Updated: Jun 6
This post is dedicated to beautiful beings, Gonzalo, Gaston & Daniel
Did I ever tell you about my friend Gonzalo?
Now when being overally ok, again allowing me- for some short moments- crying, always some few minutes the last days, over “us” over our relation, over our love, which seem to cease to exist, seem to dying silently and feeling helpless and getting speechless about this fading, I remembered him and a saying which I gave him in Berlin on a little sheet, where I saw him the last time, before he died.
„There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love.” ~ Washington Irving
Gonzalo was an Argentine Polo Umpire I got known to in 2010 at the European Championships. He was a small, wiry man, smaller than me, with a weather beaten or even life beaten face, about 60 years old and a typical Argentine Man, not to say macho :-). Strong, almost hard, funny, never being able to maintain a relationship with a woman ( or the women not with him), having several kids from different girls, and always in good mood.
At that time I compensated my sadness and grief about R and I got an expert in hiding my feelings to the outside world. But inside I was moaning desperately about a love which wasn’t possible, A love which was too intense for one of its parts.
At the final day, I can’t remember why, I felt really bad, exhausted, not only from the work and a cold I had, but probably also from acting so much, keeping my mask upright. So after the prizegiving I was standing apart a little and he came to me, we had talked regularly the week before and when he stopped before me he looked at me. And I only looked back, without needing to say anything as my eyes said everything. He asked “ Oh dear, who hurt you so much?!” stepped to me and took me in his arms and I started sobbing.
In this moment I knew that beneath his hardness and macho attitude there was an incredible heart, which could hear mine. There was love. Immediate. I told him after a while of crying, being hold by him, that I am very hurt, but that it’s nobodies fault.
After that we saw each other only for some minutes in Buenos Aires a year later, but kept in contact via Facebook. When I heard later, autumn 2012, that he fell off the horse at a tournament in Berlin and was hospitalized with a severe hematoma in his cervical spine, being in coma, I got in contact with his son who travelled from Argentina to Berlin, although they barely had contact to each other before anymore, to care for him. I knew that I would be there for a yoga immersion and asked if I could visit him. I didn’t have much information about his state, I could read out a little bit from the Spanish postings and updates on the internet, but what I knew was that it was severe and not even predictable if he will ever recover.
I went to Berlin January 2013. It was incredibly cold, but beautiful weather and I went to the hospital after 2 days of Yoga. It was a huge hospital in the suburbs of Berlin and I arrived there after a ride with the S-Bahn and a 20min walk. I went to the hospital ward Gaston , Gonzalos son, had told me. I think it was for spinal cord damaged people. It was already early evening( though I remember it was still sunny, I don’t know exactly at which time I went there anymore, it was an exceptional situation for me and then time doesn’t exist) and the station was empty. I heard my steps on the floor and it was a terrifying walk as I didn’t know exactly what would expect me in this room. When I found it, I opened the door. It was a big room, all white, no decoration and 2 beds in it, one on each side, facing each other. The beds were huge and one was empty, though I saw some stuff there, so I knew that there was a second patient.
In the other bed, when I entered the room on the left, there was a little bunch laying in this huge bed, surrounded by many machines making quiet, but continuous, sounds. I thought am wrong, because the person in the bed looked like a kid and my gaze went to a chair at the window where a young man was sitting. When he saw me, he stood up and whispered “Karin?”. So I knew it was Gonzalos son and the little being in the bed, covered with white linen, getting lost in the pillows, not moving, was Gonzalo.
I was in terror. The smell, the machines, the shrank Gonzalo,-whom I remembered small, but not as much, and so alive and riding on his horses, living his absolute passion- the not knowing, all that made me tremble, I even felt resistance, it felt as if death was in this room, patiently waiting.
I approached Gaston and hugged him and with quiet voice he told me that Gonzalo is sleeping. As I wasn’t able to look at him more concretely, feeling frightened and overwhelmed by this terrible scenario, I asked Gaston about his actual state, to give me some details and to play for time as I didn’t know how to behave.
He told me that they didn’t know exactly what happened, that he fell of the horse, people who saw it said that he was falling off the horse, without any external impact being there, like being stricken by some invisible force and also the doctors said that- as he fell right on his head, straight- that the way he fell was strange, as normally when falling the body has an automatic reaction to protect head and neck, by ducking and rolling off on the floor. As that didn’t happen, they said that he probably lost consciousness already before he hit the ground.
The result was that in the spinal cord a big hematoma was created, which was squeezing the nerves completely, stopping the impulses completely, which lead to a Paralysis from the second cervical vertebra downwards including an effect on his respiratory system which is linked, impulsed and controlled in this area of the nerves. After that he was in coma, but awakened after some weeks if I remember right.
