Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stunned and Saddened

Yesterday we got word that a former classmate of mine had died suddenly, just shy of his 39th birthday, we think from some catastrophic cerebral event.  We await more details, but we already know enough to feel as if there is less joy in the world today, less light and laughter, less beauty.  "Former classmate"...that phrase is so very hollow, but there are not words adequate to describe Bernd to you.  Of all the people I have met in this life, all the characters over my five decades, few if any have LIVED the way Bernd did.  I was a Ph.D. candidate by the time he entered the Master's program, so I technically never had classes with him, but he was not one to be missed or go unnoticed around the department.  A tall, beautiful man from Hamburg, Germany, his voice and accent were distinct, as was the enthusiasm with which he greeted each new day.  Apart from being highly intelligent, he was a great athlete, bordering on world class in the days of his youth.  He still ran marathons, and he was an avid cyclist who thought nothing of taking a forty mile round trip to deliver a gift to a hospitalized friend.  He loved beer, of course, and had a great fondness for taking over karaoke night at his favorite bar.  I was on the periphery of his circle of friends, but that didn't matter.  He knew me, I knew him, and we had the occasional intense conversation, usually involving him challenging me to be healthier, more active, to take better care of myself, to LIVE.  In ancient times, he perhaps would have been seen as the scion of a god, a kind, fun-loving giant among men.  Close friends of mine loved him, and he loved them, and that told me all I needed to know about him.  I spent much of yesterday exchanging emails, etc., with those friends as we absorbed the news that this gentle German giant had passed.  We grieve along with his dear wife, Kiki, his family, and his many friends scattered across at least two continents.  Geh mit Gott und in Frieden ruhen, Bernd.

Bernd's earthly body was cremated on Saturday, January 22.  His wife asks his friends to plant sunflowers in his honor.  They were his favorite flower, and now they will be a symbol of the light and life he shared with us.  When you see sunflowers blooming, think of this beautiful soul and know he is smiling.


Argent said...

All lives are precious, but some seem to leave a much bigger void when they go than others, don't they. Sorry to hear of your loss.

Jayne said...

So young and so vibrant... sounds like he touched many people. May his family and friends be surrounded by the peace that surpasses all understanding.

altar ego said...

It is a burden the world bears to give up those who bring out the best in others and who shine light into our hearts. Without even knowing him I feel a sense of loss. I will hold in prayer Bernd and those who loved him and were touched by his life.

Tess Kincaid said...

I'm saddened to hear this. Beautiful, beautiful tribute, Dr. L.

NCmountainwoman said...

Moving and beautiful tribute to your friend, taken far too young.

Ann T. said...

Dear C.L.,
I am so sorry for your loss. Once again, your words and photograph convey very much what is gone.

Very truly yours,
Ann T.