Farewell to a Fine Lady

In the mid 1980’s some friends who knew both Simone Veil and me said, “You two have to meet each other.” After juggling our schedules I received an invitation to have breakfast with this charming woman at her penthouse apartment in Paris.

She lived in a beautiful suite of rooms with her husband who was President of Air France. I arrived for our eight o’clock breakfast and was greeted warmly. She proceeded to show me around. There were photographs and memorabilia everywhere. All had stories, and she took the time to tell some of them to me.

I was charmed by her style and her stories. She showed me pictures of the time she spent in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. She was an outspoken feminist, and had become France’s Minister of Health. She was interested in learning about the lectures and workshops I was giving there. We did not have much contact after that but we did enjoy the time we were together. That was clear.

The takeaway for me was a deep appreciation for the power of the human spirit. She was proof positive that no one should ever give in to adversity. I joked with her that she reminded me of one of my heroes. I noticed that Simone took what I said quite seriously. I remember her smiling and looking deeply into my eyes with interest.

She fought for the values in which she believed, and was outspoken regarding human rights and those specifically related to women. That wonderful protracted breakfast of bacon and eggs and good conversation is something I can still feel today.

When I learned she had died, I hadn’t seen Simone for a long time. But it will be an even longer time before I forget that breakfast with the lady who reminded me of Winston Churchill. In death she still casts a large shadow.

Doctor Barry A. Goodfield