They also said that due to the position, they aren’t able to operate, so the only thing they could do is to wait and hope that the hematoma degenerates by itself, dissolves.
After getting all those information I realized in the corner of my eye that Gonzalo was awake. When talking I sometimes looked at him, but I wasn’t able to step to the bed yet and I felt so ashamed about myself being so weak and scared and uncompassionate. Then he said something, I think he said “hola!”, he was hanging on the breathing machine, but he had put it down meanwhile Gaston and I were talking and I heard a scratchy, almost breaking voice which cut into my heart. So I moved towards him, but in my nervousness I was lumbering and fell over some cable and landed more or less on his boney body and I almost screamed “ I am so sorry, did I hurt you?!”
Then he laughed with open mouth, showing the rest of teeth, as most of them fell off in the former two months and said “ You can jump on me, I don’t feel anything!”
I came up from his body, laughed too and the ice was broken.
It was strange, suddenly the whole room changed and when there was absolute terror before and ugliness, it was as if something much deeper emerged which allowed me to feel beauty in all of that and I stepped to his head, sat on the side of the bed and looked at him straight at the first time. All terror and fear had fallen off.
What I saw on the outside was terrible, he was marked by the last months, he was weak and I could see it, it was not the man I knew, but there was something else which was vibrating in him, around him, in me, everywhere. It was exactly what I felt when he took me in his arms when I was crying. Magic.
Then I started to caress his hand and asked if he really does not feel that, he laughed and said “No!” and I moved up to his face and started to touch his face, and suddenly he had tears in his eyes and said “ here…here on the left side I can feel it….sometimes it hurts, the ear…” and then he said, crying “ I am so happy that you are here, so happy and this are tears of joy!”. I cannot even tell you how that was, even today my eyes fill with tears when I tell it or write about it, because it was so terrible and so beautiful at the same time, because there, in this movelessness, in this despair and fear and hopelessness, there was so much love and it was all that counted. All was reduced or rather expanded to love.
I also cried then, and we both didn’t care and laughed and cried and talked the next 1,5 hours, although that was very exhausting for Gonzalo, but he didn’t want to stop. In between I continued caressing him and he was moaning when the pain in the little facial area where he could feel, released a bit. He told me that he never cried and that the last time he cried was when his son, as a baby, died, which was decades ago and from that point he never again allowed himself any tears, any grief, always being the strong- or rather hard- man, he swore to himself that he will always be strong. He was ashamed of crying.
And there I started to cry again, tears running over my cheeks, and told him to look at me, really look at me, and that there is nothing bad in tears and that they are an expression of feeling, maybe when there is not much more left how to express, when nothing can move, at least his eyes could speak and that with crying he can release at least a bit pressure.
We talked about the past, how we met and how we felt about it, we talked about love and then he told me that the only thing he wants is that he can go back to Argentina to be with his horses again, that they are his life and that he does miss them so much. And started to cry again and I felt so much fear, it was the fear of dying, in general and the fear of dying in a strange country, with people not talking his language and without being able to see his horses again in particular. And I said that I feel his fear and he admitted how big it was, eyes filling with tears again and immediately turning away from it again, trying to be optimistic. But I never in my life felt the fear of death more physical than with him, at his bed, in me as we were fully connected in this 1.5 hours.
It was very hard to leave him, but he had to go to some examination and sleep then, so I told him that I would come back the next day. I kissed him and hugged him and we both told each other again how happy we are to see each other and that we love each other. And then I went back to my hotel.
The next day I returned and I came into the room and Gonzalos bed was empty.
Suddenly a voice from the right side bed said “ Don’t worry, he is in a treatment, they have to cleanse his lunges, with a machine, because the body is not providing this anymore and he will be back in some time.” That was a shock, it sounded terrible that lungs has to be cleansed mechanically, but the relief that he was still alive was much bigger.
So I went outside to search Gaston. He wasn’t there so I sent him a message and he told me that he is just somewhere to eat but that he would return soon.
So I went back to the room and started a chat with Gonzalos Roommate. He was English but moved to Germany many years ago. For love if I remember right.
His story is probably one of the most tragic I ever heard.
We talked 30min, I was sitting at his bed as the day before at Gonzalos, though he was much more agile.
Shortly he told me that he was Paralized too, but just from the hips, so he could at least use his arms and move his upper body a bit.
