Michaela Merz

The football team trapped in the caves in Thailand

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Meditation for the boys and their trainer in the caves (6. July). (Imagesource: Rungroj Yongrit / EPA)

13 people are trapped in a cave in Northern Thailand. They climbed in and then the flood came. To save themselves they had to climb deeper into the cave. The water followed them. After 9 miserable days they were found. But to find them more than 100 rescuers were required, including divers with special training. It is not easy for the youths to get out, because between them and daylight there is a lot of water. They first have to learn to dive to get out again. That may take weeks. I think of them, because the story sounds so crazy that you can scarcely believe it. But I see the pictures of the emaciated youths sitting on the floor in the dark and know that real life is crazier than any story.

I think not only of the youths, but also of their parents. Who are waiting, desperate, helpless, somewhere near the entrance to the cave system. The fear that they will never see their children alive again, hangs on them like a millstone.

Recently I met Margrit. Her husband is more than 85 years old and has a terminal disease. His life expectancy is only about 6 months. Both of them know that they don’t have many days left on this earth together. But nonetheless Margrit radiates an uncanny strength. I asked her how she does it. I believe that in her situation I would be immensely sad.

Margrit told me that many years ago she had read that certain primitive tribes believe that death sits on everyone’s shoulder and whatever one does is always present. At the time Margrit found this very interesting and had imagined her “death”, who always sits on her right shoulder. She said that she had always tried to make her “death” as beautiful as possible with the objective that he would like life with Margrit and that he would want to enjoy being on her shoulder. Margrit also admitted that there had been days, when she had forgotten that her “death” was sitting on her shoulder. There were also times, when she had had imaginary conversations with her death.

Margrit thought that in this way she had got to know herself and her own death very well. She was not afraid. She had made every day a happy day. And she still did that with her husband, even though he found that the idea of death sitting on her shoulder is ridiculous. After all he is a physicist and has no time for her mysticism. It is only pain, for which both have great respect, but as they both have great confidence in the powers of medicine they believe that their last journey will be almost painless.

Margrit smiled and told me that she had a word of advice for me. If I was looking for a man, he should be at least 20 years younger than me. She thought that from 55 men had so many physical ailments, because in their youth they had not treated their body with care. That was then a great disadvantage when one was older. She winked at me, took her husband by the hand and both went slowly home.

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