In early November, 2011, I was on a flight from Dusseldorf, Germany, to Gardermoen, Norway. I happened to be seated at the far end of the airplane. The flight wasn’t full, I was alone and had the entire row. As the plane departed, I noticed an elderly couple sitting ahead of me. The gentleman, who could have been the age of my father turned and smiled which I returned. I then realized that his sign was more than a simple kind gesture, he wanted to talk. In his German accent, he asked if I didn’t mind him sitting at the furthest back seat which was by me. It was with no hesitation I said yes.
Introducing himself as Peter, he politely excused himself for not speaking English. He then pulled out his phone opening the translation section. His wife, Hildergard, was more fluent in the English language. Curious about who I was, where I was from and my destination, I shared that I was in Europe on a business and that I was from The Gambia. He was so surprised and impressed to hear that I was handling my own business at my young age and traveling around the world. I learned that Peter and his wife, Hildergard were German, retired and living in Sweden in a village called Brandsbol Haga. This place is close to the border with Norway. Getting to know each other, he said he would introduce me to his wife when we disembark and that they wanted to stay in touch with me.
Off boarding at the Gardermoen airport, he introduced me to his wife, we exchanged contact information and parted ways. I called to check on them when I reached my destination in Oslo Norway, they told me that they arrived home safely.
I spent a couple of weeks in Norway before returning back home in The Gambia. They sent me an email to check on me and asked about my family. We continued to keep in touch from that point. Sending and receiving greeting cards to each, and them sending me well wishes on my birthday and holidays, I looked forward to these new friendships.
I once sent them a tie-dye tee and posted it. They were so happy to receive them, they wore them and showed some to others in the village. I hoped to be able to visit them in late 2012 but was unable to travel because of the amount of work at the time. Because of that, they were willing to visit me and my family. By the time they decided to visit, I was leaving for the United States on another business trip. Interesting how things work, I now live in the U.S. Even then, we continued to keep in touch. Such a sweet and generous couple, they even invited me to move to Sweden If I couldn’t find a job.
Over the years we continued to keep in touch. Me keeping them update on my life and sending pictures of my family. They let me know that their son had gotten married and they were becoming grandparents for the first time. They sent me pictures of the baby. They would also send me pictures of their home and farm during different seasons, always checking on me and asking about my family. On my last birthday, June, 2020, they sent me a birthday message.
On July 1, 2020, I woke up to a message from Peter’s wife, Hildergard, letting me know that Peter had passed away. Her message to me read: ‘Hello Baboucarr, yesterday, Peter died suddenly. It’s unbelievable. My sister is here, she is helping me to calm down’ She said that Peter looked like he was sleeping. She said she had to ask the doctor 5 times if he was really dead. Her next words to me was that she will live to remember him and the fine moments they spent together.
His funeral was Thursday, July 9, 2020. He was to be laid to rest in the presence of his son Thomas, her sister, and Swedish friends and neighbors. She said there were a total of 25 people and me at heart. I wanted to be there and expressed my feelings with Hildergard. It was not possible at the time. We only met once, but their friendship is one I cherished. Even though Peter is gone, I will continue to my friendship with his wife. Rest in peace Peter.