My own final farewell to Christa

Dearly loved, sadly missed

My beautiful lady
Christa Helene Mounce, geb. Becker
(16 December 1945 — 11 November 2007)
Rest in peace now, my soulmate. Auf wiedersehen.

I do like the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam... The particular verse that always appealed to me is this one:

My beautiful lady
'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days,
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

Not that I believe in predestination. Nor am I particularly keen on chess. A game at which Christa could always beat me if she put her considerable mind to it. She wasn't so keen on old Omar, though we certainly did love our picnics, Christa and me! Our first picnic, in June 1974, took us as far as Oxford.

My beautiful lady
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness —
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

We were so very lucky to have found each other all those years ago in Old Windsor. It was April 1974, in the vicarage, of all places. It seems just like yesterday. 33 years have whizzed by in a blur, each with its tales to tell. More tales... 12 times more tales, than those of Sheherazade. Can you imagine? And now she's gone. It's very strange!

I never really gave it much thought until this year, but death is not always our enemy. Death can be a welcome friend. True, it may shatter our lives, truncate our time here, sadly diminish us. But as a friend, death gave us a truly precious and unique gift: a peaceful end to Christa's pain.

My beautiful lady
While the Rose blows along the River Brink,
With old Khayyam the Ruby Vintage drink:
And when the Angel with his darker Draught
Draws up to thee — take that, and do not shrink.
I admit, we don't often invite death to come, nor choose its time. But towards the end Christa and I needed it to come. And at the end, we were finally ready to welcome it...

My beautiful lady
Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and the best,
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.

So, does death have any other redeeming features?

Well, it's a good time for listening. Listening to friends, reading their words (as you just heard), listening to memories, hearing their music, and listening to Christa, as she sings non-stop in my heart, and in my head.

It's a good time for speaking. Of joys, and memories; of hopes, partly fulfilled; dreams, and unrealised ambitions — for example, the book she wanted to write about Meisenheim, where she grew up — of growing and travelling, — how she loved to travel! — learning and finding, laughter and tears. Lots of laughter; not too many tears, but a few from time to time.

It's a good time for silence. When words falter, death is a time for sitting alone, or quietly with my friends. Remembering the sweet, true, gentle, life-long love that was Christa's for me. And mine for her.

Listening. Speaking. Silence. What else? Well, death is also a good time for loving. Love to the end. They say time is the great healer, but I reckon love can heal wounds, even though I know it can't cure cancer.

Christa told me, two weeks before she died, and in no uncertain terms, that she'd be "very sad" if she thought there was going to be no more laughter or smiling in my life after she'd gone. I promised her I'd do my best. And I will. But it's a bit tricky right now, my love. A bit tricky.

I do have one final wish for you, though, my love. Sleep tight! Don't let the bed bugs bite. And, if they do... bite them back!

So, here at the end, all that's left to say is Auf wiedersehen, my best friend, my true soulmate. My Christa. As I said when I kissed you goodbye for the last time in the hospice: You and me, babe. You and me forever.

My beautiful lady
Christa Helene Mounce, geb. Becker
(16 December 1945 — 11 November 2007)
Rest in peace now, my soulmate. Auf wiedersehen.