Two bittersweet trips to Hirrlingen (March 18-19 and April 2-3)

I remember my 5th grade family heritage project so vividly: gathering photos and family tree information from my Grandma, my dad helping me make spätzle for the class…I never would have thought that I would actually be HERE in Germany, standing where some of those pictures were taken, and meeting people on the family tree! I feel so incredibly blessed to have the chance to get to know my German relatives while we are living here. Charlie has enjoyed meeting and spending time with them as much as I have, which just makes it even more special.

One of the relatives we spent a lot of time with was Bernhard. He is one of my Grandma’s first cousins, and I first met him many years ago when he visited the states. His daughter, Annette, reached out to me when we moved here and invited us to come for a visit. (Little did she know we would keep coming back!!) Bernhard was often emotional when we arrived and when it was time to say goodbye. Even though he didn’t speak English, it was clear how much it meant to him to connect with his American relatives.

Bernhard always had something special he wanted to do with us or show us: a certain restaurant or cafe, a cuckoo clock shop, or a museum he knew we would enjoy. He was like an Opa for Connor…taking him on his tractor or buying him a special sheepskin rug just like all of his own children had.

Bernhard passed away in his sleep on March 12. It was unexpected as he had been in good health. Connor and I were able to drive to Hirrlingen for the funeral, but Charlie had a concert and was crushed that he couldn’t get away. I was grateful that I could attend the funeral and represent the American side of the family. It was a nice Mass with lots of music, and afterwards everyone gathered for refreshments.

Charlie, Connor, and I drove to Hirrlingen again on April 3 for the burial of Bernhard’s ashes. I know that Charlie was relieved that he had the opportunity to say goodbye. There was a small ceremony at the gravesite with close family, and we were so touched that Annette allowed us to join them. Afterwards we all went to a café for coffee and ice cream and enjoyed an afternoon of socializing. We went back to Annette’s house for a little while, then back to the church for a special Mass.

Although the reason for our visits was a somber one, we nevertheless enjoyed the opportunity to see so many relatives and even meet a few new ones. Everyone was in remarkably good spirits; it seemed like they were focusing on celebrating Bernhard’s life and rejoicing that he is now with his late wife Renate. We made so many memories during these two short trips, and Connor still talks about so many of the relatives by name.

Bernhard, we are blessed to have known you.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marilyn Mraz
    May 05, 2014 @ 22:37:54

    Thanks Ashley, that was beautifully said.


  2. Elfriedè Repp
    May 06, 2014 @ 03:41:30

    Thanks Ashley and Charlie for representing us at the Services for our cousin, Bernhardt. I know that meant a lot for his family at that time. God bless you!
    Love, Aunt Elfriede


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