28 April 2011
Alex and I were up early and Oma was still, blessedly, sleeping. After sending an update to the family, I wanted to get out of the house, into the woods. Anna said she had everything under control and gave us leave to head out. America would not wake up for hours yet, the day was amazing, Alex and I hit the road. We took the bus up to Cobenzl and walked into the woods behind.
The Kreuzung is where a few of the paths around Cobenzl cross, and there someone raised a cross like those you often find in the woods around Vienna. Today it bore a little sign: “I don’t know where God is driving me, but I know he drives me.” We walked on toward Jaegerwiese.
As I walked the path I had an almost physical sensation of someone else watching with my eyes. I became conscious that this walk was not just for Alex and I, but for Oma herself. It was her last walk in the woods. Jaegerwiese was almost empty this early in the day, and a weekday no less. It was contemplative, with a pony eating under a flowing tree of spring.
For no particular reason, as Alex and I headed over Hermanskogel and down the other side, we began talking of plans for the family who would join us when Oma died. It seemed possible that Oma might die soon, and the walk became a practice of a walk we might take with brothers and sisters to make sure they saw some of Oma’s woods while they were in Vienna. We got a bit lost, finding a babbling spring brook and a poisonous lizard as we wandered on.
We were both a bit amazed that as we recovered our bearings we found ourselves at the Celtic tree circle near Cobenzl, on a hilltop called “Am Himmel.” Could we have ended up at a more aptly named hill, “in heaven.” We found Oma’s birth-tree, the elm, in the circle. As we returned to Cobenzl we passed a field of the most amazing yellow dandelion-like flowers covering a rise, right up into the clouds. Down in Grinzing again, we stopped in the parish church to pray to Mary, the mother of God, that Oma might find peace and we might find strength.
We’d been walking for hours and hours. When we got home Oma was as we’d left her with Anna. I sat by her side. As America awoke, family started calling. For the most part we spoke in whispers. I showed them Oma sleeping, they listened to her breathing. Together, we kept vigil.