8 June 2015, Monday – Our nerves are shot

The lawyer writes to let us know that next week we will finally receive the death certificates. Also, Jens won´t be affected by the return of the victims´ remains from Marseille to Düsseldorf tomorrow. Special arrangements have been made but the details still need to be worked out.
The government ombudsman informs us that Germanwings has allowed the remains to be returned and planned a new schedule. We´ve heard there´s a dedicated informational website for family members. Brice Robin, the French prosecutor, contacts us every now and then. So much information.
We wade through it all to see what we already know and what´s important but can hardly concentrate because of our grief and health issues which have cropped up.
Melanie learns that Jens´s casket will be transferred this coming weekend. She´ll get more details in the afternoon.
We sit nervously by the phone at the agreed time and wait to hear from her. She finally rings and tells us she spoke with two incompetent Germanwings employees. The first one didn´t know anything and the second one hemmed and hawed. She was told to ring back in the afternoon.
The funeral home rings us to find out if we have any news.
“All we know is that we don´t know anything,“ is the curt answer.
The funeral home director wants to help so she contacts Germanwings. She ends up getting the runaround and is rudely spoken to on the telephone. In the end someone hangs up on her. All her efforts are in vain. It´s the first time she has ever been treated this way and she´s furious.
All this contradicts Germanwings´ official notification that either they or Kenyon International (the British company organising the return of the victims´ remains to their home countries) are supposed to inform the funeral home about the date and details of the transfer.
“That´s usual.“ The funeral home director has quite a lot of experience and explains the procedure. “For example, the landing time and the time when we can meet the casket is not the same. The aircraft has to first be unloaded and then the casket is transported to a hangar, where we will meet it. We need a special permit for that.“
She´s willing to do what she can so Jens can be buried in June, and sees that we don´t want to wait any longer. Our nerves can´t take much more.
She promises to have a frank talk with the local health authority, who could decide to hold the funeral at a later date.
“Why can the families in North Rhine Westphalia choose dates for the funerals while we have to wait?“ I want to know.
She answers, “Each state has its own burial law.“
“Have the papers been translated into French?“, she asks.
I sense impending disaster. After all, there are 18 documents required for a transfer like this.
She´s more specific. “There has to be a German translation of the death certificate, official documentation stating that the remains are authorised for transport, and a document for the embalming of the body.“
We know that the death certificate is an international one, which means it´s in a number of languages. But the other documents? Time will tell.
Meanwhile in Düsseldorf, Melanie can´t get a straight answer out of Germanwings. She doesn´t know anything — not when she can fly from Paris, where she would like to attend the informational meeting held by the French prosecutor, to Marseille, in order to accompany Jens´s casket to Leipzig. There is no information.
We´re just about at our wits end.
“I am completely calm and relaxed,“ I murmur to myself. And also, “I feel bloody good.“ As sarcastic proof I devour four sausages at once. They don´t taste that great.
“It´s cognac day again,“ my husband says.
I wholeheartedly agree, although we´ve overdone it the last few evenings.
The telephone rings. It´s Melanie. “Now they want to know the name of the funeral home and if it is supposed to be a cremation.“
“This is absolutely ridiculous!! How often are they going to keep asking us? They even got two copies of the document where we answer exactly these questions!!!,“ I thunder. I just can´t believe it.
She rings off and again we wait.
Time passes.
She rings back. “We´ll have news tomorrow morning. They rang me again. They checked the form you filled out.“
“Man, are they smart.“ I can hardly control my anger. “They actually found it!?“ I reply with sarcastic astonishment.
In the evening we watch a film about witch burning which doesn´t especially help to calm our nerves.

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum

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