I spent 18 months in either Switzerland or France as I served a mission. In that time I grew to love the people, language, history and culture of those beautiful countries. It has been over 15 years and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of my time there.
While I was living in Lausanne, Switzerland, a truly beautiful ville, I was blessed to meet a beautiful, strong woman named Alice. I don’t even remember how it all came to be, however we would spend one afternoon every week with this sweet woman. Alice was in her 90’s when we met her. She was spunky and full of as much life as she could muster.
Alice has lived a life that most of us would run away from in terror and dream of at the same time. When she was quite young she and her younger brother were sent hundreds of miles away from their family in Belgium. Her father had information that could lead to the downfall of the enemies. To keep them safe, her parents put them on a train to Switzerland with a list of names that needed to be protected at all costs. At 9 years old, she took her brother and bravely left all they knew.
The train stop was 400 yards away from the Swiss border in Germany. As they disembarked, the soldiers began to search the passengers. Fearing for her life, the life of her brother and the lives of the people who were on the list, she quickly ate the list so no one would get caught. The soldiers satisfied that they were harmless children let them go. After 400 yards, they made it to safety.
As we sat around the table the afternoon she told us this story, I knew I was in the presence of someone who would have an impact on my life forever. She was incredible.
Her favorite thing to do was to dress up in her ‘American’ outfit. It was a denim skirt with a striped button-down shirt. She proudly wore that every day we visited. She had spent some time in America and enjoyed what she found here. She wanted us to know that she had a bit of America in her heart.
One day all dressed up in her outfit she announced that she wanted to attack ‘des mauvais herbes’ (weeds) in her little backyard. She told us it had been ages since she was able to work in her garden and she wanted so much to do so that day. We helped her down her back stairs. She sat on the bottom step and pulled two little weeds. Then she grabbed the dirt with both hands and relished the feeling of it. I will never forget the look of pure joy she had on her face as she pulled those weeds and played in the dirt.
She expressed her gratitude for that moment time and time again.
I took so much from my time with her. This one always fills my heart with joy and memories of her. Each time I work in my yard, pull weeds or get my hands dirty, I think of my sweet Alice. I know she has passed from this earth and is in a much better place for her. I honor her memory by loving those moments, because she taught me to do just that. Thank you my dear Alice! I will never be the same, because you touched my life.