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A few weeks ago I had an interesting talk about ghosts with a man who has researched the massacre of British soldiers in the village of Le Paradis during WW2.
He has spent much of the past 6 years dealing with ghosts, not the ghosts of the dead, but ghosts of assumptions and imaginings, regrets and reproach.
He told me of an elderly man he had met - well into his 90s - who had spent his early 20s as a signalman in France. One day when signals failed he dispatched two young lads on bikes to deliver the message by hand. They did not return. They were presumed dead. He did not talk of it.
And then, over a sherry, over 70 years later, he did. He spoke of how the ghosts of those young soldiers had haunted him through the decades, he spoke of his regrets and remorse.
So my friend took down the names and took to the archives.
He found the records of these 2 soldiers - records of them being captured by German forces, records of them being interred in prisoner of war camps, records of them being demobbed after the end of the war and returning to family and friends to live out full lives.
They were not ghosts, they lived, but assumptions, regret and self reproach had made them into ghosts. The ghosts were created by an inability to face the questioning that might have confirmed the worst, a ghostly omission.
It made me think of situations in my own life - not ones dealing in these extremes of real life and death, but where I have allowed things to die because of assumptions, because it is easier to pack up the hurt and move on rather than to question what has actually happened. It often seems easier not to talk, not to think, to glide around a subject than to question and find the truth.
It made me resolve to be stronger and to chase away the ghosts left by assumptions.
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