As we continue to venture through COVID-19, it’s sometimes hard to stay positive and keep our minds in check. After visiting with one of our residents at Dr. Hemstock Residence, my perspective has changed. Not to downplay what we are all going through and how hard it has been on all of us but when you think about the following, it’s easy to gain a different outlook on the situation we are currently living in.
Gerald was born and raised in Holland. His life changed forever when he was 19. During World War 2, Gerald was picked up by the German Army and taken to a prison where he would stay for a few weeks. The objective of the prison was to be a holding place for individuals that they deemed worthy to work in Germany. It was different than a concentration camp as it was not the intent to harm the prisoners but disperse them across the country as labourers. When Gerald heard the call for agriculture workers, he said, “I ran as hard as I could to that group of people as not to be left behind. I didn’t want to get missed because then I would have been sent to a factory and that was not what I wanted to do!”
Gerald and his brother were sent off to work for a German widow and her family on their farm. It was very common for there to be widows left to attend to the farm on their own husbands had been killed in the war. Gerald stated that it was important to stay positive during this time. He missed his family at home but never feared his life. Going through the war was tough but they got trough it.When the war was over, Gerald and his brother took a team of horses and headed back home. When they got to the border, they were questioned by the authority but said they didn’t have a lot of trouble getting back into Holland. Going home was joyful. It was great to see friends and family again. Gerald told me, “Everyone had their own war that they experienced”. His experience was not at all like the stories of his wife. Though they met after the war, Gerald had many stories of what his wife experienced during the war. Gerald’s wife worked for a family providing childcare. She witnessed much more horrific events that are hard to imagine. Events that would be hard for us to fathom let alone live through.
Gerald returned to agriculture school upon returning to Holland. He was then drafted into the army to go to Indonesia. It was during the time that he was waiting to be deployed that he met his wife. They met in the army. While Gerald was in Indonesia for 3 years, him and his future wife wrote letters to stay in touch. Three years later, upon his return to Holland, the two were married.
In 1951 Gerald and his wife came to Canada by plane to Montreal. They then took the train to Saskatchewan where they would settle. Gerald worked on several farms and did odds and ends jobs to make ends meet for their family. It was in small town Saskatchewan where they raised their 6 children.
After he retired, Gerald and his wife travelled back to Holland to visit. Gerald said, “It’s been a wonderful life!” Gerald now resides at Dr. Hemstock Residence while his wife lives in a long-term care residence close by. During COVID, they have had to resort to FaceTime to communicate. It has been hard on them but Gerald is thankful for technology to be able to stay in touch. He commented that he had no way to stay in touch during the war so being able to see each other on a screen is remarkable. Gerald’s advice for any of us going through this is simple:
- Appreciate what you have, we all have so much to be thankful for.
- Life is as good or as terrible as you make it.
- Believe that there is more good in the world than bad.
In Gerald’s words, “when you’re 95 you’re not getting old, you ARE old!” so his advice might be worth considering.