My Brother Is Gone

November 8th, 2011 // No Comments

We saw him off – in style. We did not need all the accolades to know what a lovable man he was.  Though his early childhood was anything but rosy, he found a good life after he married the right woman. We grew up as refugees – more of an adventure than a tragedy. Getting back into the straitjacket of obedience was tough. A year of vagabond living had suited us fine and released us of all restraint our parents had carefully developed.

Hans was seven when WW II  finally came to an end and left our world in ruins. I was ten. He loved to reminisce about our begging for food that taught us never to waste any. Roaming through the Austrian Alps where we had escaped to, we hunted for mushrooms and berries, and milked grazing cows. Always hungry, finding food was all we could think of. Even mother adapted to the life of nomads while waiting for our father to come home. He never did. The news of his death was the most painful event in my life. I was his favorite – or so I believed. After years of grieving I had no tears left for whoever else would depart.

Hans had Mama. He was too young to miss Papa. To him she was all he needed. They were inseparable to the day she died. So I teased him about it, but he didn’t care and readily admitted that he was Mama’s favorite. When obliged to attend the strict German public school he withered away. Soon he could not talk, fell behind in his school work and stopped growing. Sure, the postwar years were hard on all of us. We all suffered from diseases caused by malnutrition, but he could not hack our deprivations emotionally as well. Rather than throw in the towel and grieve over her misfortune, Mama decided to act. When she heard of the Waldorf school, she knew that she had to get Hans admitted there. As war widow of an educated man her children were entitled to an equivalent education. She got a stipend for Hans so that she could admit him to the private school for privileged children. He thrived in the gentle atmosphere that healed his wounds. He grew into a tall and handsome young man,  ill equipped to handle life in poverty. Generous to a fault he fell prey to ruthless and greedy people – both in Germany and here, in California. His first wife took shamelessly advantage of his kindness until another woman, his second wife, rescued him. With her he brought the world of the Waldorf school back into their lives.  Together they thrived on love and music. Their voices delighted the Edelweiss Choir. His love for skiing, tennis, bicycling and dancing made him many friends.

Our father had welcomed us into this world with a song. We picked it up as soon as we were old enough to sing. Our songs had been part of our lives and carried Hans to his grave.  I had wondered what it would be like to be old and lose the people who had always been part of me. Now I know. First my father, so long ago whom I always missed, then my mothers. My older brother left us more than ten years ago and now Hans. My husband had closed his eyes a year ago. That still leaves me a sister and a younger brother. No point in wondering who will be next and what it will be like when my time comes. It will come. Nobody is spared that final call. Denial doesn’t make the inevitable go away. It’ll come and all I can do is hope that I’ll be ready for it, ready to let go of all the things I care for and move on. Whereto is anybody’s guess. Yes, there is faith and speculation of all sorts. I can pick and chose from among them. At this point nothing appeals to me particularly. I kick the possibilities around only to come back to the point that no matter what I believe, I’ll go wherever everybody else went and will go to. That mysterious place we call death.

My brothers, my father and mother and everybody else is there – all the souls that had once been alive and procreated others that had entered the stage of life and performed until the play was over and the curtain fell. I’ll never know what goes on behind that curtain until my time will come. That is the only certainty we have. Sooner or later all living beings must face that final curtain and leave the stage so that others can enter it.

Is my brother singing again? Will I join him in song, and dance weightlessly through the ether? It’s possible. In our imagination everything is possible. I like that thought. My imagination has no limits and takes me to places I did not suspect. That’s the wonder of life – we cannot know the future except in our imagination. We barely know the present as it is but a fleeting moment – and the past? There I’m back to my imagination that selectively choses what I wish to remember. For now I mainly care to remember the last days I spent with Hans and the memorial, a church filled with his friends. The choir sang for him.  There is no emptiness just yet. Actually, I can’t imagine his not being here. I guess, I’ll just stick with my imagination and let it create the reality that suits my life and the love I have for my brother.

He is gone and yet, well, let’s just say, he is around, but not visible to my physical eye, only to my imagination.







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