Just texts: Eulogy for my father

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My father, Herbert Wilhelm Schulze, passed away on June 7, 2019. Papi was 78 years old. This is the English translation of what I said at his last service:



Thank you, Shepherd.

Papi passed away early on Friday morning. On the Pacific coast, it was still Thursday, when Mami phoned. My brother was asleep. And then was Now — for us three. Now, a clock of life stood still; all of a sudden Papi’s lifetime ended. Now, no hand compelled him to get up, no calendar forced trips to a hospital.

Serene peace.

„Old I’d like to grow like a tree so old,

with roots so deep, no spade can reach.“

Papi lived longer than the poet of these lines, Louis Fürnberg; he was older than some trees in our garden. If he could have called it – or we – a few years more would have been nice. His lungs and his heart followed a different plan, and a soul found peace after all his experience.

„From times of legend I would protrude,
the times of pain, an evil dream,
into a time of which people say:
How beautiful a time! And our happiness.“

It was the second year of war when Papi was born – Yes, grandpa had been on furlough. When he was five, the family was expelled. In Frankfurt (Oder) he waited, with grandma and my auntie, for the post-war return of grandpa and my uncle. As he often said: if grandma had not left the march of refugees in Frankfurt (Oder), he would have become Bavarian in all likelihood. But he has always preferred Energie Cottbus to Bayern München. His roots are deep, no spade can reach’m.

From times of pain … Childhood in a town in ruins, from which he brought a recipe for bread soup, which he planned to cook for us now and then. We always preferred his meat salad – cut in tiny pieces and best with garlic and pickles. In his youth — trips to West-Berlin to see a movie and to go to a ball, as they called it then. He was proud, that, all the same, he never missed a church service on Sunday morning. Really, never?

Then he met Mami, and they moved to Finsterwalde. On the train on his way to work in Cottbus, he played Skat. When I was a little older, grandpa, he, and I played this game of cards. And when my brother was older, we three played the whole afternoon in winter. In recent years, my nephew was the better stand-in, better than I, because I do not remember winning – ever. With grandpa, we played for quarter pfennigs, without grandpa, we played to keep tabs. With Mami and my niece, he played Canasta. Whenever I joined them, he won there too.

My dad was a numbers person. He did not only record the points in Skat on small note sheets. Family table tennis or badminton tournaments, annual yields of strawberries and asparagus, daily rainfall in the garden in summer, canned cherries, and the number of telephone calls on his birthday — all was noted, tallied, and archived. Retrievable any time and always honestly accurate.

Numbers gave him inner peace, the feeling he kept a rein on the chaos of this world, and a form to his justice. Sharing and giving for him always meant equal parts to a hair.

Also at children’s birthday parties, he organized the games. In Dinner Tray Memory, City-Name-Country, and skittles, the first and second among the children got a prize; in Drawing Lots, everybody won. He always drew last and yet won the main prize every single time — a bottle of beer, which always stood among the other prizes. Because alcohol one can only get at the age of 16 or older. How he managed to draw this lot every single time, I have not yet fully understood.

He took the time to play with us. He steered us away from the TV set and towards work. Work was important to him. When the Wall fell, he breathed a sigh of relief and rolled up his sleeves. But work was short. Soon the “new” bolt factory had no use for a numbers person. This gnawed at him for long years.

How beautiful a time! A time as this is also beautiful.

After ‘89: trips to large cities, mountain tops and islands, and the small village close by; by car to Rome, by ship into the fjords, and by airplane all over Europe. Only his bicycle, he did not mount again. Mami and Papi saw the world, enjoyed the new and the old in museums, at concerts, and on walks, but their best place has always been home.

Home has always been the same house. First one room, then two. Then Papi’s brother turned the attic into a bedroom. Later more rooms became available to us. In recent years, they were essentially back  to two.

Numbers. Numbers. We are an 11-family. Papi’s sister is 11 years older than he. Her son and my other cousin are 11 years younger than he. And I am only two times 11 years younger than Papi. Lately, numbers made no sense to him. His small note sheets remained blank. Moments, days, weeks, years winded like rivers into one lake. Time was not important and difficult to grasp. He grasped at moments of quiet.

My Papi found his peace after a life, of which he said often that it is beautiful, especially on a vacation day with Schulze-weather (even when it rained).

If he could, he would have looked at all of us today and asked: tell me, what was the best in all this time? Now, I am sure we can give him an answer and keep him in our thoughts.

Thank you all. It is good that you are here.

Just texts: Maria

Now that I am back in San Diego, I have joined a group of writers on Sunday. Each worked on two prompts. The second was a stunning and large photograph from the National Geographic. It depicted a group of migrants or refugees walking. The central woman with a white head scarf was the only one looking straight at the photographer and, thus, me. We all glanced at the photograph briefly, did not read, and each started to write for a few minutes.