Saturday, September 22, 2012

In Memoriam Dr. Margarete Hochhut

I have met Rita (short for Margarete) on the internet. She was a German hiker from Frankfurt, had hiked the AT and was preparing for the PCT. After exchanging some emails I caught the opportunity and visited her in Frankfurt in winter 2007. Although we only met one night, this meeting had a tremendous influence on me. Rita was 10 years older than me and had given up her job as an anaesthetist at age 50. She had been living a very happy retired life ever since, was hiking a lot and engaged herself in her neighbourhood in Frankfurt. At that time I was already toying with the idea of giving up working myself, but was afraid of that big step. Rita proved to be a very positive role model. Although she had enjoyed her professional life as well she had never regretted retiring so early. She was so apparently happy with her life situation that it encouraged me a lot to follow in her foot steps and 2 years later I stopped working myself.

After this short, but very important meeting we have always kept in contact. I sent her post cards from all my trips, we exchanged emails and whenever I was in Germany we had long telephone conversations. In 2009 she was first hinting in an email that she was ill and I soon discovered that she was suffering from a very aggressive form of cancer. Although she remained very positive and continued hiking, her health deteriorated quickly. When I called her in early 2011 she told me that she had only a few months left and prepared to end her life herself before it became unbearable. It was an incredibly touching conversation and when I left for a hike through Germany a bit later Rita was always on my mind. I lit many candles in churches praying for her health to improve.

Her health did not improve, but her spirits did. Visits at a psychotherapist helped her to deal with her fear of death. I admired her tremendously in these last months. In a very organized way she was preparing her departure of life. She worked on her will and donated most of her wordly possessions. When I told her about my hike through Western Europe this year, she immediately sent me relevant maps and guidebooks. She even apologized for not sending me some of her hiking gear because she had already donated it to the boy scouts. She talked very freely about dying and her fears of death and I will never forget these conversations.

Shortly before I left for my long hike through Western Europe this year she sent me a last present with only a little note saying "Happy trails, Rita". When I tried to call her to thank her, her telephone was disconnected. I later learned that she had gone to a hospice then. A couple of weeks into my hike a received an email from a friend of Rita's. It was Rita's own farewell message. She had prepared it herself before her death and had asked a friend to send it out afterwards. Rita has died on April, 15th 2012. In this last email she thanked her friends and said that she had finally overcome her fears. Her last message was this poem by A. Muschg:

Weit waldet das Wilde.
Weiter weht der Wind der Werke.
Weit ist noch immer die Weide des wagenden Wunsches.
Wandere weiter im Widerspruch.
Weißt du den Weg nicht, wähle den wirklichsten.
Weise wandle ihn, so wandelt er dich.
Wirke im Wandel den Wert. Halte dem Wechsel Wort.
Wende zum Wunder die Wunden.
Immer weniger werde.
Werde dein Weg.

Rita was a remarkable person and although I have not shared much time with her, she has had a big influence on me. I want to dedicate my hike through Europe to Rita. She was on my mind every day during these last months and the memory of her will always be with me wherever I go.  

2 comments:

INK said...

Thanks for sharing!
Very touching!

Sandra said...

Thank you Christine for posting this. Rita (as she liked to be called) visited me in Canada in 2010. We had a wonderful few days and Rita had kind and inspiring words for my daughter who had just been diagnosed with Melanoma and had a 8 month old son. Unfortunately, later, Rita's emails stopped and I didn't hear from her anymore. I am saddened to hear that she also had this horrible disease and died from it. My daughter is right now succumbing to it. We do need a cure for all forms of Melanoma.
Thanks again for sharing. Sandra