15 June 2015, Monday – Jens comes back

We will meet Jens this evening.
We always used to greet him with a hug but will never be able to do this again as he is returning home in a casket. Our son in a casket! Bizarre, and yet it is true.
Melanie will accompany him. She arrived in Marseille yesterday and flies to the Leipzig-Halle airport today via Frankfurt, where a longer stay is scheduled. Two hours alone have been allowed for the transfer of “special cargo“ to the connecting flight.
We meet Thomas and his family at the funeral home to discuss how the evening will be organised.
We learn that the funeral home staff have visited the space at the airport and were informed about the arrival procedure. The casket will be set up in a separate area. We do not want to have music but will bring flowers.
The funeral home director offers to look after two-year-old Sassa during the short ceremony as she is good with children. We decline as we want her to be with us and she often cries around strangers.
We discuss the impending funeral. Many international documents have arrived with Jens´s casket which she will study and have translated if necessary. This would take a little time. She knows we don´t want to put off the funeral for long and that we would like to have it in June. This could be difficult as it´s the start of the summer holiday period.
We say goodbye.
When we´re at home again she rings to tell us that the earliest possible date for the funeral is 26 June at 9:00 a.m.
We breathe a sigh of relief. Finally we have a date.
However, she is somewhat uncertain as the health department has to give the go-ahead for the funeral as well.
In a fierce and determined voice she says, “I´ll take care of it. It´s under control.“
We´re sad and happy at the same time.
Evening approaches. I´m feeling more and more queasy. Thomas, Susi and their cheerful daughter are with us as we want to go to the airport together.
The flight carrying Melanie and Jens is scheduled to land in Leipzig in the late afternoon.
The doorbell rings. The funeral home director and one of her colleagues are waiting outside. They drive us to the airport in a company-owned vehicle.
The car parks in a special section where we are met by airport staff and taken to a secure area. We´re invited to sit down. Drinks are available.
Our granddaughter chatters away happily. She´s too young to understand. Her parents have explained to her that they want to see a wooden box and a photograph of Jens. When she´s older she´ll probably have no memory of her uncle. We are very sad about this.
A woman comes over to tell us that Melanie has landed and will be out in a few minutes.
After a short time she appears in the doorway and we hug. She´s upset and tells us that she could see Jens´s casket being transferred in Frankfurt and that everything went well. The special cargo loading area was located under her seat on the airplane.
The staff were quick. We can enter the room with his casket.
I don´t know what to make of the sight: There´s a casket. Is our joyful, optimistic child really in there? His mortal remains?
Even though or precisely because the real brutality hits hard, I am profoundly empty inside. The naked truth has won the upper hand. As if to finally comprehend it, I take a step forward and touch his casket. There is a vacuum in me which just aches. My hands rest on it as if made of lead.
We put the flowers we brought on the casket which is bathed in warm candlelight.
We stand around it and run our hands over the wood. We barely have enough tissues.
Sassa stands in front of the table and looks at a photo Thomas has put up. It shows the two brothers beaming into the camera, arm in arm, exhausted after a triathlon. She recognises it.
“Papa and Uncle Jens,“ I hear her say.
At some point we leave. We drive behind the black vehicle transporting Jens´s casket to the funeral home and watch as it is unloaded.
Someone from the funeral home drives us home.

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum

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