Karl Georg (in USA: Charles George) Lauer was born in Duesseldorf in 1928. Until he retired, he was an accomplished symphonic violin player. Following his parents’ advice, he did not try to make music his profession and means of livelihood, although one German philosopher had written, “life without music would be a mistake”. A good position was afforded by the city of Duesseldorf where, as a finely polished adult, he had a desk job working with young persons. Prior to that circumstance, when he was 16 in 1945, and as the end of World War II wound down in Duesseldorf., he had had to remain hidden at home because the Nazis, still in control, would shoot or hang any person not wearing a German military uniform in public.
Judith and I visit him in these present years in his home, and continue to marvel at his humility and capabilities and willingness to adjust to his infirmities. Just before Judith and I reached Oostburg, Charles gave me a short, newly issued autobiography of the first 30 years of his life. All but the first 5 years are during the power of the Nazis, and the rest in post-war years. He made special mention of the German heroes who died at peace with their consciences in the concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Dachau. Without allowing the diabolical evil of Nazi power to discolor the beauty of the finer things in life, he has come to live at piece with the blessings of a life without threat to his very existence. His finely tuned love of writing has led him to literary research on German musicians going back to the 15th century. For every concert of our church choir, he writes an explanation of the piece and a short biography of its composer.
In 1971, during my first days in Duesseldorf, while jogging after my school day, I often thought of the year 2000, when I tried to imagine myself 69 years old. Here we are in 2016 and aging is a daily reality in my and our lives. We begin aging from the time of our birth, an idea we don’t think about in early years, when we enjoy the gusto of development as individuals. I thank God every day that I can swing my feet out of bed, that I have something to steady me as my sense of balance slowly deteriorates, that I can still choose the contents of breakfast and other meals. An author has graphically written that one day each of us, should we live so long, will find his or her self behind barbed wire fences as prisoners of an escape-proof concentration camp, namely, old age. The essence of entering prison is loss. Think of our five senses. Think of our teeth, hair color, agility, memory, loved ones, ability to handle a car in traffic. Think of an incontinent body and a forgetful mind. Each tribulation of aging is a homework assignment. How can we carry out prescribed procedures and reach some kind of solution to our unappetizing condition? What strength will we have to bear depression, unending pain and loss?
Three of us 85-year-olds, friends since kindergarten, visited a fourth friend. Despite being victim of a stroke, she led us through happy moments. Judith and I are blessed with the 40-year friendship of my German high school principal, a widower, a Latin scholar and a theologian who values our company. In visits with him, we are spared the usual tried-and-true nostalgia for the “good old days”. We can count it a blessing when and if we have persons like him who can remind us not only to “act our age” but also assist us in our actions and outlooks. St. Paul in the concluding words of today’s 2nd reading, speaks like a fan as we “help each other out” and make a “run for it” to our final happy moments. Amen.