How wrong I was.
My lovely “old bloke” - Boss. On Monday June 2nd just two days after the wedding, I received the phone call I had been hoping would never come, my dearest friend, in whose house I had been staying since the stressful move, had died, aged 86.
My sister had planned a day trip to Edinburgh on Tuesday June 3rd as a sort of rounding-off after all the wedding preparations. I went along as planned but my soul wasn’t singing. I got help with ticket-booking from my sister, and on Wednesday June 4th I found myself on yet another plane, the fourth in six days, jetting back to Germany. I had only just arrived in my homeland and here I was leaving it again so soon.
I found it very difficult to leave England as my mother was so very ill, but it was she who had insisted I make the journey telling me I would regret it for a very long time if I didn’t. As usual she was right and as usual she was selfless. My German family were delighted to have me there and sent their appreciation to my very poorly mum. Never the less I boarded the plane with dread that I would not get back in time to speak to my mother again.
I think that was the most difficult journey I have ever made, leaving one loved one in England, critically ill, going to say farewell to another in Germany, both of whom I describe as my number one fans. The journey was made a little bit easier by the need to write an eulogy while flying through the clouds, as near to heaven and to Boss as I could get. There was also the knowledge that my German family would be at the airport to meet me.
András Petö, of course knew that not only life but also death is a part of the life and work of a conductor. Conductors not only need to know how to motivate clients towards developing a healthy soul to improve life, they also need to know how to help the soul be strong enough to deal with death. I have had to deal with the death of loved clients, both children and adults, many times during my career, more often in fact than in my personal life. When a member of one of my groups has died I have not only had my own grief to deal with, I have also felt a huge responsibility for the rest of the group members. If a death is related to the condition or the illness they are all suffering from it is especially difficult for the other clients.
I know some clients think that a stroke is a one-off hic-cough in their life, their health is back to normal afterwards and the path ahead is one of learning to live an active life, progressing in an upward spiral. These people then develop many fears which affect their own health when a group member dies after suffering a second stroke. It is often clear to them for the first time that they too are vulnerable, they realise that their health could also be in danger. It is very important at times like this that a conductor observes closely the well-being of the group and acts accordingly, offering the help and the counselling necessary, to the group as a whole and individually.
I have had to deal with such situations often in my working life and now I had to face a death in my personal life. My favourite person with whom I had spent hours putting the world to rights and enjoying a glass of wine had died and I had not been there with him. Now here I was thousands of feet above Europe in the clouds, thinking about my dear friend and writing a tribute to him, keeping busy and taking notice of how I felt, trying to take an upward spiral by learning from this new experience, trying to bring to use everything I had learnt as a conductor to help me in this hour of need. This was the first time such a close personal friend of mine had died, the first time I had felt such sadness.
Who was this lovely man?
At one time he was my “father-in-law”. After I separated from his son, to whom I was never married, "Boss" became my best friend, my mentor and my theatre companion, my teacher and my support. He was also to be my advanced German teacher in the weeks I was to spend with him in his house while I was between flats, but this was never to be. I called him Boss and described him affectionately to one of my friends as “my old bloke”. As I write this I am sitting in his house, still between flats, living here without him and I miss him dreadfully.
Today we put his ashes beside those of his wife, Anna, in the local churchyard. I placed my red rose beside them and said my goodbyes. This was the third such ceremony I have attended in as many weeks the fourth will be in August, which will make it the wedding and four funerals as opposed to “Four weddings and a funeral”, the film starring Hugh Grant. If we add on the two moves, two birthdays and a return to reality then we could have a blockbuster on our hands! Each one of the different aspects was described as experienced by a conductor!
Below is what I wrote in the clouds and read at my “old bloke’s” funeral on Friday 6th June 2008. A young friend of mine who speaks excellent English helped me with the correct German version. I read both versions at the funeral, the English mainly for myself and Boss but also for anyone else who would appreciate my English humour (which was difficult to express in German).
Eulogy for Boss, 06.05.2008
The last time I stood in this spot I was describing Anna as my “Queen Mum”. I was explaining how she always thought of me as her English Princess Diana.
