Last week, while visiting our daughter who lives in Paris, we took a three day side trip to Bonn, Germany. If we had done that in our college days, we’d have had to say ‘West’ Germany. So much has changed in our lifetime!
Riding the train through northeast France and northwest Germany, we saw endless fields of early crops like alfalfa and potatoes, and many more still lying fallow waiting to be plowed and planted. It didn’t take much imagination to visualize the same fields dug in with the muddy trenches of the “Great” War, and to wonder what it would have been like for French Jews to be training eastwards toward Auschwitz. This land, and these peoples have lived in peace for over 70 years now, having been demoralized and exhausted by the wars of the 20th century. Walls have fallen. Governments and ideologies have changed. Churches, especially have emptied; northern Europe is godless.
We went to Bonn to meet the young man who was Mark’s brother Hugh’s bone marrow donor in 2005. He is Bonn born, a software developer married to a woman from Siberia. Imagine a west German man married to a woman from the far reaches of Russia! That couldn’t have happened 35 short years ago! M and N are in their late 30’s, childless professionals most worried about caring for their aging parents. We shared a wonderful meal of sauerbraten and schnitzel while getting to know the history of M’s decision to be a bone marrow donor.
M’s neighbor and good friend was diagnosed with leukemia in their middle school years. As M watched his friend’s struggle to get (and stay) well, he was determined to become a bone marrow donor as soon as he turned 18. Hugh was diagnosed with leukemia in 1995, and a bone marrow search yielded zero matches. M was added to the bone marrow donor registry three years later. Hugh underwent nine years of experimental treatments, which, finally failed. The marrow search was reopened, and there waiting was M.
We learned that marrow donation wasn’t much fun, requiring a month of self-injection with drugs to force the immune system to ratchet up its white blood cell count. That makes the donor feels flu-ish for the 4 weeks leading up to the 4-hour donation in a faraway city. M gladly went through all that for an American man he never met. We are so grateful, because
Hugh is alive and well today thanks to M’s selflessness. When we told him so, he humbly smiled and said, “But of course.”
Of course he would do anything to help stop all that his friend went through. Of course he was glad to help an American. Of course he would do it again. Of course, his respect and love for life is rooted deeply in the carnage of his country’s wars. How interesting that God would orchestrate new life in this way- that all of our recent ancestors fought each other so fiercely only to result in a generous life-giving gesture in the ensuing peace. Although M is not a religious man, God used him mightily. But of course.
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