A photo by Böhringer Friedrich. Typical scenery of the places Heinz took me to.
This has been an unpleasant year for so many people to say the least. On the personal side though, I lost my second mother a few months ago and tonight I've just been told that my favourite cousin, Heinz, has passed away.
As my mum told me, this is in fact a blessing, he was suffering so much from an illness that no doctor in Austria could diagnose. It started off with paralysis of his feet and then spread throughout his body. In the end he wasn't able to be physically active and that just wasn't Heinz. He must have been so miserable but he had his family with him and that would have been a huge blessing.
Heinz was the very definition of "jolly". A big, active, fantastic father and a very happy man who really liked hunting in the foothills of the Alps. My visits to my family in Austria would invariably end up with Heinz taking me out to his favourite places in the foothills and we'd spend the evening up in a tree waiting for something for him to shoot. And the next evening and the next..
I loved it. He never actually shot anything while I was there (which I'm kind of happy about), but just to be in the most beautiful place in the world, being silent and just taking in the beauty of the place, while Heinz whispered to me where I should be looking for game in a language I didn't understand, is something that will stay in my memory forever. One morning, after a fruitless night spent in a treehouse, we were on our way back to the cabin when he spotted some deer miles away in a clearing on top of a hill. He aimed his gun and then muttered something to me in German. I don't know what he said, but he passed the gun to me and I looked through the scope. It was a mother deer with a couple of fawns, and he wasn't going to shoot the mother or her children.
He did actually manage to shoot game every so often. On more than one occasion he'd bring back some huge beast that the family (and me) would feast on for weeks afterwards.
One day he actually took me out on a hunt in a cornfield to track down a huge wild boar that he'd shot and injured the day before, and kept reminding me (in German!) during the entire hike that I should keep an eye out because the beast was injured and would likely charge and kill anyone it saw. That was Heinz's sense of humour and one I loved, although I was very nervous during the whole hike! I took a big stick with me just in case, but when he finally brought the boar home the next day I realised that stick woudn't have helped very much.
Heinz was a wonderful person, he took me to places so beautiful I can't even begin to describe them and even though we never spoke the same language, we knew what we were saying to each other, and the times we were silent in the Alpine forests meant we were both taking in the beauty.
I'll cry again tonight, I did so when I was told Heinz had passed away (sorry, mum!), but I'll have some wonderful memories to take into the new year. Typical Heinz as well, he made sure he was with his family for one last Christmas.