Yesterday – largely and forevermore overshadowed by the past memories of today – was a momentous day for some. It marked fifty years since this front-page news happened, just 2 weeks after Martin Luther King’s monumental “March on Washington”:
To others, it was a fifty-year milestone of a different kind: this baby girl’s birth (the blond wavy curls came later). I know her very well.
But for one family, spread across two continents, the day was a terribly sad one: it marked a sudden and tragic death, the kind that has you reeling, breathless and soul-searching for answers… Karsten, just 48 years old, a devoted husband who helped bring up two boys (not biologically his), and who was enthused about his new job and opportunities that lay ahead, inexplicably collapsed.
I couldn’t process it. I worried about Sabine, about Heiko, Nico, and my friend Ines who’d just broken the news to me. Goosebumps and a chill covered my skin. Karsten? Couldn’t be. He was fit and in the prime of his life.
Sabine and Karsten welcomed me into their home, their lives a few years ago, like I was extended family. He truly treated me as if I was so – even picking me up at the airport (on my second visit) with arms flung wide open. If his heart was large, his generosity, joyful spirit and zest for life were even larger.
We had long talks about the country, travel, politics and life. There were visits to his beloved cottage, a short drive from their ‘city’ home, where he liked to toil and putter in the garden. With Sabine, we walked her beloved pugs.
One evening, when I was so bold as to bring my face up a little too close to one of their dogs (NOT a pug, mind you), I was dinged with a bite on the nose. Wasting no time, Karsten rushed me off to the nearest clinic to seek advice and wait until it was determined (confirmed by a lost-distance call to my doctor’s office) that a rabies shot was unwarranted.
Karsten offered me lifts into town on his way to work, and picked me up at a station if he was on his way home. We shopped for food, and I enjoyed meals with him and Sabine on many evenings. During my last visit to their home, the Christmas tree was ablaze with bright lights and ornaments. Karsten cooked up a storm, we drank and ate and gorged on festive treats.
I was lucky to know Karsten. There are too precious few of his ilk.
My heart is heavy for all of them. In Karsten’s memory, I will try to walk an extra kilometer one day, and lay down a stone or shell, somewhere, along the Camino…