Last month, I traveled outside of the country for the first time. I was so excited. I have always wanted to travel, explore somewhere new, and I was finally given that chance. We went to Germany, for a wedding, right outside of Munich. It was a beautiful country, honestly, and I had a wonderful time. The wedding was beautiful. We did a bike tour of Munich, and another of Salzburg. We went and looked at castles. I stared up in awe at the Alps, and went into old cathedrals, and just took in the beauty of it all in total awe. The pictures don’t do it justice.

My family left on a Tuesday, and my flight left on a Thursday, so I had some extra time to explore. I decided to devote a day to check out Dachau, a concentration camp not far from the city. It was something my parents had done early in the trip, while I took my sister to the aquarium, that I had decided was especially important to see.

The sadness was like a heavy blanket

After a few glitches with the trains and some language barrier issues, I eventually found myself looking at the at the gate, with those famous words written above. The hair stood up on my arms as I walked in. You could feel the sadness, heavy like a blanket weighing you down. As I turned to the left, I saw all the foundations of the barracks, where people were imprisoned, and I wondered how hopeless they had been. I walked down the side, along the barbed wire, counting the foundations, imagining how many people it held, my heart beating out of my chest. I went over a small bridge and found myself looking at the crematorium, and it hit me just how real this was.

Just for some clarification, some of these things were original. Quite a bit was a reproduction. Germany keeps these things so we can remember, and has also done things to honor the dead, and all who suffered there. I decided to walk and check out the garden near the crematorium. It was well worn, with a gravel path, the trees light around it giving it an ethereal feel. As I walked, I saw the markers for the mass graves. It seemed so strange to have something that horrifying in a place that was so beautiful. Along the path was a wooden wall. I’m not sure whether it was original or not, but it had been there long enough for ivy to grow over it. It twisted and bloomed so beautifully. I commented to the person I was walking with, about how strange the juxtaposition was.

csa survivor ivy

The ivy showed me what I have accomplished

I took a picture. It moved me. I couldn’t say why at the time, but I think I understand it now. That wall was me. The wooden slabs were my abuse and the immediate aftermath, losing my family, losing trust and hope, and forgetting what true joy felt like. But the ivy was beautiful, and showed what I have accomplished. The first time I let my Father hug me after my abuse. Seeing my little sister again. Being moved by the music of the worship team. Going to Disney and remembering true joy. My courage and strength to speak out. That wooden wall will always be there. It may crack, or crumble, but it is permanently a part of my existence. But the ivy needs a place to bloom, to show it’s beauty. Wherever you are in your healing process, I promise, it gets so much better. You will bloom like the ivy, and oh, what a sight it will be.

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