I have been asking myself how Anna would have described her husband Boss apart from using this name which she gave him many years ago. I like to imagine that he was her “Prince Charming”, as charming he certainly was and he knew how to make one feel like a queen.
We all mean many things to many different people and Boss played many roles in all of our lives.
There are those amongst us who knew him as Opa, some knew him as Gerhard and many called him Boss. He was also Father, but I don’t think I have ever heard either Wolfgang or Reinhard call him anything else but Boss. He was grandfather, father and colleague, but to all of us he was a valued friend.
For me he was Boss but with many roles. In the first year after Anna’s death when we lived in the same house he was definitely my Knight in Shining Armour. We helped each other through difficult times, we helped to make each other’s souls healthy again. Not only through talking the nights away over a glass of wine, but also through small gestures of kindness. I would clear the snow and in return he would draw me a funny thank you picture and would leave homemade cakes on the stairs, to nourish me. Boss was a provider of nourishment of all kinds.
Sometimes Boss would return home very late after the theatre, he would see that I was burning the midnight oil and he would call to me. We would talk a little and drink a glass of wine together. Wolfgang suggested Boss invested in a better quality of wine, I suspect Sissi would have called us “partners in crime”. I believe we were each other's tonic, we shared a glass of the elixior of life.
Who needed the internet and Wikipedia when Boss was around? He was a walking encyclopedia! He was the most marvelous, entertaining source of information one could wish for. He not only imparted information, but one could also enjoy his opinions and debates. With him and a cup of English tea we would set the world to rights.
A few days before Boss was recently taken to the hospital we had dinner together, and afterwards we talked. I was writing an article for my work and I wanted to refer to Faust, but I was having difficulties getting to grips with it. We spent several hours scanning Faust Part II, considering why Mephisto suggested that Faust should visit “the Mothers”. We concluded that Faust was searching for a way to bring a balance into his life, a harmony between the masculine and the feminine human qualities. I believe that Boss had long discovered this balance and harmony in his life and this is why he could reach out to so many people. This and his wide range of interests made him such pleasurable company.
Was there anything which Boss could not do? I am sure I don’t know everything he could do, but he could build houses, sail a yacht, iron shirts, cook lamb cutlets, maybe he could even sew. He could speak Czech and a little English. He could dance, he could sing, he could play the piano and of course, as we all know, he could act. He could listen, he could talk, he was kind, attentive and generous.
Boss had a lust for life, he had a twinkle in his eye. This I recognized on our first-ever meeting at Nürnberg Airport, in 1992, when I was enveloped in his rib-crushing hug which I grew to love and look forward to over the following years.
Not once did I feel like a foreigner or a stranger in his company. He had the ability to make everyone he came into contact with feel special and at ease. Through this he received so much respect and made so many wonderful friends.
He was not only a friend and father but also a grandfather. In the weeks before he died, while visiting him in the hospital, I witnessed him interacting with all three of his grandsons.
He was thrilled by the opportunities the world had to offer them and he was willing them to grab them all. I witnessed the joy these three young men gave him, how animated he became in their company. I know they all had shared with him many new experiences from their own lives, they all made each others lives richer.
In fact, Boss made all our lives richer.
I, as all of you, will miss him very much. He meant the world to me. He was the perfect gentleman, my knight in shining armour, a wonderful friend and motivator in all I did.
I am sure, you are all sitting here considering what Boss meant to you. Boss played many many roles in many lives and we all have numerous scripts full of happy memories which we can always put on action-replay and smile. Smile is what Boss would want us to do. And while smiling he would want us to make the best out of all the opportunities life throws at us, just as he did.
I find it appropriate to give the last word to William Shakespeare:
Trauerrede für Boss 06.05.2008
Das letzte Mal, als ich an dieser Stelle stand, beschrieb ich Anna als meine „Queen Mum“. Ich erzählte, wie sie in mir immer ihre englische Prinzessin Diana gesehen hatte.
Ich habe mich gefragt, wie Anna Boss beschrieben hätte, außer mit dem Namen „Boss“, den sie ihm vor vielen Jahren gegeben hatte. Ich stelle mir gerne vor, dass er ihr „Prinz Charming“ war. Denn charmant war er auf alle Fälle und in seiner Gegenwart fühlte man sich wie eine Königin.
