My step-father Jan has passed away. He was 84 years old and the last 5 1/2 years he had suffered from a fatal illness. We all knew that he was dying. With his disease one can survive 1 up to a maximum of 10 years. And although I knew that, I realised you cannot prepare for death. His death struck me like lightning from a clear sky. The ground was swept from under my feet and I felt more helpless than I had ever felt in my life. I am a person of action, I am used to solving problems. I am the one, who searches for and finds successful ways out of hopeless situations and suddenly there was nothing I could have done. I was overcome by an infinite sadness. I functioned and helped my mother in everything such a situation requires, but somehow it was all mechanical.
For the funeral, which took place 7 daysafter his death, my mother wanted me to give the parting speech. And I couldn’tsay NO. From the time I made her the promise, I began to prepare myself intensively.I recall all the things he had ever told me about himself and his parents and Ibegan to assemble the small stories into a picture. I imagined a collage ofstories, which best described his character. And the more I worked on the speech,the worse I felt. He was a kind-hearted person, always in a good mood. He hadliked people and they repaid him with their love. He couldn’t harm a fly. Hewas undemanding and cheerful, hard-working and very skilful. He was a gifted craftsmanand a wonderful pianist. He was a sensational husband for my mother. The more Ibecame aware of this, the greater became my already infinitely great sadness. Thefeeling of having lost forever someone who was so immensely valuable, felt likea lead weight fastened to my leg.
I practised the speech when I wasjogging, because while moving, at best early in the morning, I could relax alittle. I practised the speech, just as I have practised my speeches in thepast, but almost always the tears flowed. I became increasingly anxious that onthe day of the funeral I will not be able to finish my speech, because the tearswill stifle my words. I didn’t know how to protect myself against such sadness.
The funeral was terrible. Obviously so many people knew him and respected him that there were not enough chairs in the funeral hall. Many, who wanted to take leave of him for the last time, had to stand. There was not much space and all the flowers that people had brought with them were laid around the coffin, like a colourful meadow. When the first piece of music, after which I should make my speech, began, I had to bite my lips together till they bled in the hope that the pain would conquer the sadness and the tears which were starting to arise in me. Without much success. Never in my life has a speech been so difficult. If my mother, who wanted me to give the speech, had not been there, I would have run away like a coward. The pain was intolerable. Somehow, I succeeded in standing up, making my way to the front and holding my speech. Jan would certainly not have wanted me to give a sad speech. So I told some of the stories he had told me himself, like the one here about a forgotten wedding anniversary.
I talked about his relationship with his mother and his unique relationship between him and my mother. At first, I didn’t even see the many guests in front of me, I saw only him, at the time he told me the stories. Only later was I aware that, although none of his stories were sad, many of those present were crying as I spoke. I didn’t cry and was able to finish the speech. I have fulfilled my task. But, afterwards, I was tired, dog-tired, as if I had run a marathon in record time. My body and my spirit had been taken hostage by sadness and weariness.
Thank you for everything and farewell!
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