let us not forget the life of ilse meyer

let us not forget the life of ilse meyer
unknown to most, mother to us all

we gathered, just a few of us
her family small, her friends deceased
to mark the passing of her life
and i, the pastor, was all in tears
though ilse meyer was a stranger to me
some deep current swept through the room
some mighty mythos rising
from her earthy tale engulfed me

a child in poverty
abandoning her home
running from nazis
foraging for food
crossing borders
crossing the sea!
wide-eyed stranger
finding a place
making a home
tending a farm
loving her family
living well and quietly
for 93 years

let us not forget ilse meyer
she was the 20th century
she embodied its story
she emerged from its chaos
she is america

and yet here we are
only a handful saying goodbye
her saga slipping into shadows
the memory fading
the lessons…buried?
and i cannot tell if i weep
for ilse meyer
or for my children’s children

17 thoughts on “let us not forget the life of ilse meyer

  1. Burro, fyi, you’re actually responding to Christiane, who has been playing this game on this blog for many moons. She posts as herself and as anonymous. Oh, she’ll be back here to vehemently deny it, but it’s a charade she plays on other blogs as well and has been called out for it.

    One example, anonymous responds to you with a Lew Rockwell reference. Over at Istoria blog, Christiane references Lew Rockwell in one of her posts about the same time. Coincidence?


  2. I spent the summer of 1971 in Augsburg, Germany working with our church. I met a young German woman who told me her pregnant Mom and Mom’s sister climbed on their bikes in the closing days of the war and stayed just ahead of the Russian army. They cycled hundreds of miles, finally arriving in West Germany. That and other encounters I’ve had validate that there were many like Ilse.


  3. Chaplin Mike, I still check your site randomly to see if I can catch one of your articles such as this. I will always appreciate the manner in which you shared your knowledge, experience and wisdom in this area of life experiences from this world. This is a great example of your capturing the spirit and nature of an individual person and not a cardboard person that you garnish with platitudes. This is a story unique to the person, a time, a place and a country, I think you summed it up in a beautiful manner . Ilse Meyer is a part of the history and story of America and I am assuming that the country referenced is America. So Ilse Meyer’s story is special but not uncommon, it is part of the great story of America. I understand that the site is going to end soon and I want you to know I really appreciate your time and effort you put into it. Mike Bell, Mike the G. Man, Daniel Jepsen and the others you added to the quality of this site get a big thank you and job well done from me. So as Bob Hope sang over many years Thanks for the Memories. Try to do the music in your head. If you are too young to remember Bob Hope, good for you.

    Thanks for the memories
    Of making me feel mad
    Of making me feel sad

    Of times I did agree
    Of ideas I could not see

    Of words so well wrote
    Of lyrics so well spoke

    I thank you so much.

    Hope you know the tune and I do not know if it will work for you but it does for me.
    God Bless you and the others here.

    This site helped me though a rough year and I learned a few wonderful things.

    Only in America, God Bless and to all those you have comforted thru the years I say what a wonderful thing. God Bless. Good Luck to you.


  4. How do you do it, Oh Mr. Evolved Saintly Empathic Man? Do you have a list in your shirt pocket that you pull out every 15 minutes with the names of the fallen written on them that you sonorously pronounce as you meditate upon their lives? Who are these cold-hearted people you excoriate so roundly?

    Nobody in my circle; my family, my parish, my wife’s church, my company, has been touched in the slightest by COVID yet, thank God. I have a few at the third- and fourth-degree; relatives and friends of people I know, but that’s it. That this is probably due to my isolation than to any good fortune, and it is likely to be temporary as well. That said, the demise of total strangers moves me very little unless I make a constant effort to feel it. In the meantime, I have responsibilities that cannot be neglected.

    Also, Lord protect the warrior Edward Pearson and remember him in your kingdom.


  5. I appreciate all of the comments so far, but I think we’ve missed the fundamental point of the poem. I have done funerals for many people, well-attended and sparse, and have appreciated all of the stories I’ve heard about their lives. But there was something different about Ilse. She represented more than just herself, and the mythos of her quintessential 20th century experience is what moved me to tears.


  6. Beautiful. My parents are getting older…they are only in their mid 60s, so I hope we have many years left together. But lately I find myself thinking of their funerals. They haven’t been very social in their adult lives, my mom in particular is really only in touch with our immediate family. I sometimes think of their funerals…who will come….or will it just be my brother and I and our small families. If you live long enough and outlive your spouse and peers honestly it seems most of us will go to a quiet end with just a few people.


  7. –> “Going to all of these funerals has caused me to reflect.”

    Imagine the kind of reflecting your parents are doing!

    My dad is in his 90s now and living in a retirement community. The numbers of friends who’ve he’s seen died boggles my mind. It has to feel a bit like soldiers in a war: Who’s gonna get hit next? And: I’ve outlived so many others.


  8. ” . . . any mans death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in Mankinde; . . . ”

    (John Donne)

    I worry for those who are untroubled by the deaths of covid victims because they see it as part of the price for something called ‘herd immunity’ which the living will benefit from;
    because these folks don’t understand that what has died was their own empathy for those they saw as ‘expendable’

    I worry for them, because something in them has died that was a part of their awareness of their own humanity

    what does it take to melt the frozen places of the heart in such people who do not realize that they also are a part of a ‘whole’ and not without a profound connection to all living beings ? That intheir dismissing the importance of life of ‘the other’, they have also lost a part of themselves that was much needed in this world ?


  9. As my parents have aged (86 and 83) I have become the designated driver to funerals. Going to all of these funerals has caused me to reflect. It is often the case that there are just not that many people there. Practically speaking, a number of the people who might have been there have passed away themselves. When I die I don’t expect that there will be more than 30 or 40 people there. Maybe a little less. I don’t have children so it will be my small circle of friends and family at that time. I expect that when my dad passes way there will be 50 or 60 people there. Once upon a time that would have been 600 easy. He was very well known as well as loved and respected in his field but Parkinson’s has shut him down for the last ten years and connections have been lost and others have passed on. It’s a humbling experience to witness the reserved and meager termination of a once vital life. It certainly puts things like self aggrandizement and materialism into perspective. It will be for most of us a very understated and quiet end.


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