Wir alle bedeuten Vieles für viele verschiedene Menschen und Boss spielte für uns alle viele verschiedene Rollen in unserem Leben. Unter uns gibt es jene, die ihn als Opa kannten. Für manche war er Gerhard und viele nannten ihn Boss. Er war auch Vater, aber ich kann mich nicht erinnern, dass Wolfgang oder Reinhard ihn jemals anders genannt hätten, als Boss.
Er war Opa, Vater und Kollege, aber vor allen Dingen war er für uns ein geschätzter Freund.
Für mich war er Boss, aber mit vielen unterschiedlichen Rollen.
Im ersten Jahr nach Annas Tod, als wir im selben Haus lebten, war er definitiv mein Ritter in strahlender Rüstung. Wir halfen einander durch schwere Zeiten und heilten gegenseitig unsere Seelen. Nicht nur indem wir über einem Glas Wein Abende lang redeten, sondern auch mit kleinen Aufmerksamkeiten. Wenn ich Schnee schaufelte, malte er im Gegenzug ein lustiges Dankeschön-Bild und legte selbstgebackenen Kuchen ins Treppenhaus, damit ich mich stärken konnte.
Manchmal kam Boss sehr spät vom Theater zurück und sah an meinem Licht, dass ich als Nachteule immer noch wach war. Dann klingelte er und wir tranken ein Glas Wein zusammen und unterhielten uns. Wolfgang legte Boss Nahe, in besseren Wein zu investieren. Sissi hätte vermutlich gesagt, dass wir in Bezug auf den Wein unter einer Decke stecken. Aber in Wirklichkeit teilten wir miteinander ein kleines Glas Lebenselixier.
Wer brauchte das Internet und Wikipedia, wenn Boss in der Nähe war? Er war ein wandelndes Lexikon! Er war die wundervollste und unterhaltsamste Informationsquelle, die man sich wünschen konnte. Er teilte nicht nur Informationen mit, sondern erfreute einen auch mit seiner Meinung und lebhaften Debatten. Mit ihm und einer Tasse englischen Tee konnten wir die Welt gerade rücken.
Ein paar Tage bevor Boss erneut ins Krankenhaus kam, aßen wir zusammen zu Abend und hinterher diskutierten wir. Ich schrieb einen Artikel für meine Arbeit und ich wollte mich auf Faust beziehen – ich hatte jedoch Schwierigkeiten, das Wesentliche zu erfassen. Wir verbrachten mehrere Stunden damit, Faust Teil II zu durchforsten und überlegten, warum Mephisto Faust riet „die Mütter“ zu besuchen. Wir schlossen letztendlich darauf, dass Faust nach einem Weg suchte, ein Gleichgewicht in seinem Leben herzustellen – eine Harmonie zwischen den maskulinen und den femininen menschlichen Qualitäten. Ich bin überzeugt, dass Boss dieses Gleichgewicht und diese Harmonie für sich selbst schon lange entdeckt hat und dass dies der Grund ist, warum er so viele Menschen anrühren konnte.
Darum und weil er so viele Interessen hatte, war es so eine Freude in seiner Gesellschaft zu sein.
Gab es irgendetwas, das Boss nicht tun konnte? Ich bin sicher, ich kenne nicht alle seine Fertigkeiten, aber er konnte Häuser bauen, eine Yacht segeln, Hemden bügeln, Lammkoteletts braten, vielleicht konnte er sogar nähen. Er konnte Tschechisch und ein bisschen Englisch sprechen. Er konnte tanzen, er konnte singen und Klavier spielen. Und natürlich – wie wir alle wissen – konnte er schauspielern. Er konnte zuhören, er konnte reden. Er war gütig, aufmerksam und großzügig.
Ich konnte Boss seine Lebenslust an den Augen ansehen. Ich bemerkte es bereits bei unserem allerersten Treffen am Nürnberger Flughafen 1992, als er mich mit seiner Umarmung – die ich schnell lieben und auf die ich mich in den folgenden Jahren immer wieder freuen würde – fast zerdrückte.
