Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Frau Nussbaum

I pulled the map out and squinted at it. The wind whipped my hair into my eyes and I impatiently scraped it back. It was time for a haircut, I decided. The map folded over itself and I slapped it back open which tore it a bit on one of the creases. Great! Just what I need, I thought to myself. First I get lost and then I destroy the only map I have! This trip is a waste of time.

I was on a backpacking trip across Europe. There were two reasons I was here. The first was because I had just graduated from college and I wanted to do this before I didn't have time. The second reason was because of Mike. Mike was my fiancé. Yes, was. He had died two months ago in a freak accident while helping his parents build their dream house. The irony is that he had died 3 days before we were to marry. We had the funeral in place of the wedding. This backpacking trip was supposed to be our honeymoon.

I had not cried when Mike died. I did not want to cry now, so I packed up the map and got back in the car I had rented. There was a village about 5 miles to the south, so I decided to head there for lunch. I gripped the steering wheel tightly enough that my knuckles turned white. God! Why did You do this to me?!? I screamed silently. It's not fair!

I paid no attention to the countryside. Mike was the sightseer and liked to take his time. I, on the other hand, just wanted to get there. He always had to make sure that I saw the beautiful things that I would have otherwise missed. I didn't even try this time.

I came to the village quicker than I had thought I would. It was a quaint place, with a fountain in the square and buildings built close together. I parked the car in front of an eating house, and took a deep breath. It really wouldn't do to go out in public the way I was feeling. I needed to calm down.

The inside of the eating house was nice and cool. The proprietress was a kindly woman who fortunately knew English. I placed my order and found a seat by the window. I had a view of the fountain, which was really a work of art. It was a bronze statue of woman pouring water over the feet of her son. Beside the fountain there was an elderly woman gazing up at it.

"That is Frau Nussbaum. Her husband and his mother posed for that fountain. She comes to look at it every day." The proprietress shook her head sadly as she filled my coffee mug.

"She looks so sad," I replied as I looked at the frau more closely.

"Herr Nussbaum died when he was building a new home for themselves. They had been together for almost 50 years. She has not been the same since he died." The proprietress went back to her kitchen, still shaking her head.

I kept thinking about Frau Nussbaum when I was back on the road. Her husband had died the same way Mike had, but at least she had been given the chance of living a life with him. For nearly 50 years they had lived together, breathed together, loved together, and now she was without him. I could not imagine how that would be.

As I was thinking these things, I saw a little church by the side of the road. I stopped my car and got out. The church appeared to be abandoned. The doors had faded and one was hanging off of its hinges. Inside there were no pews, but the altar was still there. Behind the altar was a huge wooden cross. I couldn't help it; I knelt at the altar and started to cry. I realized I had been so selfish. Here I was moping around when I still had my life to live. And I had my life because of what Christ did on the cross. Mike had been a believer too, so I knew I'd see him again. What about Frau Nussbaum? Would she ever see her husband again? I didn't know. I began to pray for her. As I did, I felt the bitterness melt away. The grief was still there, but now there was hope.