The alarm rings. We have to get up early in order to be there on time. Rush hour traffic could be a problem.
I´m nauseous and have hardly slept. Reluctantly I slip on my black clothing. I´ve always been on the slim side but now even my tightest trousers are hanging off of me. I choke down a piece of toast and drink more coffee than usual so that the caffeine relieves my exhaustion. That was a warning sign.
My husband is doing about the same. He´s lost weight, doesn´t eat much and has deep circles under his eyes.
The traffic isn´t too bad so we arrive at the cemetery far too early, but we are not the first ones there. At the same time my husband´s 86-year old aunt steps out of a taxi. She´s glad to see us.
We wait in front of the chapel. Relatives, friends and acquaintances begin to arrive. They come over, hug us, hand us envelopes, say something, or simply comfort us wordlessly. Their voices are subdued as if not to disturb the resting places.
Jens´s best friend is also named Jens and he approaches us with his wife. His shoulders are shaking. He holds us in his arms for a long time.
Marie arrives with her husband and children. She and Jens had also been friends since they were students. Her whole body is trembling violently.
What has this disaster unleashed? Several people cry. No one understands what happened or can comprehend the circumstances which have led us here.
A high school class representative and even the former and current headmaster stand in front of us and offer their condolences. I recognise the headmaster although he has aged.
Thomas stands off to the side and stares at the floor tiles.
Our little granddaughter Sassa looks wide-eyed as the tears begin to run down my cheeks. But I am aware of what´s happening around me.
The funeral home director leads the closest family members into the chapel so we can check that we have the correct urn. He shows us the engraved name as well as the personal keepsakes on the inner lid. Thomas, Susi and Melanie had given them to the funeral home beforehand. A photo of Jens has been placed on a stand, surrounded by flowers. He´s smiling at us. My husband chose it.
I feel like a marionette. My arms and legs are being remotely controlled and tell me what I need to do. I´m functioning.
We sit down and soon afterwards the guests come in. My husband sobs. We hold hands.
The music tapers off and the voice of the man giving the eulogy gets more and more distant until it reaches me from a diffuse place. From what I´m able to gather, his speech shows me that he finds the appropriate words.
The small children present feel the mood, or at least I don´t hear them.
We stand. Hand in hand we follow the urn, the others behind us. Thomas comforts me.
We stand in front of the grave and as if in a trance I take a step forward to throw flowers in. I look inside. My husband is next.
A friend I have known since the first grade rushes over to me unexpectedly. She steadies me as if I were seriously ill, whispering: “Are you going to faint?“ Her nerves are also very tense.
I say no.
She´s known Jens since birth.
The guests say their goodbyes and throw flowers in his grave.
They gather round us and give us genuine hugs which come from the heart – we appreciate them.
We all go to the restaurant together where we will have the funeral reception. The time with family, friends and acquaintances rushes by. Jens´s best friend hardly leaves our side.
Later we again find ourselves with Sassa at a children´s table on chairs which are much too small for us. We don´t say a lot but it doesn´t matter.
Saying our goodbyes takes a long time.
At home we are alone and it feels right. In this situation we don´t want any overnight guests.
We sit next to each other on the couch and are mostly quiet.
Jens is really dead.
© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum