In Memoriam: Franziska Blöchliger

2016-03-12 18:12

Where do I know these people from? I asked myself, forcing myself to remember.

It was first reported that the family of the murdered girl lived in Kalk Bay; the newsprint photograph of the child - a close-up of a lovely face, an openness to the expression, daisies in the girl’s hair suggestive of the quintessential flower-child - looked like that of an older teen. Days after the murder and I had yet to make the connection, but it niggled. I know these people.

It is the father’s name Florian… an unusual name, that turned over in my mind… until it came to me in a rush on Friday afternoon, four days after the murder… These people are my neighbours. They live two houses behind me, I have met them. I had enjoyed a glass of wine in their beautiful home, in the days we contemplated starting a neighbourhood watch in our part of Muizenberg.

And it came to me too that the daughter, whose name I never knew, or perhaps knew once but had forgotten, is the child who walks/ walked her golden labrador in our street. I would hear my dogs bark, then look out the window, and there she’d be… Sometimes I would wave, but more often than not the child was looking out at the view, as the dog on a lead sniffed the pavement.

This child was part of my scenery, my view. Small for her fifteen years, petite and lithe-limbed, I noticed her, and acknowledged her as part of the ebb and flow. I wondered how the parents had managed to train their daughter to walk the dog so willingly, and I would settle again to my work.

Then the tragedy. The landscape of the neighbourhood altered.

The emptiness is palpable this morning, as I write. I am reminded of the time my husband died, the early weeks when I reached out to touch him, expecting him to be in the bed, only to find him… gone. Irretrievably gone. It was the emptiness that took so much time to get used to, to accept. The person you want to hold, to love, is no longer there.

I can only imagine the trauma of losing this child, any child. The trauma Shireen and Florian will endure, as the truth, so unbearably slowly, is assimilated as a new way of being - their child, Sophia’s sister, is gone.

I went on Friday night, with another set of neighbours I have got to know rather better, to the memorial service at the Lutheran Church in Cape Town city.

The church was packed. Friends from school and their parents filled the pews. Buses arrived from Westlake. I saw my friend Mirjam, and put another piece to the picture. Florian, I remembered, is her brother, the child, Franziska, is Mirjam’s niece.

The priest pulled no punches talking of innocent love colliding with destructive violence, but he also reassured as he reminded the congregation of Franzi’s essence, her impulse, as it is held in our hearts. He reminded that her death can inspire good - although that may seem cold comfort as Florian and his wife Shireen must have wanted, more than anything, to see their child grow to maturity and share the lessons of love imparted to her.

The almost heartbreaking testament to her life was spoken directly to her, by Franziska’s godfather, to the closed, simple wooden casket in which she lay; soft candle-light and loving words a testament to her gentleness.

A time will come when the pain will subside, and when Franziska’s life will acquire a new meaning. In a tragic sense it already has. I saw the buses from Westlake leaving Long Street where the Lutheran Church is situated. As a community the original and still impoverished part of Westlake has expressed sorrow and solidarity against murder - for this there seems a deep appreciation from the Blochliger family.

The vigils, the marches, the memorial service, the words of the priest, all of these gatherings and acts of memorial will comfort, and provide a sense that Franziska has been helped through this ‘transition’ as the priest called it, from the physical to the spiritual realm.

People care, and people remain shocked at this dreadful murder.

At the front of the Blöchliger house, this house so close to mine, hangs a black flag at half mast. Perhaps we learn most from experiences that touch us, those that seem more personal. This child was part of my world, even if on the periphery. She was there. And now she is gone. I won’t ever again look out of my window to see her dog sniffing, the child languorously staring out to sea.

All I can do is express my deep regret at the emptiness, at the loss, and keep alive the hope that in remembering, and standing together against the murder of children - all children, all people - we can take steps to ensure a kinder, more tolerant society.

RIP Franziska

18.12.1999 - 07.03.2016

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