Posted on Facebook on 3 October 2016.

Today it is exactly 30 years ago that my father died, in the early morning hours of a Friday, alone, in a hospital room. I cannot write this sentence without being slowly sucked into the depth of that sorrow, the overwhelming loss that fell upon me. Still I want to remember, not often, but when I do - as I do today - I want the loss to overwhelm me again: it is beyond comprehension what I had, and what I lost.

Years later my own experience of loss enabled me to let a few lines in the church registers of Veckerhagen attain their full meaning. I read about the baptism of my ancestor Zacharias Wittenborn's son Jochem on 18 March 1698. Jochem was the third child of Zacharias and his wife Gertrud Wentzel.

But this time the delivery had gone horribly wrong. The entry in the burial register for 20 March 1698 said that Gertrud was buried that day, with Jochem in her arms. Zacharias has had to stand at the edge of their grave.

Zacharias' life had to continue, and on 1 November 1698 he married Anna Margaretha Steffens. When their first child Anna Maria was baptized on 29 October 1699, Zacharias' mother Margaretha came over to Veckerhagen to be witness of her son's newly found happiness. It is the only mention I have of Zacharias' parents. As Zacharias was born in 1667, these parents were born during the 30 Years War (1618-1648), and must have experienced some of its horrors.

Sorrow is present in everyone's life, in some more than in others.