Saturday was the farewell memorial for My Beloved Camels. It was the first warm, sunny day this year. No snow, no rain, just beautiful skies with light clouds. Tess & I had a stunningly beautiful drive through the Black Forest to the camel farm, a half hour away.
It was busy. My camels were loved by so many. We stood near the back, the grounds overflowing with people, next to all the firemen from that horrible night. They stood 3 deep in a beautiful straight line, their uniforms black & stark. A visible reminder of the incredible loss January 31.
There were several speakers, though the Breitlings themselves couldn’t, their voices too choked with tears. A band quietly played German folk songs. A choir sang a lovely tribute. Several times the kids were called to the front for small treats, to break up the long day. Tess later said that she didn’t realize it had been three hours. It was beautifully, poignantly done.
Near the end the Gedenkstein (memorial stone) was unveiled. A child read all 87 names of all 87 animals lost I the fire. I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. The magnitude of that kind of loss is overwhelming. After every child was given a balloon, each balloon had all the camels names written on a card. As one they released the balloons. It was both beautiful and sad to see them all rise into the sky.
I physically felt the loss sit in my stomach, heavy, brick-like, empty. Tess & I were at a loss for words, and not ready to go home. It felt that going home was it. There would be no more camels, no more goodbyes, it was over. Instead we decided to walk around the farm, in the warm sun, and admired the beauty of the surrounding country side. We wound up at the barn of the 5 remaining camels, and the two babies born shortly after the fire.
Tess stopped at Phönix’s stall, and didn’t budge. She fell instantly, completely, head-over-heels in love. I stopped at each stall, and petted each camel. Liora, born shortly after the fire in early February, surprised me by chewing on my coat, my jeans, and my hand as I tried to take pictures. It turned out later that Tess had stashed a half-eaten sandwich in my coat pocket. At the time, it just made me feel loved.
I finally tried to get Tess to leave Phönix. But he’d just gotten his second wind and was ready to play. Even better, he’d been chosen to participate in a photoshoot with the band. We stayed to watch them try to wrangle the calf in place. Phönix was having none of it. Camels are like puppies and Tess & I both laughed out loud at his antics. He hopped & jumped and ran in a little circles. Daring people to chase him to catch him, I swear I could hear him laugh.
The joy of those last moments. Of watching Phönix play, being part of it as he too made a beeline for my coat pocket, it washed away so much of the heavy sadness. The loss of the 87 camels is huge. It is a pain that will stay with me. But seeing the remaining camels, and especially Phönix & Liora, it gave me hope. I left them filled with happiness & love, and a bouncing Tess smiling from ear-to-ear the whole drive home.