When my granddad passed away earlier this year, he left an old tin with papers in: letters, photos, postcards. Amongst these papers were three old postcards; yellowing, tired, faded relics. Granddad had shown these to me when I was younger, they were very special to him. His father, Thomas, my great-grandfather, had fought in some of the worst battles in World War One, including The Somme, Verdun and Passchendaele. The postcards were sent to my great-grandmother, and their young children. They had just started a family when war broke out. One of the postcards is inscribed “To Baby, from his Loving Father xxx”, which would have been intended for my granddad’s older brother, who was a baby in October 1917, the date the postcard was sent.
I’ve always been affected by acts of generosity and kindness in times of adversity. To have spent the time to hunt out a postcard during the precious hours of leave (amidst such chaos, panic and trauma) strikes me as hugely admirable and warming. I never knew my great-grandfather, he died many years before I was born, but my own grandparents often spoke of how gentle and kind he was, which in itself is a huge achievement: to remain not only emotionally stable but also loving and kind, despite the horrors he must have undoubtedly witnessed.
The horrors of war did not destroy his capacity for love and affection. There’s a lesson somewhere in there for all of us.