I don’t remember anymore why exactly he was hospitalized, but he was paralyzed already for 20 years or so, caused by an accident which happened while gardening in an adventure park where he was employed and the rollercoaster which should have been off already was still driving when he worked at the tracks. Actually he was adapting to this life quiet ok, though his wife left him, for kind of self realization with another man and because she couldn’t manage to live with him anymore and only his daughter stayed. Not enough, years later when he needed to undergo some surgery in the hospital he received a blood preservation which contained HIV_positive blood. He was such a nice person, I really couldn’t believe that this happens to one person. Life can be cruel und is unpredictable. We should be aware of that, being grateful also in „normal“ uncomfortable moments or feelings or when we are terribly bored and enjoy every very minute we have.And even more with loved ones.
However I don’t go further in this, when Gaston arrived, he talked to the doctor and they said that it will take longer, as they had difficulties with the cleansing, which made me realize that the day before probably was the last time that I saw Gonzalo.
It so hard to explain what I felt there, experienced there, also when Gaston offered me to drive me to my hotel, talking to this extraordinary man, who left Argentina to care alone for a father he barely knew and he didn’t have a good relation with before, growing closer and deeper to him in 3 months than the 27 years or so before. A young man who was talking openly about his fears, his fathers fear, about sadness, about his exhaustion and the absolute determination to bring Gonzalo home, no matter at what cost.
When I kissed him Goodbye I gave him the sheet with the above quote and asked him to read it to Gonzalo.
That was the last time I was with Gonzalo, whom I barely knew, we were never lovers, we saw each other only a very few times, but before that I barely felt and consciously experienced more profound and infinite love with an almost stranger as when his heart recognized mine within this superficiality of the Poloworld.
And I never before was falling into this reality of love, being fully embraced and penetrated by it, within absolute, terrifying worldly reality than in this hours in the hospital.
They did manage to bring Gonzalo home to Argentina and he did see the love of his life, his horses, again!
He died in April 2013, as Gaston said, in peace.
I don’t know exactly why it came into my mind today and why I am telling this to you. I also wrote, after starting this letter, a message to Gonzalos Son.
Maybe it is because I wear the mask again, play strong again and you put an armor too, keeping us as “low- level” as possible, maybe to protect the love, but it is not able to breath like this and there is no breathing machine available, only us who breath it. And hoping that spring will make us flourish again and breath!
Maybe I tell it to you, because I know that the beauty of love does not lay only in the beauty, only in the sunny sides, but it is beneath everything. And though I know of course I have my stains and edges and flaws, and at the same time I am easy in that way, as I don’t lie, don’t manipulate, don’t blackmail, don’t harm intentionally, but that this isn’t necessarily always comfortable. I am probably one of the most straightforward, loyal and wholehearted persons you ever got known to, I call the things by its name, I say what I feel and I don’t shrink back from challenges and I love as if life depends on it ( and it does!).
Maybe I tell you this, because love is also in grieving together, in crying together, in laughing together, in talking with each other, sharing what moves us, sharing feelings, in caressing each other, in being happy to be with each other, to have each other, in fear, in despair, and it can flow freely if all the labels, all the concepts, all the beliefs how things should be or what can be exposed or talked about, including even what/who is right or wrong in the face of unmasked, naked reality, courageous true love. Which is the same.
Without always protecting and arming oneself in order to not get hurt or to maintain that what we think is love but which is fear. If doing so, armoring oneself against the fullness of being human- which comes to surface even more when being close, being deeply connected and which is difficult a times- limiting the relating and contact and vulnerability to superficiality, even if it is for the best purpose, doing this all the time and not returning to be barefaced and authentic, sometimes, but still, the love will start to hide in the last corner, to shrink to some littleness, something mediocre. Being imprisoned somewhere, around the heart, but which- that caged way- can’t embrace oneself and the living beloved one anymore. Everyone being stuck in this harness, which was installed to protect the heart, but which results in being alive and dead at the same time.
Maybe I tell this to you, because sometimes sadness or grief or whatever and love come hand in hand, they are marks of vulnerability and the courage to show oneself in absolute love, which doesn’t know any differentiation. Love and grief doesn’t exclude each other, love doesn’t exclude anything, it takes nothing away from the simple beauty of being human when finally standing up and being absolutely human. It’s the contrary- to love fully is being fully alive.
Or maybe I tell you this, to tell myself again that even in the dying of something, which in that case could be our relationship, … Our relating, which for me is like a beautiful magic seldom flower, a living organism, and we, both you and I, are its soil, its rain, its wind and its sun, all elements which keep the unique flower fully alive, that even in this slow fading away, drying out, there is love.
And if it finally dies, whenever, us, maybe I tell this to you in the wish to be again and once more as naked and pure and unmasked as we were originally and for many months, and as I and Gonzalo were when we saw, embraced, each other the last time, in absolute love and only being happy to be with each other. Love should be lived and expressed to its fullness, always as if it is the last moment. At least I do that.