The Sunday before Advent

Today is “Totensonntag”, the Sunday before Advent on which the dead are commemorated. It was the  King Friedrich Wilhelm III who implemented this day in the predominantly Lutheran Prussia in 1816.

This day has never had a special meaning to me, but today, somehow I had to think of two people, who have been very important in my life. The first one is my Grandmother, who died 29 years ago. I will tell you about her another time.

The other person I have been thinking of today is my father in law, John. He died two years ago and he was the kindest person I have ever known. He was a botanist, until, around the age of 40 he decided to study theology and to become a pastor.

What made him so special?

He was modest, accepting and grateful. I have never heard him complain about anything. Not even about his health, which especially when he got older declined. He was grateful for the treatments he got and full of praise for the nurses and doctors.

He had a way of simply trusting and believing in you, only seing the good. Being around him I always felt accepted and appreciated and it became easy to be thoughtfull and considerate. He made me wanting to be good, not to please him, but as not to disappoint his trust in me.

He was interested both in what happened in the world and in what you thought about it. Even in his 90ies he was well informed about current affairs and eager to hear your opinion on it. He was never eager to give his own opinion, but when asked he had a very clear view.

He hardly ever talked about himself, but he wanted to know how you felt and he was caring and encouraging at all times.

If necessary he could be very insistent and he did not let other people outsmart him. He had a strong sense of what was right and wrong, but he could easily overlook a weakness in others.

He was a gentleman and he lived by the  values he preached.  He always behaved with integrity.

He brought out the best in anybody and I have many happy memories of him. He married my husband and me, and he christened my oldest son. After my divorce I didn’t see much of him anymore and there were a few years where we had little contact. Some years before he died we got back in touch and I was able to thank him for all his understanding and the support he has given me. I feel honored to have known him.

Fright Night

What is the thing you are most afraid to do? What would it take to get you to do it?

I am living in a part of the world with hardly any dangers. We do not have very poisonous snakes or insects in Germany, there have been some sightings of wolves recently, but they are rare and afraid of people. Now and then in Autumn there might be heavy storms and some rivers flooding in spring, but few people get injured or killed when that happens.

What bothers me most, are rather trivial things:

  • To damage the company car. I am a good driver, but I have difficulties with small spaces. I am working in the city center and each morning I have to drive down a steep decline into this very narrow garage. I have damaged my car more than once doing so, and each time I have to go to my boss and confess to my lack of driving skills. Each time there is  a smirk on his face and I feel I can just here him thinking: “typical woman driver”. Still, I need to park, and I need to get to work and back again. Therefore I face this challenge each day.
  • Going on steep rollercoasters with loops. It frightens me terribly, just looking at those things my stomach cramps up and my palms get sweaty.  But when  my boys were begging and pleading to ride on them, I simply couldn’t say no. They needed an adult to accompany them, otherwise they were not allowed to go onto those things. So I went, kept my eyes closed during the ride and prayed. But then the boys wanted to go again, and again, and again….After about 10 rides I actually started to enjoy the rides.
  • Facing the next electricity bill. Prices on electricity and heating costs have gone up enormously during the last years and the papers are full of articles warning about more price increases during the next months. We got an old house with bad isolation, my  partner loves having three computers running at the same time, and I love to have warm feet. So, each year, we are paying more, and more and more and I am worried about the day when  we will simply have to realise, that our house is too costly.


I am sitting in my room in this vast rehabilitation clinic. White walls, light furniture, a desk, a bed, a chair. Orange curtains, bluish carpet. Neat little bathroom with grey tiles.

Tomorrow I will leave. I have treated the furniture with care and will leave no stains or scratches. 12 hours from now somebody else will move into this room and will find no trace of me. Maybe a whiff of my perfume will linger in the air. Maybe.

This place is huge. There are 250 patients here. I have been treated by six or seven different physiotherapist, have seen three different doctors and a number of nurses. I have partaken in  different groups, doing different kind of exercises. In each group there were different patients.

You take your meals on the same place every day. You form a kind of comradeship, share your experiences of the day and then you go back to your individual treatments. Every week there will be a new face at the table. People come and people go. You exchange addresses. 

Will anybody leave traces? Each year  about 3000 human beings pass through this clinic. Get treated for their bad backs, their problems with hips, knees or shoulders. Each of them is  a patient, with a diagnoses. The quality guidelines determine the  kind of treatment. Patients get a plan each week that tells them when and where their treatment will take place.

People are always wandering the corridors, nodding at each other. You get to know the faces, but you never meet.

Every patient has to listen to a number of lessons on health issues. If you are overweight or suffer from Diabetes you will get a 30 minutes personal nutrition consultation. That applies to 70 % of the clients.

The therapists are friendly and helpful. They answer questions, they smile,  but many avoid eye contact.    They see different patients every day, every week. Now and then there might be a case that sticks in somebody’s mind. 

Will I leave traces in this clinic? No.  My face and my diagnosis will be replaced by somebody else. It is unlikely that I will return. If another treatment in a rehabilitation clinic will be necessary, the payer, the health system, will decide where it will be.

Will I leave traces with my fellow patients? We have exchanged phone numbers, there have been some good conversations at the tables and some evenings  shared in the pub around the corner. I got new addresses stored in my phone. We will write to each other and meet on Facebook. At least for a while.

Will this stay leave traces in my life? Yes.  I feel healthier and more relaxed than 3 weeks ago. I am full of energy.   I have met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I have had a good time. I have learned that even in an anonymous system you can find kindness, you can meet for a few moments and then be on your way.

We all want to leave traces. They confirm our identity, our importance. Wouldn’t it be terrible if there was no evidence of our existence?

I hope I will leave traces and do my bit to make this world a good place to live in. But it can also be a good thing to just drift through a system together with others and not leave  any traces behind.


This was written as answer to the weekly writing challenge: Traces