16 June 2015, Tuesday – The transfer documents

Once again we sit at the table at the funeral home. We can now plan Jens´s funeral in detail as his remains were returned yesterday. We give the staff member the name of someone we would like to have speak at the funeral, who she promptly organises. I sigh. Last year he gave the eulogy for my mother, where he described her life in a down-to-earth way without leaving an unfeeling impression among the guests. He avoided false emotions designed to tug at our heartstrings. We don´t measure the quality of such a eulogy by the number of tissues used.
We know there are family members who despite the awful circumstances would like to have an open casket. We refuse to do this. I want to remember Jens as he was – vivacious. His memory should not be overshadowed by the sight of an open container in which an opaque film seals off his remains.
We go through an urn catalogue which we end up taking home with us so we can decide. The choice is difficult because the urns seem sad and bland. Jens was a colourful personality.
As we leave the funeral home the director presses a bunch of documents into my husband´s hand which accompanied the casket from France.
Our family decide to go to the zoo but I can´t switch off. The only important thing is not to sit on the couch and brood endlessly.
In the evening we study the paperwork which was necessary for the transfer. Most of it is in French. The papers rustle as we glance at them briefly and pass them along.
I try to concentrate so I am able translate.
“I´m going to get a cognac. Who wants one?“ my husband asks.
We all do.
He comes back and puts the bottle on the table, which is good because one drink surely won´t be enough.
I read the cause of death on the death certificate and decipher the handwritten words: “polytraumisme, fragmentation“ as well as “catastrophe aérienne.“ (Polytrauma, fragmentation – resulting from an airplane crash.)
“… caused by murder,“ I finish the sentence in my mind.
The burial permit is signed by Brice Robin, the French prosecutor. It says that according to an identification report Jens was identified on 15 May.
I take a big gulp and think about what we did on 15 May. I have no idea. I have no memory.
A document written in English upsets me. Under the heading “Description of Deceased“ I try to read the scrawly handwriting which identifies exactly how much of Jens is in the casket.
It´s not much. I say nothing and throw the paper back on the pile, only to pick it back up again a few seconds later. Indeed, there are very few parts left of what was once Jens, and these are specified in the document. I put it back on the pile again.
Another document permits the closing of the casket. I recognise a transport authorisation. This could be the authorisation for moving a corpse, and there is also a certificate for placing the remains in the casket… Again and again I pick up the only document in English until I show my family and ask if they want to read it. It is shocking to find out how little of Jens has come back.
We drink. A heavy silence hangs over the room.

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s