A year ago in that little ground floor flat you must have felt that heart attack. You made it to the emergency button on the wall. I’m not sure which one it was, but probably the one by your bed. The paramedics came and despite their efforts you died on the way to the hospital.
A year ago you had one final moment of pain and fear and then left this world. The little ground floor flat stood on the site of the allotment garden where your mother had her plot of land. Where you played as a young boy, where I played as a baby. Where we both stood when we returned to live there to watch a bulldozer destroy the little sheds to build the complex that was to become your last home. Before the arborists arrived I plucked a chestnut from the tree that had shaded three generations of our family, and I still have it, to this day. And so the garden disappeared and years later when you were tired and sore, you were moved into that flat, some ten metres from that old garden.
Were you scared at the end? Where you lonely? I had tried to call you twice that week…only twice. I couldn’t get through and decide to try on the following day. That was the day I found out you had died. I wish I could have spoken to you one last time. But that wouldn’t have been enough. I don’t feel that this hunger to see you will ever go away.
So you died in that ground floor flat. Or in an ambulance, somewhere between Felixdorf and Wiener Neustadt. You didn’t slip away quietly in your sleep, the way people declare they want to go. You hit the alarm button, called for help. Maybe at the end you didn’t want to die. Maybe you just didn’t want to die alone.
Now your ashes are interred in the Vienna Zentralfriedhof somewhere. I will come home one day, one spring, when this life gives me the opportunity.I will find your little plot and no doubt cry for my loss and your pain. I will take your youngest grandson and show him the little flat, and tell him about the little garden. I will take him and his mother strawberry picking. We will visit waterfalls and ruins,cathedrals and forests, galleries and Gasthäuser. I will try and tell him the man you were, but mostly I will remember you, and try and turn my head to catch your echo in the buckled world.