It all seems like a dream now, like a half forgotten tearjerker movie. Anke and I had gotten married eight months earlier in a civil ceremony. However, we were getting ready to travel to Germany for the "real" wedding in Anke's native town of Bendorf.
We were a handsome young couple. I was 31, recently completed a tour of duty as a submarine officer and moving up in an engineering career. Anke was 28, cosmopolitan, an icy Teutonic beauty, working in the Atlanta banking industry.
We were to have left on a Saturday-several of my family members were already traveling in Europe prior to the ceremony. I was in Birmingham, Alabama for the week working on a contract there.
On the preceding Tuesday, my supervisor called me into his office, looking so horrible I thought I was about to be fired. He said there was a phone call for me. It was from the hospital in Atlanta. Anke had died in a car accident less than a mile from our new home.
My company offered to fly me home, but I declined, insisting I needed my car back in Atlanta. To this day, I vividly remember driving back along a sun-drenched I-20, thinking, no, knowing that this was a defining moment. Whoever I was going to be was different from that moment forth. Not just Anke, but Jay had died that day too in an office park in suburban Birmingham.
In the funeral, in the church in Germany where we were to be married, almost to the day, the priest made this same point. He said that not only had Anke died, but also the common life that we had planned.
I didn't understand this at the time-it sounded like rhetoric.
For several years after, I grieved. The total shock probably extended the period. Even now, sometimes I feel pangs; I'm writing this, after all.
The hardest question, after dealing with the loss of Anke, was who am I? This widowed guy that everybody treats like fragile glass? Damaged goods? Horrors of horrors, anger at Anke for letting this happen?
I finally decided that there are no answers. We just go on. Trite, but true.
Sometimes, when reflecting on the intense pain I felt on losing one person, would wonder what it must have been like to be in Tokyo after the WWII raids that left 100k dead, each of them with relatives feeling the same pain. What could it have been like to be in a city filled with people all in the same state of mind.
Grief is strange-makes you think weird thoughts like that.
I still haven't remarried. The past several years, I had been busy changing careers and finishing some grad work. Sometimes I wonder if that is just an excuse-hard to tell.