It’s made me ponder the options for someone facing pain and adversity. This reminded me of talks I had with Wally Zergman, my uncle who lived in Sequim, Washington. As a survivor of the notorious Bataan Death March in May of 1942, he experienced more hardship then anyone I’ve known. Before his death last summer, we talked extensively regarding his wartime experience.
What did I learn?
It was not a nutritious diet, adequate rest, exercise, prescription pain-killers or other medications that sustained him. There were very few, if any, of those options available.
My uncle overcame the pain of his imprisonment by utilizing the one thing his captors could not control--his thoughts.
For instance, he kept himself mentally alert to the good going on around him and this alertness led to opportunities to improve his situation. He told me of resourceful plans he devised that brought him and his comrades another precious ball of rice, a little extra rest or a transfer to a less dangerous work detail.
His indomitable sense of humor, his persistent ability to bring a smile to himself and to others made a positive impact. His expectation of recovery, also helped him to survive malaria and many other diseases that plagued thousands among the camps.
A fellow prisoner of war named John Wyndham also found that his mental perspective helped him to overcome the adversity of his captivity. Like my uncle, whose weight dropped to 68 lbs. at one point, Wyndham endured the same hardship of being deprived of a sufficient diet.