It was the season when the apples were falling from the trees – a time of separation. A time of sweet scents and bees and wasps that fed on the fallen fruit.
Someone else had fallen, too. A beautiful 37-year-old mother-of-three had made her last bed in the very orchard behind the parsonage in a small village with a lake. She did not mean to say Goodbye. It really was not her time to go yet. She had endless plans for herself and her family – of living in communes, traveling the world, sleeping on beaches in her Volkswagen van. But as she lay there watching the stars overhead that shimmered through the apple trees she pondered over what it meant for her, this final farewell.
How things could have been different. How she would miss her 4-year-old boy, 6-year-old girl, and the 11-year-old, her eldest. Once she told me how she would miss the oldest one the most since the two of them had spent the longest time together. But also her little girl, female and beautiful like her, she would be sorely missed. And the little baby boy. He would always be her baby. They would always keep a space in the unruly heart. The smallest was still inside his mother’s womb when she found out about her breast cancer diagnosis. The decision to delay chemotherapy and radiation so he could grow up undisturbed from chemical cocktails and poisonous rays.
Now we had gathered in the garden of the parsonage to accompany her on her last ride – there were 5 of us (Ralf, Henrik, Alex, Till, and me, her sister) and our 6 kids. It would take her 4 weeks to draw her final breath – at 9.45 AM on the morning of her 31st birthday. She held out for me to return from the school run. It was a sunny day. It was the darkest day of our lives.
Later we realized that what we did – washing the dishes in the bathtub, cooking last meals on a two-burner camping stove – was the most severe act of love any of us had ever done. It glued us together. The act of dying and departing let us, the ones left behind, grow together even more.