Nicht ein einziges Mal fühlte ich mich in seiner Gegenwart wie ein Ausländer oder eine Fremde. Es war seine herausragende Fähigkeit, dass sich die Leute, die mit ihm zusammen waren, wohl und besonders wertgeschätzt fühlten. Deswegen wurde ihm so viel Respekt entgegen gebracht und deshalb hatte er auch so viele wundervolle Freunde.
Er war allerdings nicht nur ein Freund und Vater, sondern auch Großvater. Als ich ihn in den Wochen bevor er starb im Krankenhaus besuchte, konnte ich beobachten, wie er mit seinen drei Enkelsöhnen umging. Er war begeistert von den Möglichkeiten, welche die Welt ihnen zu bieten hatte und er wünschte sich, dass sie sie alle ergreifen würden. Ich sah die Freude, die ihm diese drei jungen Männer bereiteten und wie ihn ihre Gesellschaft belebte. Und ich weiß, dass sie mit ihm viele neue Erlebnisse und Erfahrungen aus ihrem Leben teilten. Sie bereicherten gegenseitig ihr Leben.
In der Tat bereicherte Boss unser aller Leben.
Ich werde ihn – wie Ihr alle hier – sehr vermissen. Er hat mir Alles bedeutet. Er war der perfekte Gentleman, mein Ritter in glänzender Rüstung, ein wundervoller Freund und er unterstützte und motivierte mich in allem, was ich tat.
Ich bin mir sicher, Ihr alle hier überlegt gerade und fragt Euch, was er für Euch war. Boss spielte viele Rollen in vielen Leben und wir alle besitzen unzählige Drehbücher voller glücklicher Erinnerungen, die wir immer vor unserem inneren Auge abspielen und dabei lächeln können. Denn Lächlen ist, was Boss von uns gewollt hätte. Und während wir lächeln, würde er uns wünschen, dass wir das Beste aus all den Möglichkeiten machen, die uns das Leben bietet, genauso wie er es tat.
Ich finde es angemessen, dass letzte Wort William Shakespeare zu überlassen:
„Die ganze Welt ist Bühne.
Und alle Fraun und Männer bloße Spieler.
Sie treten auf und geben wieder ab.
Sein Leben lang spielt einer manche Rollen.“
Wie es euch gefällt (2/7)
I tried to observe how I was feeling as I stood in front my “audience”, it was as if I was standing on the stage which Boss so enjoyed performing on and which normally would frighten the life out of me. I had given a copy of the script to my “stepson” just in case I couldn’t finish, but I knew deep inside that this was a show that would go on and this would be my very best performance to date. I had been out to dinner with Boss the weekend before I was due to give talk to a Parkinson’s disease self-help group and he had given me wonderful advise on how to speak and present myself. He was an actor and I knew I could learn lots from him and I did, the Parkinson talk was a great success.
Why me ?
I don’t remember walking to the lectern I remember only that I was shaking when I reached it and I was so glad I didn’t have to hold my papers in my hands. I tried to look around, there were quite a lot of strange faces, I picked out one or two familiar and loved ones to focus on and I gave Boss the best performance I could in the circumstances. I am sure he would have forgiven a few faltering words especially as when I faltered, with a few tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I concentrated on him and how he would react on stage if ever he forgot his lines.
Boss had asked me a few years ago, when I was helping him learn his lines for a new play, what I would write for his funeral, not if I would write, but what I would write. I didn’t just brush the comment aside as one could so easily do, I said I would only know that once he was dead, but I would make sure that is was very good and I would dress as if I was going to the theatre with him, which I did.
I got to the end of the tribute, standing tall in my elegant shoes, encouraged by sad smiles from the front row and, surprisingly for a funeral, I and Boss received a round of applause, his last curtain call and my first.
How had I felt?
Apart from very sad, I felt I had completely opened up my soul for the world to see. I had been prepared to show my sadness in front of many people, some of them strangers, in order to acknowledge how much I cared for this man. I had felt very privileged to have been allowed to write and present this tribute.
“Four Weddings and a Funeral”: