UNCLE BERNARD DIDN’T TALK ABOUT his years of suffering. That’s what my parents told me as a child. Occasionally, they offered slivers of information — astounding proclamations like “He had to eat insects.” But there was never enough to build a tale. Because of a rift between brothers over a business venture, our families rarely intersected and my uncle’s past remained a patchwork of dramatic headlines. Across the spread of decades we came to share little except a last name.
Until a month ago. That’s when Bernard Pothier, 94, described to me how he had survived one of World War II’s darkest chapters — the Bataan Death March — and 3½ years of captivity that followed. I’d like to say the meeting came about because of resolve or past-due remorse on my part. But it was his doing. He e-mailed the Globe with a “story that should be told,” and the message made its way to my inbox.