Klaus

He was there at my graduation from my MA.  He was present for debates, for conferences, for reading group sessions, and colloquia.  Many times afterwards we all went out together just to continue talking.  Classroom doors would close and lights would go out but the fire for discussion hadn’t burned out and so we’d all rejoin in the street, meander to a pub or restaurant and continue where we’d left off.  We were a group of people of various ages from those in their 20’s up through the 70’s.  In many ways we symbolized what I love most about the musicking world: a community that stretches its way through all humanity and connects people to each other from wherever they originated.

Last week as I sat upstairs alone with Teddy asleep in his crib in the room across the hall I was surfing Facebook just before turning out my own light when a post appeared in the news feed, and it was the kind of post no one wants to see.  Someone had written a post saying that my friend had died.  This was a post I didn’t want to believe, and so I reached out immediately through email to some of the members of our group who were more closely connected to Klaus for verification.  My mentor, the founder of our little group in many ways, wrote me back the horrible words that what I had read was undoubtedly true.

Since I first entered university as a bachelor student I have been blessed to run into extremely intelligent people.  I have met the kind of people whose possession of knowledge is vast and deep, who share it willingly without condescension or self-pride that they know so much.  They are the types of people who honor you with their knowledge by sharing it without making you feel vulnerable in your ignorance.  Klaus was one such.  As knowledgeable, as skilled a musician, as clever and humorous a person as he was, in all the environments I ever was present in which he spoke, I never saw him speak without choosing how he spoke without compassion for the persons he was addressing.  Klaus was a joyous man, and he was so lively  that it seems impossible to me that he’s gone, or that all along he was doing as the Dutch tend to, and that was bearing terrible health burdens in utter silence.  For many hours after the message appeared on his page people continued to post comments in shock and grief at the loss of their friend, and not one of us knew what could have happened to him.  It was only after I learned a few days later to what sickness Klaus had fallen did I realize the extent to which he had kept his illness “close to his shirt”.  In the hours after the posting I had seen his own family members writing in to ask how he had passed away.

But Klaus’ death, beyond filling me with sadness and grief at a bright, warm and joyous life snuffed out far too soon also reminds me again of the lessons I learned after my father died: you cannot ever know how much time you have on Earth or how long you have with the people you care for.  Grief has many faces and phases.  I suspect that my grief at Klaus’ death will touch me whenever I enter the university halls again for a time, or when the reading group reconvenes and I have to remember he won’t be there.  There are many like me in this regard.  Klaus, like most musicians, was an active part of his world: he accompanied, he was part of several ensembles both Western European classical music and gamelan ensembles.  I may have met Klaus through musicology, but that was only a small part of his life: through his work as a musician he touched hundreds of people over the years.  So as I start another autumn of colloquia and readings and writing I will be joined in my sense of an empty place at the table by many others in the worlds Klaus moved within.

And though I’ll remember for years and years his brilliance, I believe what I’ll never forget is his kindness.  It was a rare thing in a person with so many gifts: a special humility in a superbly talented and intelligent man.

 

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~ by Rebecca Erickson on September 19, 2016.

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