It is strange how, when people die, they exist in a part of my mind where they would have loved this or where they are smiling or where they are one with something or someone or the very earth itself.
My sister asked if we, R and myself that is, want to join them later this summer for a week or two on a Danish island. They are renting a house big enough for six people right by the Baltic Sea. I admit that I am tempted but while I check the website with the oxblood red wooden house, the white gable trim, the patio furniture on the deck facing west, I can hear myself asking her, possibly on day 2, why after we, three siblings, had deliberated and decided in a string of phone calls on wording and design and procedure, she then had the agreed address for condolences from the death notice deleted just before publication and why she decided to cancel the additional publication in the daily paper of our father's birthplace (first answers: that way we don't have to bother sending replies and why waste money when there's only a handful of old distant cousins living there, probably with dementia). So, an isolated island paradise is probably not the place we should be together. We all grief in our different ways.
On the day of the funeral, it rained heavily and there was agreement that he would have loved it, maybe even made it happen (joke), how he was always concerned about not enough rain for farmers in spring. As half of the ceremony involved walking behind the urn across the cemetery and listening to more speeches and prayers and yet another sermon by the open grave, we all got the message - and fairly soaked.
At first, I tried to get to know all the people attending but as always, found the various branches of the family tree confusing, and regarding the non-relatives, no idea. My brother was much better and did the greeting and thank-you round in a dramatic fashion on crutches (just had knee surgery) which was much appreciated. And yet, nobody was able to identify the man wearing green socks. I invited him along to the meal but he declined.
The bit that was lovely and that my father would have loved happened on the previous Sunday when the soccer club of my father's town, the one he had been a members since childhood and which he so generously supported financially, invited the family for a home match. My brother and his sons went, were led to the seat where my father regularly sat and found it decorated with flowers and various soccer paraphernalia. Before the match, two representatives of the club's youth groups - a young woman from Syria and a young man from Ukraine - came on the field and briefly explained how they remember him and how much they benefit from the financial support and his personal interest in their lives. And then the audience, all 2000 of them in this small town stadium, stood up for a minute's silence and then clapped and cheered him for a good while.
And now, it's all over and done. Downstairs on the dining table, there waits a box of his last personal papers, a few letters and pictures, the original draft of his doctoral thesis from 1957, a booklet of unfinished sudokus and of all things, his hearing aid.
We drove the slow way home, with an overnight here and there, a long walk in the chilly spring and some wine tasting for R while I slept in the car. We won't be coming back to Franconia for a very long time.