We head off to see the chapel for the first time as we didn´t have time on our last visit. Right away I discover Jens´ triathlon suit on the table and underneath it a white towel that says “We´re all for Jens.” It is embroidered with the triathlon club´s insignia. Both are from his triathlon group in Düsseldorf.
I run my hand over the suit tenderly. He wore it in competitions and had a lot of fun, even when his muscles ached. Next to it there is a photo of Jens and Thomas crossing the finish line at the Leipzig triathlon. That was a happy time for my sons. I am only now aware of how well they understood each other. I had always taken it for granted.
A letter written by his sister-in-law Susi brings tears to my eyes. It ends with the words: “… You will always be a part of us. And we will tell Sassa a lot about you! We miss you!” She also added a PS that he surely would have liked: “Hopefully there are great bike routes and no dermatologists where you are now.” The yellow paper is adorned with our granddaughter´s colourful handprint as well as her photo.
A box of sweets with Japanese writing on it must be from his colleagues. All of these things were laid at the memorial. The local women collect them and lovingly place them in the chapel.
“They haven´t lived yet. They died far too young!”, calls out one of my friends. She examines the mementos on the tables intently. “Look at that …” She wants to show me the items for the other victims. But that is impossible. As if paralysed I stand in front of the things for Jens. They attract my eyes as if by magic.
A friend knows that lunch will soon be served at the adjacent restaurant which is attached to an inn. It´s called L’inattendu. My husband nudges me out.
We take seats at a table and Grit and Holger sit nearby. A nice French woman serves us, who I later find out is called Christelle. Although the food looks delicious I pick at it.
Now the charming lady would also like to serve me dessert! I really don´t like sweets and decline in a friendly way.
With an unbeatable smile she speaks to me in her native language. I only understand that I need strength and she would be very happy if I ate the dessert.
I can´t resist her charm and nod dutifully. She goes into the kitchen. In the end my husband puts away two desserts and I put the empty bowl back in front of me.
Christelle comes and would like to clear the dishes. She sees the empty bowl and her enthusiasm is infinite. She keeps saying “Madame, Madame, je suis ravie. Vous m’avez fait un très grand plaisir.” (“I am happy. You have given me great pleasure.”)
We all laugh, Grit and Holger too, because of her truly captivating personality. Finally we say goodbye to Christelle but also to her partner Teddy, who works in the kitchen, and leave the restaurant. The Alpine guide is waiting for us outside and asks if we would like to go for a walk. Together we walk along an easy path to the mountains. Grit, Holger, my husband and our friends stroll ahead of us.
Monsieur Bietrix points at the rocks. “I lost my son there.”
He doesn´t explain so I say, “That´s awful. How did it happen?”
“He had a mountain bike accident and died of his injuries but also of cancer.”
I am shocked and speak German automatically. I talk about death which takes our loved ones from us, about sadness and how terrible it is to lose one´s own child.
He nods and probably intuitively understands what I´m saying, for, like most French people, he only speaks French.
© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum
(To be continued)