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A Unique Encounter

Elsa Mearkle

It is a long time ago (65 years to be exact) that my brother as a young Pilot/officer in the Royal Air Force was shot down over Germany. I knew he lay buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, near a town called KLEVE in Northwest Germany, but I had never visited his grave. Last year I decided to go and find his resting place.

I flew to Germany and spent two nights in a small town called Emmerich-on-Rhine which is a few miles east of KLEVE. My hotel windows looked out on the Rhine. The ladies in the Info- center, just near the hotel, advised me how to reach the cemetery, and so I found myself in KLEVE (also a small town) looking for a taxi. There was no sign of taxis, and everyone I asked replied in voluble German, and could not understand me. I felt lost and alone - a stranger in a strange land -and wondered what to do. As I stood there, a taxi suddenly appeared round a corner; I hailed it and it drew up to the curb. The taxi driver leaned over, opened the door and asked me in ENGLISH: Can I help you? Where do you want to go? I told him and he replied: "Certainly, please get in. I know that place well. My wife and I often go there on a Sunday afternoon to walk in it's calmness and beauty."

When we reached the entrance to the cemetery, I was paying him and getting out of the taxi, when he said: "I'll come with you as I know where the books are kept in which the exact location of your grave can be found." He led the way to a stone building at the entrance, opened a small door and took out several books wherein could be found details of everyone of those buried there. He searched through them and found my brother's name and the section and row in which he lay. I thanked him and then he said: "I'll just come with you and find it for you" - and he did.

I was overcome as I read the name of my brother on the white stone and the memories it evoked, but then I heard the taxi man's voice again softly asking me how long I wanted to be in the cemetery because he would come back for me. We decided on a time, and then I was alone in that vast cemetery - a beautiful, peaceful, awesome place where 8000 young men lie buried - 4000 air crew and 3654 soldiers. I spent a treasured 2 hours with them; I tended to "my" grave, then walked among the others - scarcely one among them older than 23. In the center of the cemetery I found the altar - like a Stone of Remembrance upon which are carved the words from the Book of Ecclesiastes THEIR NAMES LIVETH FOR EVERYMORE and beyond that the Cross of Sacrifice in white marble standing out against the forest background.

At the appointed time, I was at the entrance to the cemetery and there driving towards me was my taxi-man! On the way back' to KLEVE, I asked to be dropped off at a cafe so I could have a meal. He took me to a Chinese restaurant, came in with me saying he knew I'd enjoy the food there and that he often came there with his wife. He spoke to the owner and ensured I would have an English menu! Then before he left, he took me to the door of the restaurant and showed me how to find the bus depot, and even told me when the buses back to Emmerich would be there. I did have a very fine meal, and returned safely by bus to Emmerich -meditating on a wonderful day, and feeling in my innermost soul that my brother knew I had come to visit him, and how deeply grateful I was for the extraordinary kindness of my English speaking taxi-man.

When I returned home to Idaho, I was still thinking of my visit to the Reichswald Forest Cemetery and of that taxi-man without whom my day could well have been a failure. So I wrote to the ladies in the Emmerich Info-center, told them what had occurred and asked them please to find him and tell him how much I appreciated his special help. Six weeks later I got a reply : We intensively tried to find this taxi-driver, but unfortunately we had no luck to find him. Also the people in the Lotus Chinese Restaurant could not say who the taxi-driver might have been" Wow! -I then fully realized I had indeed been TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL.