Letter to Gordon Berghoff written by his sister Janina

    Weinheim, 20.1.2011

My dear, dear sweet little brother,

Not even 20 years - that’s all we had with you. Seems like a crime to speak of you in the past tense. I can’t help thinking of all the things you won’t be able to do, what you might miss out on.
How does the world keep on turning? How can people around us just live on, while in our lives there is this sudden emptiness, a hole where you used to be?
I remember…
…how our parents told us we’d have a little sibling. I couldn’t grasp it, was scared when Papa drove Mama to the hospital. But then, there you were…
…how very, very cute you were when you were little, but you never wanted to hear us say so… with your bright blue eyes and mop of light blond hair and happy smiles.
…what a little mischief maker you were, hiding the bread with the cutlery so the drawer wouldn’t open and building foot-angling traps just to see what would happen. You probably got blamed for some things that you DIDN’T do, although in 99% of the cases the culprit was clear. Sometimes we’d be angry for a moment, but then admire your inventiveness.
…how scared we were that time you were in hospital and ripped out the infusion because you were too small and scared to understand.
…how happy you were to get a tool kit for your third Christmas and how you lost all but 2 pieces within a day.
…how long it always took Opa to go on a walk with you because you had to investigate every water pipe and every little screw that caught your eye on the way… you even had your own language to describe tools.
…how inventive and smart you were, building all these little things to make life easier; you could have gone so far, you were so gifted. We were so proud of you and I think you would have won your bet with your supervisor and become the best apprentice of the region in electronics. Your finals would have been next week…
…how Mama worried because you were so different from all the other kids your age, but you always went your own way, and happily. I always admired you for that, for being so self-assured and happy.
…how you’d practice whistling until you could whistle louder and higher than anyone else. No one will wake me up now with their whistling early in the morning.
…how great you were with animals, spending all your freetime at the animal shelter taking care of the most difficult dogs. You could make Toska get up from her favourite chair and come to you when you whistled that specific tune and you always had to take her to the vet because with you she wasn’t so scared.
…how you always found the perfect gift for everyone. I still have those cool gloves you gave me for Christmas three years ago and I remember us joking on facebook that we should call you Santa’s manager because you organized all the Family’s presents for this Christmas.
…how you would take something to eat, climb up the mountain behind our house into the forest and have a picnic all by yourself early in the morning.
…how you always said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, there is only bad clothing and bad equipment.” You loved being outside, enjoying nature.
…how you took that photo of a puffin in flight and how funny you thought the seagull’s backside looked on another picture.
…how you got skype and facebook so you could be in closer contact with your sister abroad.
…how you saved a fellow apprentice from serious burn injuries because everyone else was too shocked to react.
…how you were online ALL the time while I waited 5h at Kerry airport, checking for news about the flight and then - surprise - pick me up in Frankfurt Hahn with Gerrit at 2am so I could spend one last Christmas with you.
…how we climbed up to Wachenburg fortress early on 26th of December to watch an amazing sunrise together, just the two of us. I will never look at snow and sunrises the same now.
I remember your easy laugh, how your blue eyes would sparkle, and the spring in your every step. It hurts to think of these things, but I’m so afraid that these memories might fade… that some day I might not remember the sound of your voice…
I’m so glad we became closer friends over the last months. Maybe you’re wondering why I’m writing this in English. Well, fact is more than two of the last three years I spent abroad; and maybe it feels easier because it makes things more complicated.
I remember when I came back from Israel in 2006, you were at the airport and shocked me with having outgrown me in just 7 months - grown into a very handsome young man. I also remember us speaking in English all the way from Skellig Michael to the Irish main land last summer because you wanted to practise so you’d be more comfortable with visiting me or travelling to maybe Canada. Now I regret even more missing out on you growing up, moving out from home so early. I just assumed we’d have more time together - now that will never be. There are many more memories, more difficult to put into words or just waiting to come out behind the more prominent ones (I will probably add many more lines to this letter over time).
We miss you so much, little brother (yeah, I know you weren’t so “little”). I hope that for you it’s all right, that you had a full and happy life. That you didn’t suffer, as the doctors said. That you want us to grieve, but then remember you as the happy, special and great person you were. It sounds pompous, but I wish now I could say it to you: you will live on in our hearts. You will laugh when I’m disgusted with yet another rain shower and you’ll walk with me when I’m going out to enjoy the sun. You will ask me every once in a while if I have cured cancer yet and I’ll give my best with my stupid project, even though right now there doesn’t seem to be a point in doing anything. When I’m sad you’re gonna crack one of your stupid (or not so stupid) jokes. And when I’m ready to be happy again you’ll laugh along with me. You will be by my side for however long I’ll outlive you, that I want to believe. I regret NOT doing so many things now, but most of all I’m sorry I probably never said it out loud, because we were both uncomfortable with displays of emotion, but it’s true and I hope you know: I love you, Gordon, very much.
I wish I could hug you one last time,
Your sister Janina