How can I forget the man who encouraged me to get in touch with the language I once spoke as a child when we lived in your neck of the woods.
The last time we met was on the 4th of July gathering of all the German Stammtisch groups in the area, at the steep, sloping grounds of the Lemon Hill Mansion, overlooking the Art Institute in Philadelphia.
It was getting dark. Bodies and faces of the revelers turned into silhouettes. Silence, except the hum of thousands of Philadelphians in the distance, all waiting for the fireworks to explode.
Once darkness hit the sky, the celebrations began. While the crowd below roared and applauded with each new illumination of the sky, the silhouettes sitting on the blanket on that grassy slope turned colors, took on the hues of a constantly changing rainbow shower, drenching us with delight.
And suddenly, I sensed a movement. I wasn’t sure who was kneeling down right next to me in the dark. I could barely make out a body and a face, wondering which kind soul had joined me on this special night.
And then I heard a voice, the voice of my past: your Bavarian German, letting me know that Hans, the ambassador from the land of Ludwig II, had chosen to sit next to his fellow German whose life began in Bavaria, your beloved Bayern.
You and I had only talked a few times before, briefly, at the brewery in Media. You certainly had never whispered anything into my ears, but now you were trying to whisper-shout, trying to drown out the noise above the city of brotherly love.
Between cascading explosions, you tried to talk to me, a conversation we never had before. I was intrigued by your knowledge, your kindness, your charm.
Weeks went by, and I failed to attend the German Stammtisch** in Media, failed to call you—didn’t even have your number.
And then, the news hit hard, spreading faster on the Internet than wildfire: Hans had chosen to leave this life without a shred of anger, sadness, or regret, without as much as leaving a hunch.
I know I wasn’t the only one who asked a thousand and one questions of what I could have done to reach out to you, taking Bavarian lessons from you, and teaching you high German in return.
Hans, I shall miss you and promise to re-learn your language one of these days.
Pfiat di*** on your journey into timelessness.
Pfiat di, Hans.
* Grias God, Bavarian greeting, equivalent to "Greeting God" or "May God greet you."
** Stammtisch, German for a table at a bar or restaurant where club members meet regularly.
***Pfiat di, Bavarian farewell, equivalent to "May [God] guide you."