Archive for October, 2009

In Paris Missing the Light in Our Lives

Hello Dear Friends,

One more note to send love from across the ocean.

I am in Paris, but it is hardly the city of lights for me as it has been on my two previous trips. I have done nothing too touristy just walking the neighborhoods, sitting in beautiful places and letting my thoughts float from me and from place to place. The first day here felt shatteringly heartbreaking but as I practiced letting go (and walked an exortdinate amount) the feeling shifted into another way of seeing my surroundings. I don’t feel like a tourist here but rather a short term resident granted the right to sit in parks, by rivers, and in churches. The only museum I went to is a small one that has Monet’s water nymphs (water lily) I sat for an hour and just floated into his watercolors and lost myself. I went to mass and vespers at Notre Dame de Paris. Today I went to Charters Cathedral the only other place in France my mom wanted to visit on this trip. I feel her absence everywhere I go here and it is not just that my bag inhabits the bed she would have had but because we had shared our hopes and ideas for Germany and this was just supposed to be the small gift at the end.

My final days in Germany were full of emotions; the time with Astrid was the closest I have felt to my mom since her death. The conversations Astrid and I shared the advice and consolation we gave to each other felt the closest to what my mom would say in these moments. We shared some stories of Barb but more often talked of the future, and what we felt Barb left us our future, we talked about her baby, my life and the way it will and has changed, our favorite thing was to point out what Barb would have loved and what she would have said. Astrid said that she feels my mom is still with her and tells her what she needs to know if she just listens to herself. We also talked about how her timing was so good, while there would never be a time we would choose this to happen or be ready all those close to Barb were in good safe places in their lives and I know this was no accident.

We shared countless walks in nature, conversations that broke the barrier of language, tears, tears, and more tears over meals and laughter.

Our friends in Germany were so very kind and to my appreciation never asked the cliché question how am I, but rather the sensitive question where are you or your feelings right now, usually met with a shrug, tears/wipe of the eye, and then the honest answer for that moment. Our last day in Chemnitz before Astrid took me to the train we spread the first of Barbs ashes, I had brought a small amount with me and just the two of us had an informal yet observant few moments. Under a gentle German rain I spread the few ashes around the apple tree that had been the gift to Bjorn and Astrid for their wedding and Astrid took a spade and joined the ashes with the earth. The apple tree is near a bench in their back yard with a small playground near by. It is a tradition to give apple trees to a couple on their wedding because of a famous Martin Luther (no not King, its Germany after all) quote that says “If the world were to end tomorrow I would plant an apple tree today”. Astrid and I both held each other and said how this tree will grow and have fruit and the next time I come to visit her (future talk, Camila with you by our side) we can eat its apples.

And now in France where she is not and yet today at the unbelievable Chartres I thought of Astrid and of all the things my mom would have liked there today, she will allways have a future in each of us as we see things she would love and can take a moment to see her there. And this is how it was today I did not feel she was with me but as I sat on one of many benches looking at the nature and beauty of this spectacular place I could see her throw her head back in the way she did and say this is great.

Astrid and I talked of seeds and pregnancy, of ideas and dreams, I know my mom planted a seed in all of us and if we notice we will see the seed in the million places we look.

I feel so fortunate to have had this time with her and with myself (my entire life and on this trip). I am grateful to all of you for your support in this time of grief and I carry you all with me on my final day and then back again across the ocean on Wednesday.

In deepest love and sorrow and love and hope,

Ra

26

10 2009

A Wedding in Germany or Lost in the Translation of Grief

Duffy told me that grief was like a crazy acid trip, and I have come to know that grief at a German wedding is like a crazy acid trip on a crazy acid trip!

I left Berlin in rain and made my way to the small town for the wedding with two train transfers, our train in Hamburg broke down (a real shame when you cant understand a single instruction on the loud speaker) and I missed my connection in Buxtehude, as luck would have it two other wedding guests were on the train and had called Astrid and she asked them to find me. As I looked on confused at the train schedule a strange German man said “are you Ramona I am Ron and my wife you come sit in train house with us until the new train to Bremevodre.” Well lucky me Astrid sent some people to rescue me and how bizarre it was (and this in comparison is nothing).

Friday night was the big party to welcome everyone and start the celebrate as they called it. It was like October fest in the groom’s mother’s back yard, a big tent filled with beer and wurst and some interesting fish. I was introduced around and quickly started to recognize people from mom’s stories of Astrid (the woman who did a documentary about her, the couple whose wedding her and Björn met at, a friend from the kibbutz) and I knew mom would have loved seeing all of their faces.

Astrid had moved me from the hotel to stay with the other friends my age at the church retreat center (I roomed with Karoline from Berlin who is the woman who introduced Astrid to Martin’s and has become a very good friend of mine). The retreat center (read youth hostel) looked out over the church for the wedding and a labyrinth I walked each day I was here.

The wedding was unbelievable in a church from 1578 small in the willage (that is how they call it here) of Oese. I have become know in the willage of Oese ‘as the American girl who veeps for her mother just dies’ (Camila I think we should have shirts made up that say this – ve are the girls who veep for our mother just dies). At the start of the wedding service they lit a candle for those who could not be with us Björns father who died 4 years ago and Astrid’s friend Barbara from San Francisco, they did not need to translate for me I just started to cry and cried for a long time with people’s arms around me and hands on my knee. the wedding was just as Astrid had hoped with so much joy and people, and music including ‘oh happy day’ on the organ and saxophone. And then came the real trip of the party!!!!

