For the love of our children
We are Veronika and Gordian, the parents of Milan.
We are writing this text together with our friend and brother, Georg, who was flying kites with the children when Milan died under his supervision and that of two other carers.
We want to comment on the tragic death of our son and the much-too-early passing of little R. and the instrumentalization of these in the smear campaign against our community Go & Change.
Little R. died a sudden infant death at the age of three weeks over two and a half years ago. A month later, the rescue of our one-and-a-half-year-old boy Milan unfortunately came too late. He fell in a pond just a few meters away from our property while flying kites, and died the next day as a result of the lack of oxygen.
Luckily, most people will barely be able to imagine what it is like to lose a child, or to be responsible for the death of a friend’s child.
As parents and as a community, the loss of two of our children in such quick succession was an unimaginably painful challenge for everyone involved.
We took this head on; we felt, mourned, cried, despaired, talked, forgave and laughed, and through this, it is possible for us today – out of our love – to write this text here together.
The occasion is anything but pleasant, since we are compelled to write this text because some people, even old friends and acquaintances of ours, want to use the death of our children to destroy our family and the lives of our other children along with it. How will our children feel if their classmates are not allowed to play with them because their parents are afraid for their children because of this slander?
We are outraged, dismayed, sad and angry to see how socially acceptable it seems to be to, lacking all empathy, instrumentalise the loss of our children in public. Nobody protects us or asks us, the parents and those involved, how we feel about it. Indeed, who should have a right to cast judgement on such an event if not we, the parents?
Accordingly, we have decided to share our view of things in order to put something in love in the path of the desire to destroy:
As the father of one of the two deceased children in our community, I would like to add my point of view to the debate. When Milan fell into the pond in March 2019 and we, following the heavy consequences of the accident, had to say goodbye to him, it was an intense turning point and a great challenge for me and our community. How do you come to terms with the death of your own child? How do you cope with your own child having an accident and dying under the supervision of your friends?
I am currently working as a doctor in a psychotherapy clinic and often experience how heavily sudden deaths, especially those of the patients’ own children, weigh upon, and divide biographies, relationships and families. How difficult it is for many to work through the grief. I am incredibly touched and grateful for how I was held by my friends from the very first minute after giving the resuscitator to the emergency doctor; how I was supported in feeling the pain, in remembering the beautiful things Milan brought into my life, and in processing the bewilderment and incomprehension of the mystery of death. Above all during this time, it helped me that, despite the sadness, we never stopped dancing together, feeling the beautiful memories at the same time as we said goodbye, and reflecting on our aliveness and never taking this pointless death as a reason to sink into depression.
I came to understand that assigning blame in this situation would have been a way to fend off my grief at the sudden departure, and instead burden others with it. I decided against this and instead upheld forgiveness, friendship, and compassion as more important. I didn’t manage it every day. In the last two and a half years since Milan’s death, we have spoken with one another long and often, clarified things, struggled for understanding and forgiveness, sought a way of dealing with anger, sadness, powerlessness, feelings of guilt, seeking connection and forgiveness, and did not judge one another, but continued to love. This was more important to me than retaliation. I have repeatedly entrusted my friends with looking after my children, and I continue to do so today because I trust them and I see how happily and lively my son and the other children can flourish in this community.
I’ve lived in the Go and Change community for four and a half years, with a short break. On the day of the accident, I was flying kites with our children and some other adults. Unfortunately, I bear part of the responsibility for Milan’s death. I often wish I had had a better overview of the overall situation. I took the blame strongly onto myself and the reactions, above all from the parents, who repeatedly expressed their trust in me, helped me to overcome the shock and to find a benevolent and compassionate way of coping. It was me who pulled Milan out of the pond and took care of him in the first moments, when the possibility that he continues to live still seemed possible. I am sad that his life ended so abruptly. I would have loved to see Milan grow up here. I have a good relationship with both parents. We mourned together, were angry and we also looked joyfully at the past and future life. Some of the things I read or hear in the last few days shock me. What motivates a person to abuse such tragedies and use them against those affected? Should I not report such a person for slander? What course of action has the greatest value for everyone involved? I ask, amongst other things for the benefit of the children living here, that people refrain from such smear campaigns and, ideally, make an apology.
Before I got to know the community, I travelled around for many years and found no place where children were treated with such care.
At the end of February 2019, I came to Lülsfeld for two weeks with my two sons and their father, to spend some family time here and to get closer to the community.
On Monday 4th March, I was collected from the monastery with the news that something had happened to Milan. We ran to the pond behind the monastery property. I saw the rescue helicopter, the ambulance, I saw a lot of people: paramedics, fire fighters from the village, my friends from our community. For a split second, I saw my little son’s body as he lay motionless by the pond before I was shielded from the scene of the accident by paramedics. In the corner of my eye, I saw the devotion of my friends, some of whom had headed off to fly kites with Milan and the other children earlier. I stayed very calm, in a state of shock. My friends were with me with all the presence and calm they could muster at that moment. Only 4 weeks earlier had they witnessed and worked through the sudden death of a new born community member.
And the way to the clinic was also not one that we, as parents, had to go alone. Even the attending physicians noted that the support that we received from our community relieved them of a great burden. As it became more and more apparent thorough the discussions with the doctors that Milan would not come back, I decided to emerge from the fog. I was able, more than ever before, to see and accept what was really important and meaningful. Together we said goodbye to Milan on the evening of the following day. While the life-sustaining machines were turned off, a long, healing moment arose with Milan in our midst, in which everything was allowed to be that was in us: sadness, anger, joy, hope, memory, despair, panic, humor, gratitude, pain, fear, forgiveness, trust, love.
In the days and weeks that followed, we took the space to feel and talk about all of this as often as we needed to. In our circle – even in the closest circle around Milan’s deathbed – there were always people present who had had the responsibility as the fatal accident happened. When I decided to emerge from the fog and encounter the truth, I also encountered the question of responsibility or guilt. I looked deeply – on the basis of every encounter of our lived companionship over the past months and years – at whether I trusted the people and the place where my child had died. I checked whether there was anything or anyone who, out of malice, negligence, or lack of love towards people, was actively responsible for this having happened. I also tested myself and openly faced my feelings of guilt. I visualized every single person in their love for my child. I answered these points with deep trust and love. I know of no more beautiful or safer place for me and my children, because I know that there is no place on earth where such a disaster could not have happened.
While many of my old friends and acquaintances feared or expected that I would break apart from the pain of the loss of my child, fall into depression and flee from the world, finding solace only in seeking out guilty parties; instead, I was able to grow through the hardest challenge of my life in this circle of community. Supported by our life together, I experienced and lived joy, friendship, trust, closeness and family as deeply and freely as never before and I still do it today.
We have all found our paths to peace with the death of our children to varying degrees and in different ways. Again and again, we discover painful points anew, and find further paths of honesty, trust, consideration and forgiveness.
We wish all people who have to experience such a heavy loss to be held, carried and loved and to find people and spaces with and in which they can feel everything that belongs to living and dying.
We wish for ourselves and for our children that the slander will soon come to an end and that Milan and R. can finally rest in peace.
We demand that our old friends and acquaintances stop so painfully exploiting the death of our children over and over again.
Let us instead look in love at what there is still to be said between us and what needs to be healed!
Gordian, Veronika and Georg
Lülsfeld and Gerolzhofen, November 10th, 2021