Christian Rohrer was a young student at Diocesan College School, Rondebosch, Cape Town, also known as Bishops, who suffered an aggressive cancer in his final years at the College.
In his matric year he was elected and chosen as Headboy of the school. He was academically astute and an all-round sportsman, who was very much respected by the whole school.
In 2018 cancer took his life. It was difficult time, you can imagine for Chris, his family and his friends. There have been many tributes and much has been written about him. Suffice it to say that one of the significant things about him, was the way in which he took responsibility for the key decisions concerning the journey of his illness and its outcomes.
He lived his final days and hours to the full enjoying all that the mountains, sea and sky would bring him. And he did this in the company of family and friends.
Every year since then, on November 5th, the anniversary of his death, his young friends, their families, his mom Wendy, dad Stefan and brother Zandy have gathered on Tafelberg Road, Kloof Nek, Cape Town to walk the steep ascent to Kloof Corner to greet the rising sun in honour of Chris and to remember him.
I had been with Chris and his family on this long journey and was asked to say a prayer in the mountains where we gathered.
What follows is the ritual of remembrance we offered Chris.
Out final act was to shout his name in a shout of remembrance into the hills and mountains, the wind, and over the city and the sea.
We remember you
We remember you…ooooooooooo.
The word remember means to make present – and I think we all felt that.
I began by reading from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), letter no. 89, page 238. Someone had sent this to me about a month before the event. Ah Bonhoeffer, I had read so much of his life and work early in my career. What amazing wisdom.
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it.
At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.
It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve—even in pain—the authentic relationship.
Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”
Bonhoeffer: a foremost Christian theologian of 20th century who was put to death by Hitler just before the war ended. He started the Confessing Church in Germany in opposition to Hitler and his desire to nationalise the Church.
Then I read this quotation from Sarita Stern, one of the foremost South African opera singers who once had this insight:
Beautiful sound lifts the vibration of the universe and carries it right into the heart of God
and I want to add Delights the heart of God.
Then I said this prayer that I had written for the event:
Lord we thank you for the beautiful Sound
that is the short life of Chris amongst us –
And especially for the beautiful sound of his life
And the music of life and love made together
with Wendy, Stefan, Lucy, Zandy & Kayleigh
and we his family of friends.
May the beautiful sound of his life
amongst these mountains, hills
skies-expansive to the heavens,
wind of presence rushing through us
and sea-blueness that Chris loved
continue to inspire
our lives to make a beautiful sound
of love and life,
to vibrate in our loves,
our work in the world
and in our homes
in this dance of Christ-cosmic life,
Then the Shout of our Remembrance to echo over the city and across the sea to the distant hills
Christian Rohrer –
Son, Lover, Brother, Friend –
We Remember You
We Remember You…ooooooooo
Thank you to Janet Black for the above photographs