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“There, your wedding bed awaits”, my colleague joked. The humour of nurses tends to skip sophistication and goes right to the punch-line. Who knows if your audience will still be alive by the end of the joke?

The hospital room was once again calm and clean. Klärchen, the female half of the two of them, continued her deliberate journey towards Karl, the male half. „Here is your water, Karl“. She took his hand and slowly moved his fingers around the glass. „Do you have a hold of it, Karl?“ She let go of the glass and let her fingers slide gently across his lower arm, delaying the moment before they lost contact. Karl turned to her and smiled. His eyes could only see a blurry shape, but in his head he saw the woman that he had loved all his life, beautiful and young as ever: „Klärchen“ was all he said and it said it all.

In the following three weeks I got to know Klärchen and Karl or „the two of them“ as we quickly started to call them among the staff. Klärchen was two years older than Karl, they grew up together and married as soon as Karl turned 18. When I met them they had been married for over seventy years – and despite all the chaos, hardship and war that had filled their lifetime, they had never been separated for longer than a few days, as Karl once told me.

When Karl got sick, Klärchen refused to leave his side. So, our doctors found a pretext to hospitalise her and we nurses turned their room into a small home for the couple. Their life wasn’t so much a marriage, as it was an ongoing, seventy year long, courtship.

Once Karl conspired with me to get Klärchen flowers, reminding me three times that they should be live flowers in a pot, not cut – because Klärchen loved all living beings. We discussed several options and eventually settled on pink petunias. We got Klärchen out of their room under a pretext and brought Karl the pot of flowers.

“Hand me the flowers, my boy, will you be so kind?” Karl carefully followed the stem of each petunia with his fingers, removed each dry leaf that he found and felt each petal with his fingertips. Satisfied with his inspection Karl decided to share his joy with me.

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