Michaela Merz

Death

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Children are very much concerned about this question, when they are between 5 and 8 years old. Recently I listened to three about six years old boys, as they talked about what happens after death. The taller one said that one comes to heaven and will meet all those again, who died before oneself. The other boy said that the dead will travel to another, far-away star, where they will then live, and the third one said that death is the end and that there is nothing after it. Three philosophies of the parents clashed and lead to a fierce discussion.

In our society death is removed and negated. It does not exist, it is pushed aside, hardly picked up as an issue and if yes, it has something tragic, terrible, as if only looser would die.

When my grand aunt died at the age of 95, she had only few relatives. And as I had been very close to her, her only son decided that she will be cremated and he will wait with the funeral until we can come from Switzerland. At Easter we had managed to come. I, my two daughters, then 10 and 9 years old, my mother and the son of my grand aunt had gathered on the graveyard at the grave of my grand uncle, who had died 30 years before from heart failure when driving a public bus. I had known him as a good-natured, always well-dressed person, who was very fond of laughing, good jokes and good food. After his death, my grand aunt made taking care of his grave her main task and went to his grave every day at every weather.

Now we were all gathered at this grave. The graveyard was very old, with large, abundant trees. The son of my grand aunt had a small shovel and the urn with my grand aunt’s ashes. He started digging a hole. What sounded like an easy endeavour, turned out to be heavy work. For this work he was not equipped with the right tools. The old grave was grown together by the roots of the trees. A small shovel had little chances. He tried again and again, swore and sweated, but nothing helped. The money he had wanted to save for having the grave dug now avenged itself. The hole had about the size for 10 golf balls, but it was simply impossible to bury an urn. At exactly that moment the top piece of the shovel broke and wildly swearing he threw the remainder of the shovel onto the grave. At that’s how it came that my grand aunt’s ashes came with us a last time, because there was no funeral that day. Since then my two daughters are convinced that funerals are something funny. At it is good like this.

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