing and singing have to stop outside the threshold.

If they do, I mourn them, for they are dying even as they struggle to live; darkness closes over them as they search for light, and while they seek the benison of love, harsh and angry voices drown their feeble cries, indifferent to their pleas. Their spirits struggle, then give in, and I am born again.

Then where can such turn for peace? I was fifteen years old before I had the answer to that question. My meeting with some young Latter-day Saint missionaries was an answer to prayer.

Peace comes from knowing God, and from knowing that Jesus takes away the hurt. Discovering these spiritual truths comforts those who mourn, sets the captives free, brings light to those who dwell in darkness, binds up broken hearts, and restores wounded spirits.

The healing is not always immediate. Deep wounds take time, but it is always sure, saving those who languished lost, crying in the chilling darkness, while the rest of the world rejoiced in glorious light.

The peace within the soul thus purged and healed is greater than the peace that was felt deep in my bones in those days of war’s end in the heat of a glorious sun in that long summer when I was young. It is the peace that passeth all understanding and I thank God for it.

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