It is hard to capture this in a short message so let it be said much will be lost in the translation (as much has been lost on me in the translation here). We were ready for everyone to speak German but would have each other in mom’s absence everyone speaks German and I am becoming an expert at understanding but have trouble replying (Astrid has been amazed at how much I do understand, I attribute it to 7 years of Waldorf School German and half a life away but still can pull conversational phrases together). I should also explain that there were some things we were never ready for (a German wedding party can last in excess of 13 hours, ja I just said thirteen hours we started at 130 in the afternoon with coffee and cake before the ceremony and the dancing didn’t stop until close to 3 in the morning). It is ok they keep feeding you including the midnight meal (no joke a second meal served at midnight to soak up alcohol and allow you to keep dancing). And dancing we did – I was the hot ticket being from America with all of Björn’s friends from Hamburg wanting a dance and then squeaking by in English about coit tower and the grand canyon, and where do you like in Europe. But the best was dancing with everyone who sing as the dj calls it ‘mit english lyrics’ to ABBA and Michael Jackson and German techno.

Also, not mentioned before the wedding is the tradition of ‘performances’ yes you heard me right at the party. People get up and perform for the couple some tender some ridiculous but to an American all out of this planet (gospel choir from Hamburg singing all I have to give is love (say what), a sock puppet opera, traditional lip syncing in lederhosen (say what), and a slide show with naked baby pictures – Camila get ready you get married and and the naked photos and poop stories are out there. At times I feel I am having an out of body experience and am on another planet yelling back to Ramona at the wedding or maybe it is mom yelling to me from wherever she is what I know she would have said if she was sitting next to me ‘what the fuck is going on and isn’t this too fucking great’.

I have walked in woods and with cows and horses, I have sat with German families and shared meals as they find new ways to get along, I have made friends and have had deep connections. And then the moments come when someone will speak to me in broken English only once about my mother as Björns mother did at the party her ‘this is a photo of your mutter’ me ‘ja’ her ‘you miss your mutter and are very sad’ me ‘ja’ her ‘ my ousband died four years ago Sept 5, I still miss him and am sad. This candle they light today was for my ousband und your mutter.’ me ‘ja’ her ‘ it was shone ja? you are happy right now’ me’ja now I am happy for this is a special day’ her ‘come we dance more’ me’ its 2 in the morning what’

We have made it to Chemnitz and last night Astrid and I cooked dinner together and talked and this morning we had a long breakfast and I cried as we talked for hours. It feels very healing to be here with Astrid. She is so full of life hers and the baby’s and looks so wonderful as a pregnant woman. we say so many things together that sound like Barbara and talk of all of you.

I carry you all with me in my broken heart and see so much beauty still in this world,

Ra

PS – I am now known to everyone from the wedding as dancing queen, mom would have liked this title (and I debated if i should have told them all i was Jewish just for her)

20

10 2009

In Germany

I have landed in Germany and to soooo much LOVE for me, our family, mom, and the community of love that envelopes us across so many time zones and miles.? Dörte picked me up at the airport and caught me with such compassion directly off my flight. Amsterdam was somewhat sad as I had so been looking forward to the first glimpse of my mom in Europe and thought so many times what that meeting would have been like. I am staying in a wonderful house in Berlin for two nights with Marita & Karoline two friends of Astrid’s and David House. The house is on the fifth floor and my room overlooks the rooftops of Berlin and a church steeple which rings me awake this morning. Today I ventured to the neighborhood mom and I were going to stay in and what she was most looking forward to in Berlin ~ the Jewish Cemetery.

I cannot say what it was like to go there, I knew from the second I entered both how happy she would have been there, how happy she is where she is now, and how happy she was that I was there. I have never spent so much time in a cemetery in my life (almost an hour) but as I went to leave after half an hour I noticed a sole bench I hadn’t seen when I entered and I knew that is where she would have spent her entire time in Berlin. In that moment I knew she would have sat there all day or for weeks on end if she could and I knew she would have drawn Hebrew characters in vivid blues, reds, and yellows that wept, and I knew that she would walk every path to see each gravestone.

I walked again the entire length to see it all again and soak it up. It was such a special place and experience and I knew she would want me to share that with all of you. It rains here and is cold (10C) which seems fitting and yet I knew after today how happy she would have been to be here right now. I am off for the wedding tomorrow.

Love to all, I carry you with me on every step of this journey.

Ra

15

10 2009

Late Fragment – By Raymond Carver

My mothers good friend of 47 years, if we could all be so lucky to say such things, Val started to send poems once a month on the anniversary of my mother’s death.

She sent poems starting on the one-month anniversary and continued for the entire first year. It was an amazing way to stay connected and to share a passage of time and emotion.

Below is the first poem and all of the other poems are listed by the date they were sent from Val.

Thank you Val.

Love,

Ramona

LATE FRAGMENT – By Raymond Carver

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved,

to feel myself

Beloved on the earth.


13

10 2009