23 July 2015, Thursday – Funeral in Le Vernet (1)

Preparations for our journey to the funeral service in the south of France have made me distrust the flight planning, which is being organised by Germanwings. There´s a reason for this: their Care Center recommends illogical times for the return flight from Marseille to Frankfurt. The first flight was ok with us. The next day it was unfortunately changed so that we´d have to spend three hours in the air on a different flight to Frankfurt (it normally takes about 1½ hours). We wouldn´t arrive at the Leipzig-Halle airport until the evening. I protested and asked why the flight time was so long. The employee was also puzzled and said she would find out. She rang back and told me the computer was showing those times and that there was certainly a glitch in the system.
I gave up.
The third option was for us to be driven by car from Frankfurt to Leipzig. However, we would also arrive in Leipzig very late.
The next day we receive a fourth option: fly via Munich with a three-hour layover. We would arrive in Leipzig around 7pm. Exasperated, we decide to do this.
And now I´m sitting around the table with my husband and Thomas, nervously thinking about everything that could go wrong with the flights.
The taxi driver rings the bell at the appointed time to take us to the airport. Thomas is travelling with us. Our granddaughter and her mother are staying in Germany as the 3-hour bus journey from Marseille to Le Vernet plus the funeral service would be too stressful for her.
It´s the usual procedure – check in and wait for boarding to start. Finally it´s time and our flight leaves. Seems like we´re hardly airborne when we´ve landed at Frankfurt. Two warm and empathetic Germanwings representatives meet our flight and accompany us to the gate for Marseille. We see many familiar faces. We all understand each other´s anguish and the associated emotions. No one has to explain.
It´s freezing cold on the flight to France and I should have put a cardigan in my hand luggage. We land in Marseille around 7pm.
As soon as the airplane door opens we feel a hot wind like a hair dryer blowing over us. We´re not used to temperatures like these.
Small buses bring us all to a nearby hotel and we quickly unpack our few things.
The swimming pool beckons and we swim through bright blue water which is barely refreshing. Cicadas shriek in the background. The air dries our skin as the glowing sun sets behind the cedars.
It feels wrong: the hotel, the clear sky, the pool, the waitress hurrying between lounge chairs, the whole Mediterranean flair.
In the evening we mingle with the big group of relatives in the hotel restaurant and our conversations are animated. Over dinner we discuss the funerals in Germany, how they deepened our grief, Lufthansa´s compensation offer, tomorrow – there´s more than enough to talk about.
Late at night we go to our hotel room but as usual we can´t sleep. Although the air conditioning is noisy it´s not effective enough. We open the window but unfortunately it doesn´t cool the room down. The night air glows.
Tomorrow will be a difficult day.

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum

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