Anke as she suffers and lives

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  • Anke Hillebrecht

Kirdorf forest cemetery now has a stupa

A Buddhist tomb has been built in the forest cemetery. Not everyone likes that. The fact that the deceased is still alive also prompts some people to ask: What is allowed in Homburg cemeteries today??

The spa town has an English church, a Russian church, two Thai temples and now also a stupa. This is a Buddhist religious building; in South Asian countries it is often used as a burial mound. Visitors to the forest cemetery in Kirdorf have already discovered the golden-yellow and silver-colored structure. It has a pleasing shape: pointed at the top and round at the bottom and somehow strange. Between the "normal" tombstones, it stands out. "Is such a thing allowed?", indignant several cemetery visitors at once.

As a request to the Homburg cemetery administration shows, it is allowed. The Stupa stands in the Gewann F7, a meadow opposite the urn stelae, which has been intended for "special design principles" for some time now. It is on the cemetery the only place, at which citizens are left with many liberties with the organization of their gravestone (see also box below). But it is still largely empty.

Last stage of life

Behind the building is a moving story. The man whose ashes are to be buried in the stupa is still alive. He lives in an apartment in downtown Homburg and is 75 years old. Although he has provided his future gravestone with his name as well as a photo of himself, he does not want to read his name in the newspaper. In the cemetery, he says, it’s a different story. His portrait – it shows a contented looking man with gray hair on a bench in front of a green landscape – stands in the tradition of veneration of the elderly, as it is practiced in Asian countries. "That is different with us", says the Homburger.

His doctor told him a few months ago that his heart was only performing at 20 percent of its capacity and that he did not have too long to live. "That’s when I started organizing my last stage of life," he reports. During various walks in the Homburg cemeteries, he says, he realized that he wanted to be buried differently than in a conventional grave. "They all radiate a great sadness," he explains.

Quite different is the stupa – "it conveys joy". That dying does not have to mean only suffering, that people can be happy here – he would like to convey that in the sense of Buddha also by his golden tombstone. "I’ve been to the cemetery many times and had the opportunity to explain Buddhist culture to some passersby," he reports. Everyone had met him "with great interest and reverence". The 75-year-old is convinced that the stupa is also a cultural enrichment for Bad Homburg. "It’s a little temple, like the Thai salas in the spa park," he says.

Mortician fetches him

The 75-year-old has seen the world. On the gravestone he describes himself as a "globetrotter. He had traveled through Southeast Asia, he said, and got stuck in Thailand – the most progressive country in the region. There, he had his gilded "tombstone" made according to his wishes. He introduced him to the cemetery board, which approved him "within a day". The structure was cast in reinforced concrete and anchored in the ground. Currently, new grass grows on the scar.

But as long as he is well, the Homburg native will continue to travel. He has arranged with his future mortician that, in the event of his death, she will fly after him and bring his ashes to Bad Homburg. His remains will then be placed opposite the photo, in a hollow space.

And why does he want to be buried in Bad Homburg, of all places, in the forest cemetery?? He had a company in the spa town for decades, he said, until 1979. "I knew every tree and shrub here."And he has always felt at home here. Just now, when there are many doctor’s appointments, he is very happy to be here. And the forest cemetery was assigned to him by the cemetery administration; it was the only municipal cemetery where there was room for his creative thoughts. "When I was traveling, I was always the foreigner," says the 75-year-old. "Here I have my home base."

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