Good bye to Matthias Lauk   5 comments

On November 15th, I am up early as usual and decide to check some name spellings for the book I am attempting to write.  I had been spelling Mattias without an “h” and Ed said it should be Matthias, so I googled Matthias Lauk and a picture came up. I smiled to see his handsome face, because I never had and it’s fun to see if the picture matches the person in my mind from all the stories I had heard about him.  The article with the picture was in German, so I copied and pasted it in to a translation site, because I knew Ed would be interested in whatever the ambitious Matthias was doing. The date on the article was November 15th the same day I opened it to check the spelling. Much to my dismay, the article informed me that Matthias had died that day after a long illness. He had told Ed several years before that he had cancer but it was under control and said, “we’ll dance on each other’s graves.”

Ed said, “I don’t know how that will work, but okay.”

Matthias was just 62 years old just a year older than Ed. I copied the news piece, and another one that I’d found that said Matthias had accepted a position as managing director with GIMA International Exhibition Group on October 1, 2010 in Hamburg. He must have been feeling well enough to work just a month before. I waited until Ed was awake and I came downstairs.

“I have some sad news to tell you.”


“Well, I was checking the spelling of “Matthias” and googled his name.”

“Oh, no. What?”

“I found an article that said he died today after a long illness.”

Ed put his head in his hands and cried. I rubbed his back with my hand.

“I’m sorry.”

“I tried to reach him a month or so ago. I should have kept trying. I wanted to talk with him about a publisher for your poetry.”

“Matthias changed my life, ” Ed said.

Marcel Duchamp said it best in a wire to a friend who had lost his wife. It said, Sad, autumnal counterpoint of unacceptable cowardliness conforming once again imbecilic inanity of any rational justification.”

I convinced Ed to come to the YMCA with me. He got dressed to go, but then said he could not, so I left a little disheartened that he finds it so difficult to do what’s good for him, but also with understanding that his friend had died and I might not feel like going to the YMCA either.

My goal was 72 lengths of the pool today, which equal one mile, but I felt tired as I swam. And the lady in the lane next to me swam fast. I’m just competitive enough to increase my speed when she neared me, so maybe my stubbornness made me tired. This was only my 4th or 5th swim since joining the YMCA, and I had increased my lap numbers each time. My previous swim was 62 lengths. As I reached number 50, I saw Ed standing at the end of the pool.

“What are you doing?”

“I tried to catch you, but you were driving off.” I just finished my warm up in the gym. “Are you just swimming today or will you be in the gym?”

“Just swimming.”

“How old is the lady next to me? She’s faster than I am.” I didn’t have my glasses on, so couldn’t see much and was hoping the swimmer next to me was much younger.

“I don’t know.”

“Your left arm is going out to the side a little.”

“Watch me and see if I can do it better.”

I swam down and back. “How was that?”

“Better. I’m going to the Union Bar for lunch. Do you want to come with me?”

“Yes. I’m going to swim some more and then it will take me a little while to shower and dry my hair, and then I’ll be there.”

As I swam my final laps, only to 55 today, just tired. I reminded myself to relax and swim, no rush, and as the Buddhist nuns and Thich Nhat Hahn sang at the retreat, “No where to go, nothing to do.” Just breathe, Mary. Life is not a competition and neither is your swim today. A poet, Craig Czury from New Jersey, who I met through another friend and who has been an email mentor once wrote,

Don’t Win

Don’t Defend Yourself

Don’t Give Up

I ran into a woman in the dressing room who I had known from a previous job.

“She asked me how often I swim, what I was doing lately, and if I would trim her hair as I did in the past. Many of the people  I worked with back then had limited incomes and I enjoyed giving haircuts, so I continued for awhile after I came back from England. Sometime in the past two years, I had stopped doing that, but I told her that I would call her and come over to the assisted living where she lives and cut her hair.

I told her that I am working on a book.

“That’s awesome. People love books.”

“I love books.” I said

“I love books, too. But mostly I just read the bible. It seems I can’t keep my mind focused long enough for a book.”

“Maybe a book of short stories would work for you.”
“Well, yes that might. A book for children. I love Mother Goose stories.”

“How have you been?”

“Up and down. I can’t seem to stabilize for long, but the swimming helps a lot. I wish I could come everyday. It gets me out of the house and feels so good.”

I think of her long history of mental illness. I consider her life. Matthias’ life. My life. What unanswerable questions arise and the only response seems to be, “shit happens.”

I met Ed at the Union. He had a pitcher of beer in front of him. We ordered our meal.

I said, “I have a dollar. I’ll go get a pickle card.” I’d never bought one before.

“Here.” Ed said, “You might as well get a few.” He handed me a $5.

“Open them slowly. “ I instructed. “It makes the hope last longer.”

We opened all the pickle cards and had no winner. The waiter came to see if we wanted anything else.

“Any winners,” he asked when he saw the pile of opened cards.

“No, do you refund my money now and I try again?” I asked.

“No. Doesn’t work that way.”

“Oh. C’mon. Well then, how about dessert?” I asked.

“No dessert in a bar. We’ll have to work on that.”

Ed said, “How about a cognac in Matthias’ honor.”

“The first time I met Matthias after he had seen, and purchased my piece “Window Memory” at the Licht-Blicke show in Frankfurt 1985, he said to me,

“We don’t have much time, so we need to get to know each other quickly.”

We rode in his BMW at high speeds, had long conversations and went out to eat. He ordered an expensive cognac for us to share. He had a drink, then me, then him and when it came back to me, I accidentally knocked the glass over spilling the remaining liquid.

“You spilled $600 fucking dollars, Et.”

He laughed. We both laughed. It was a wonderful time, and I was blessed to become an artist in Matthias’ stable. And blessed just to know this gracious, brilliant, ambitious and caring man.“

“No cognac” our waiter said.

“Give us a shot of that hot whiskey.” Ed answered.

“Here’s to you dear Matthias,” Ed’s eyes filled with tears.

“To a life well-lived,” I said as we clinked our  inexpensive whiskey filled glasses.

“Maybe, the restaurant with the great bread pudding with caramel sauce has cognac.” I said.


Posted November 16, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

5 responses to “Good bye to Matthias Lauk

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  1. So sorry to read about this — the two of you have had way too much loss this year. I’ve heard Ed talk many times about Matthias and can only imagine his grieving. Peace to you both.


  2. he was a great guy. With impressing obsessions! RIP


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