Welcome to Real Life. You’ve probably heard the question:
If you could have lunch with anyone, past or present, who would you choose?
Recently, I served on jury duty. As the judge and attorneys vetted our jury pool, the defense attorney asked a young woman the lunch question.
“My grandmother,” she answered. “She’s no longer with us. I’d love to sit down with her one more time.”
The attorney never asked the same question twice. I had no need to think of how I would answer. Even so, his question stuck in my mind. If not bound by time and place, who would I choose? My own dear grandma (long deceased), Jesus Christ (of course), Abraham Lincoln… Then, in an instant, I knew.
If I could have lunch with anyone, past or present, it would be my father at age 40.
Officer Cyril Salva, Slovak Army
My father led an incredibly interesting life. In 1919, he was born Cyril Methodius Salva in Lúčky, a mid-sized town in the newly formed nation of Czechoslovakia. He came of age in the years approaching World War II. In 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia. The following year, at age 21, my father completed NCO training in the Slovak army. Thereafter, he fought in alliance with the Nazi regime. My father once told me, “We believed we were fighting a holy war against the godless, communist Russians.”
At war’s end, when the Allies divvied-up Europe, Czechoslovakia fell under Russian control. However, my father refused to live under the communists he had just fought against. So, as his regiment was returning, Cyril escaped at the border. He joined the throngs of refugees wandering Europe. As such, he had many adventures: arrest and escape, surviving a shipwreck, stowing-away across the Atlantic, and eventually landing in the Copacabana resort area of Rio de Janeiro. He was hired by the Hotel Excelsior as an electrician. There, he gathered the money, contacts, and paperwork needed to immigrate to America. In August of 1952, Cyril Salva arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. He met my mother, married her, and they had four children. He was 40-years-old the day I was born.
My father told wonderful stories. But he spoke little of the war years as I grew up. In the 1960’s, anti-German sentiment still held sway. And he had fought on the wrong team. I’m thankful for the stories he did tell me. Sadly, by the time I cared to learn more details, my father was in his senior years and suffering from dementia.
Dad’s on a new adventure now, in heaven. If by some miracle we could meet for lunch, I’d ask:
- What was Lúčky like in the 1920’s? Share some anecdotes of your parents. Who was your best friend? What were your childhood dreams?
- How did Slovakia change during the war? Describe the battles you fought in Russia? How exactly did you escape at the border? Did you ever regret leaving your homeland? What were the conditions like in a refugee camp?
- Tell me about Rio’s Copacabana in 1940. What kind of room did you rent? Who were your friends?
- What were your first impressions of America?
- And please share every other story you’d like to tell!
Then, I’d say,
I love you, Daddy. I’m so proud of you and my rich Slovak heritage. But I’m also grateful that you persevered in your dream of coming to America. Because you did, I—your child—also escaped the darkness of communism. I grew up safe and free in America!
While writing this, a wonderful thought came to me. I’m told in heaven no one is old. Each person lives eternally at their prime (age 40?). One day, when I reach heaven’s shore, I just might get that father-daughter lunch date!
Who would you have lunch with?
 Because my Savior Jesus shed his blood for me on the cross, I have the wonderful hope of eternal life in heaven. There, I will see my father again (and many others who have died in Christ)! Jesus died to save you, too. Learn more at www.needhim.org.
Peggi Tustan is an ordinary woman living and extraordinary real Life in Christ. Visit her at www.eggitustan.com.