The Month of Farewells

I arrived at my home folks’ place for an extended visit on April 15th. Two days later a friend, whom I had stopped communicating with about four years ago, contacted me via Facebook. He sent a photo along of a buddy we graduated from High School with and had been friends with forever. The photo didn’t depict him at all. The mental image I had in my mind was that of a life-embracing, adventurous, humorous, tall and strong man with a zest for life like noone I had ever known before or ever again. Instead, the picture showed the frail contours of a body that had gone through multiple treatments of chemo therapy, survived a stomach perforation on account of it and looked like it was marked for … its last journey. If they hadn’t told me, whom the picture depicted, I would have not been able to connect the dots of my memory and the contents of the image I was looking at. But it was him: My friend of old and until a couple of weeks, maybe mere months ago (that’s when his messages stopped coming and I had wondered, but not inquired about this just yet), Charles Richard Kolshorn.

I had first met Charles when this young man already larger-than-life joined our class in senior High School in this small town in the middle of nowhere. He had just spent a year abroad in the US and with this experience along with being bilingual – to the best of our and our teachers’ understanding – he was ahead of anyone’s “game” at this particular school – lightyears ahead! He also sported a grown-man beard at his tender age of 13, which gave him another bonus, particularly with the ladies, I should add. But above all and in between all these rather superficial attributes, I’ll always remember Charles as a really friendly person of good character and quite a degree of curiosity for just about everything that was outside the norm. You might say he was one of them soul-seeking-hippie-type wanderers, but – he put his personal spin on it. Never afraid of an adventure, never shy to burst into hearty laughter, whether the situation seemed appropriate for it or not. He had personality long before any of us even knew what that is. But he didn’t take advantage of it, not that I remember. Never. This was Charles. With a very sad stress on was. He left our earthly plane in the morning hours of April, 18th, after putting on a fierce fight for his life to end all fights. I feel honored I should have shared some part of the way with this guy and I’ll miss him forever… His immediate family and friends put him to rest on May, 14th. In retrospect I am so happy that I mustered the willpower and stubborness to sneek out from a group of press people in 2009 when travelling to TX and Dallas in order to spend some very few, wonderfully innocent and light-hearted hours with Charles. They were significant then and they are all the more significant now in light of his passing on. Thanks, man!

Fast forward to today. Last night, I peruse my Facebook, which – after having become disabled in 2007 and having lost most of my social environment in the process – has become a routine to keep me from going crazy with isolation. One of my friends prompts me to call him asap. It sounded alarming and so I did call him first thing after a long night out and sleeping in. The news I learnt felled me with terror and shock in one swoop: Having battled with cancer, this particular friend had received his death sentence from his doctors with the most “charming” statement: “You should have died two years ago.” And they gave him another few days without treatment and maybe a few months to live with all kinds of treatment modern medicine has to offer. He has just buried his wife mere weeks ago and now this. He meant to share these news with me first – or so it seemed – and I could hear and feel his terror in his as well as my bones…. The reaper makes no exceptions for anyone. You may have lived a life filled with and radiating love like him and his late wife did – or you might have chosen to be a villain. No difference. I think this was the first time I actually felt the reality of our mortality myself. And his is only weeks, maybe months away. To use his words: “There is a door marked ‘exit’ for all of us. But I’m not ready to go through that door just yet.” None of us is, ever…

So, I seem to have been elected for the most questionable and harder-than-anything-I’ve-ever-gone-through experience of being by his side for these last weeks or months. I am in shock, I am terrified – I actually feel all his terror night and day – and I don’t know how to handle this. Matter of fact, I might not be able to handle this alone… (Calista, Katya, if you’re reading this: You both grew into superwomen in those past weeks… just sayin’…) But my partner in life is no longer with me. I don’t think I know anyone in real life at this point, whom I’m comfortable asking for support.

I myself have been living with the outcomes of traumatic events that nearly killed me in the first weeks of my life along with more trauma when growing up (untreated to this day, I should add). Death or fear of dying has always been a part of every day’s experience – to a greater or lesser degree – in my life. But consciously seeing it happen – and ultimately being there myself – seems taking life’s and consciousness’ insanity to a whole other level….

Where’s the mercy in it all we got promised in the spiritual teachings of the world, I wonder?

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3 thoughts on “The Month of Farewells

  1. Hello, my brother’s friend whom I never met.
    Thank you for your words. I read your post 2 days ago but wasn’t quite able to respond on the spot. That is still difficult. You really warmed my heart with your description of Charles’ character. As a sister one doesn’t really have the insight to a sibling’s character until everyone is mature, if ever. But my husband Barry met Charles the 12-year-old sweet boy and he always thought of him as big-hearted & good-natured, flakey but sweet. As you perceived him as well, a man with little vanity or hubris.
    Now, as his big sister, allow me to record a couple of factual “amenders” to your remembrance:
    Charles wasn’t so much bilingual, as fully trilingual [German, French, English] by the age of 14, when he returned from the US.
    Thus, he was 14, going on 15 when he appeared with his manly beard – a bit less superman like, but still darn impressive!
    Werner, I wish you well in your struggles, especially mobilizing the strength to be able to support your dying friend.
    P.S. If you’d like to read my remembrance of Charles, this is a hyperlink. I couldn’t bear to write it as a regular post, so I attached it as a page to my blog. Not sure where to go from here.

    • Thank you for filling me in on some erroneously recounted facts, Claudia (and for going easy on me for that… 🙂 ) I am reading your piece as we type, thus learning of more and more layers and facets that made our remarkable friend, husband, father, nephew, uncle… and marvelling at his legacy. Gone way too soon and in my mind I had always seen him and I and maybe some more inclined friends or family visit Burning Man one day…. Safe travels, dear Charles.

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