(LONG) My Uncle In Germany Has Passed Away....

…and your ol pal Quasi is feeling very sad and guilty because I couldn’t just hop on a plane and go to the funeral.

My uncle Willi and Aunt Magdalene took me in when my then-single mother was too sick to take care of me herself. In short , I got put on a train and sent to Zeitz, Germany (which was at that time, Communist-occupied by the Russians) and I spent three years (from 5-8) with them.

By living with them, I learned how to be poor and how to be happy with being poor. Many an evening was spent by me and my younger uncles outside the Russian camp waiting for loaves of bread handed to us by the Russian cooks. I remember tasting my first Coca-Cola there. It was drunk at room temp, and boy I had never tasted anything so delicious in my life. We’d steal sugar beets off the backs of farm trucks and robbed farmers’ hens for eggs. My Oma (grandmother) worked at cleaning a bakery and would bring us pastries (Apfel- and Quark-Taschen) that the shop wouldn’t have sold that day. For meat, pork was a delicacy. The ear, the tail, and the feet were all we could afford, but to us it was a meal fit for royalty.

While there I was also inducted into a youth organization called The Young Pioneers were I learned the merits(?) of Communism and attained my love for drumming. (Later in life, I enlisted in the USAF and before they gave me my SECRET clearance, they called me aside and grilled me on my membership in that youth group. I remember being astounded as to how they found out about it.:D)

So that’s a snippet of my life with my family in East Germany. So now you’re certainly asking yourself, “So why didn’t you go, Quasi you DUMMKOPF?”

Two reasons: Duty and lack of funds. I will address the duty part first… We currently have two people from our very small RT department on vacation and our hospital is full. It would have placed an incredible hardship on the rest of my staff to cover for me this week, although they would have gladly done so.

Lack of funds: I checked with a couple of airlines who told me that bereavement fares are a thing of the past since 9/11, and the cheapest ticket I could get would be about 1100 bucks. When I asked about standby, I kindly got told that I was certainly welcome to try, but during tourist season it was nigh to impossible to get a seat.

So I spoke with my uncle Bernd, who is the executor of Willi’s estate and he told me that he understood and reminded me that none of them could make it to my mother’s funeral either. He also said Willi would have understood and for me not to beat myself up over it.

Before he died, I spoke with my uncle several times on the telephone (One has to rent a phone in the hospital where he was), and we reminisced about the times I told you about above. The next time I tried to call, they had moved him to intensive care on a ventilator, and of course he couldn’t speak with a tube down his trachea and unconscious from the meds he was getting.

None of this helps my feelings of sadness at his passing and the guilt that I am not there to pay my final respects. It’s just one more reason for me to move back home, so that I can be there at times like these. Bernd is sending a wreath on behalf of me my SO and son, but it seems so little for such a great thing that was done for a young boy during such hard times.

If anyone wants to call me out in the pit over this, that’s fine. I’m sure you couldn’t say anything to me that I haven’t already said to myself over and over.

Thanks for reading this, if you did.

Schlaf’ jetzt mein Onkel. Du hast es verdient und ich habe Dich sehr lieb. Dies ist Dein letzter Gruß aus Amerika.


I am sorry for your loss. I don’t really know what else to say, but it is very hard to lose anyone you care about. It is also hard to not attend the funeral. Be thankful for the times you spent together.

Your post made me very sad {b]Quasi**. You need not punish yourself for not attending the funeral. Your uncle knew you loved him. When you do finally return to Germany, you can have a special ceremony to commemorate him.

I’m sure it meant more to your uncle that you were able to let him know how much he meant to you while he was alive than that you attend his funeral. Please accept my condolences. It sounds like he had a great influence on your life, and I’m sure he’s proud of you, wherever he is.

And anyone who pits you over this is a heartless cretin!

I’m so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine how frustrated you feel not being able to say your goodbyes in person. You’ll just have to say them a little later.

I’m sure your uncle was very proud of you and of what you’ve done in your life. He’d also be proud of your commitment to your coworkers and the patients in the hospital. How fortunate that you were able to speak with him before he died - I’m sure that was a great comfort to him also.

He sounds like a wonderful man - how lucky you were to have him in your life!

Dude! Call you out in the Pit? For being sad that you couldn’t attend your beloved Uncle’s funeral overseas? Just let someone try. They had better have on an asbestos body suit.

Please accept my condolences. For your relatives to take you in despite such grinding poverty was an act of unqualified love. Please write out your memories in a journal for posterity’s sake and know that your reminisces in this thread were very touching.

I’ll second what has already been said. Your Uncle was a lot happier talking to you a last few times than he ever would have been knowing instead that you would attend his funeral. You did the right thing, please do not punish yourself.

Condolences Quasi. You have nothing to feel guilty about. I don’t doubt you made your uncle feel happier.

Condonlences, man. I couldn’t assure you any more than others have that you needn’t feel guilt over the situation; it sure sounds like he knew how much you cared about him.

Quasi, I am so sorry about your Onkel Willi. I agree with Onkel Bernd; he understands. Big hugs, Schatz.

Quasi, pal, hear Uncle Bernd and don’t beat yourself up about it. The rest of the family understands. And you’ve posted about your uncle before - I have no doubt that your desire to pay your respects is sincere.

And I’m sorry to hear you’re in the position of having an obviously beloved part of your family pass on. My condolences are with you. Thanks for sharing that bit of your growing up.

Carry on, my friend.

You’re in my thoughts and prayers, Quasimodem. That’s a really long journey to make for a funeral, I’m sure the family understands.

About “berevement” fares on airlines…it’s a discount off of the “regular” airfare, which most people don’t usually pay anyways. I have a brother in CA who will be coming east for our mom’s funeral, he got his tix online, at a cheaper rate than what the airlines had quoted as a bereavement fare!

I’ll say a special prayer for your uncle this Saturday.

Y’all are terrific people and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. You know in RT, I’m a very private person (anyone who knows me that way will tell you that) but for some reason (probably the anonymity of the net), I don’t mind sharing bits of my life with you, and it always warms my heart when I read posts which ask for prayers or keeping someone in our thoughts, and I try to respond in kind, because hey, my own life isn’t exacty a bed of roses lately. :wink:

I’ve spoken to the family members, and they have agreed to a little memorial service (when I return to Germany for a visit in September) as Encenitas and FCM suggested. I will take photographs, and Zenster’s suggestion of some written-down memories with me as well. (I have to say it’s just amazing how your friends can lift the veil of doubt and let you see that there are alternatives to things which you aren’t seeing because of the enormity of your sadness!)

Anyway, Bernd will arrange this little get-together to begin at the graveyard and end at Willi’s favorite pub, where we will talk about the old times. No doubt I will learn some things about my younger years I will have forgotten, as well. It will be a sort of “Waking Onkel Willi”, and waking up “Nephew Quasi”.:smiley:

Thanks for being there for me. Again.


While he visited with me about 10 years ago here in the States, I introduced my uncle to the music of Harry Chapin. He especially loved Harry’s Circle (I translated the lyrics for him), and I will be taking that CD with me in September.