In the air, on my way from Berlin to New York I finish Monika Maron’s “Ach Glueck” somewhere above Newfoundland. The sparse and forlorn prose, the author’s questions about happiness in old age and the role of fate in our lives, speak to me. Like the protagonist, I am on a transatlantic flight headed into a new scary life, a future much different from how I envisioned it months ago. Maron’s protagonist is leaving behind her husband in Berlin. My husband died and left me behind.
I take out my note book to add to my bloated to-do list. English words appear on the paper. I am surprised. After more than five weeks reading, speaking and writing German, my brain has switched over to English. I wasn’t aware of it. I take it as a good sign.
On April 4 I brought Roman to the emergency room of Mount Sinai Hospital. Language was my refuge for the twenty- three terrifying days that followed. I woke up after a few hours of restless sleep and sat down at my computer. I wrote friends asking for help and prayers. I gave updates following his twelve-and-a-half hours of brain surgery. I told them about the diagnosis of Schwannoma and my relief at finding out that it was a benign tumor. I wrote about the complications and setbacks, his optimism and his plans for the future. He was looking forward to Christmas in Goerlitz, Easter in Vienna, and summer in Venice. He promised to take me for a ride on the Siberian Railroad once he retired.
On Wednesday, April 27th I wrote the final message: Roman died this afternoon.
I wrote the obituary for his memorial service for I could not bear the idea of a stranger delivering the final words of farewell. Then the English language failed me. I was struck speechless. I could barely write. When I scribbled down a few paragraphs into my journal, it was in German. I have resided in a place without written language ever since.
Living in a new land, the land of the grieving, I live with tears, pain, despair, but also gratitude and love. I cannot shape these emotions into words, sentences and paragraphs. They are too raw and too unruly for words. Roman was my husband, my best friend, my life companion for twenty-five years. A loss beyond words.
It has been four months since Roman left this world. He lives in my heart, in the cells of my body, and in my memories. He lives on in the hearts and memories of his friends, his family, his students and colleagues. He visits me in my dreams, takes me in his arms and comforts me.
The English language is the second language for both of us. We spoke to each other in English, we argued with each other and expressed our love for each other in English. A language made precious because he told me several times each day that he loved me.
I hope to make him proud by going on living and writing.