From left to right Francesca, me, Susy

In September 2007, when I was organizing the last details for my wedding, Susanne Kessler was a very soothing and calm presence, especially the exciting evening before the actually ceremony and party. She helped me to arrange the seats for our family at the dining tables and she decorated the room with a lot of creativity in the colors I had asked her, pink and white. Her brother Sandro prepared for me the best vegetarian menu I could have asked for, in honour of my beloved husband who is vegetarian. Francesca, Sandro’s wife and good friend was so excited that we decided to marry in their hotel, and together with Susi she made sure we had everything I wanted for my wedding day.
Mother Linde (that's how I called her) was also very touched by my choice of marrying in their wonderful Hotel Lago Smeraldo. I had to tell her why, although she already knew.
The oldest son, Harald was born in '61 like me, and I used to spend some rebellious time with him in my teenage years. I remember sharing my first cigarette with him, hiding behind the boats at the shore of the lake. He was unpredictable, full of energy, an indomitable rebel and a good cook. He passed away in June 1984,  six months after I survived my near death experience after being hit at full speed by a car.
Harald had leukemia and he was the first of my schoolmates that died of a terminal disease. He struggled a lot with his predicament and the family tried everything to prolong if not save his life. Sandro two years younger was the donor for the bone marrow transplantation. Sadly it didn’t succeed and we lost Harald at the young age of 23 years.
I remember being at his funeral in crutches as I was still learning to walk again after 6 months in bed and in wheelchair. I was not sure at the time who was the lucky one, because so very often I wished I was dead instead of being left here on earth with so much pain and a body completely destroyed. Back then and just a few months after the accident I was far from being grateful of having survived. On the contrary, I was furious and with all my rights.

Beach in Zeeland

Susanne Kessler, Susy to everyone who knew her, has gone missing the 25th of February 2011 in Sharm El Sheikh.  The family was not informed immediately, instead a reporter delivered the sad news with a phone call few days later. Susy was last seen on Montaza beach, where together with her new boyfriend she was enjoying the sun. Around 1 pm the boyfriend left Susy alone to go to do some work and came back couple of hours later when he found only her bag. No trace left of Susy.

I flew to Italy the 1st of March and the 3rd I woke up in the morning with a terrible headache. The news broke into the village like a heavy blow. The front pages of the regional newspaper were showing her pictures, with titles of disquieting if not horrifying impact. This is how the village of Fondo found out about Susy’s destiny. The titles were talking about being eaten by shark, killed and then thrown into the sea, body mutilated, found a dead body in the sea. They just assumed that because Susy was missing since the 25th of February, the body that was found was hers. It was not possible to recognize it. So it was not possible to declare with absolute certainty that the poor body was Susy. 
And so it all started. 
Once again I could confirm my profound dislike for the sensationalist approach of the media. They harm the privacy of people more then informing and stick to the facts. They certainly harmed the Kessler family.
The waiting for the family and friends became an excruciating trial. The Kessler family with great dignity retreat itself in silence, hurt and in shock, not feeding the media with information. Instead a dear friend of the family became their spokesperson to shield them for further journalistic assault.

For a few days I went to visit the family in the hotel Lago Smeraldo and we talked about many things, mostly to distract their mind from the agony of not knowing. Sandro, Susy’s brother was getting ready to live for Sharm el Sheik to identify the body and have a DNA test. Even he had to wait until a flight was available. Susy’s ex-husband Ahmed, still a good friend, with whom she was married since 2004, now living in Switzerland, was accompanying him. He was shocked like anybody else but did not lose faith. For him Susy was just missing, not dead. So everyone was hoping. Once they finally arrived there, the Egyptian bureaucracy delayed any further attempt to know the truth. Fondo, the small village where  both me and Susy grew up was in shock.

The Roen  mountain

Last time I spoke with her was this January 2011. After a long walk in the mountain me and Driek went to the bar of the Hotel to greet our friends and have a hot chocolate. I remember joking with Susy about the sharks in the Egyptian water and she was like always happy and smiling. I was pleasantly surprised to see her, usually she comes only in summer to help the family running the beautiful hotel. She shared with us that according to the common opinion of the Egyptians, sharks were brought into the bay by the Israeli people. Theory that was shared by more sources.
Me and Driek we were planning to go to Egypt for our 4th wedding anniversary, and were concerned about the danger of sharks. So we spoke a bit about that. Little did I know that few months later she would find the end of her life in the same water, although no one still knows the cause of her death, the body was being assaulted by different kind of sea predator. I would not exclude the possibility of sharks.
But Susy was an excellent swimmer, she spent her childhood and youth swimming in the water of our cold Emerald lake in Fondo. Water was her element, that is also why she decided to live in Sharm.
All of that was coming to my mind in those terrible days, and my heart was heavy with sorrow. I went for walks in the forest just above the lake. I was praying that it was just a case of a missing person not a death. The newspapers kept delivering information about the possibility of a murder case. The new boyfriend of Susy was the primal suspect. Apparently a first autopsy showed a 17cm fracture in the skull, probably caused by a wooden blunt instrument. Nothing was certain, nothing was clear. 

Many question were haunting me. If this body is Susy's, what were the last moments of her life like? Was she aware of death coming? Was it just an accidental fall and the sea did the rest? Was she violently hit by someone she knew and trusted? I could not believe she was murdered. Susy was not a naïve person, she was very down to earth and very smart. Me and her we shared the destiny of village's natives that chose to live abroad. We both explored a good amount of places around the globe, but were always happy to be back in the mountains. That was what bond us strongly.
To calm my thoughts I was lying on the dry soil of the mountain above the lake and prayed she didn’t feel pain and could go peacefully. Pray that she was just gone missing, pray that the mystery of her disappearance will soon be solved. Instead it took more then a month.

Last time I saw Linde and Francesca was exactly in the forest above the lake and there Francesca told me she needed to be alone. I respected her wishes although I was truly worried about her, she seemed so fragile and blue and I knew she could not sleep, thus leaving her on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I kept praying for everyone in the family and more intensely for Susy.
A few days later I had to go back to Amsterdam, and it was with a kind of relief I left the valley. Normally I suffer from homesickness leaving my family and the silent majestic mountains behind. But I needed space. The hotel Lago Smeraldo, the place where I was so happy during my wedding and the first night after the marriage was overwhelmed with deep grief, sorrow, even anger for the disarming loss and uncertainty.
Sandro in Egypt was not able to identify what was suspected to be her sister’s  body. He underwent a DNA test and flew back home to Italy with no energy left. Bureaucracy in Egypt sucks.
From Amsterdam I had no way to know what was going on, apart from trying to read the local newspaper online. So I started to write Francesca, Linde and Sandro emails of support, prayer, just to let them know how much I was moved and concerned. Sometimes Francesca answered me with a few lines of deep pain and agony that brought home to me the incredible level of distress everyone was feeling.

Then the news came that Sandro’s Dna test was not valid and mom Linde had to fly to Cairo accompanied by Sandro to do her DNA. This I am sure must have been so terribly painful for Linde. So the days and weeks went by in this exhausting and wrenching waiting.

During these weeks I dreamt about Susy often. I remember two of these dreams. In both of them she was explaining to me she had to go away. That I should tell everyone that she is fine and happy where she is. There is no need to worry. She will look after her family from the other realm. I thought it was a meaningful message and wrote that to Francesca. But I was still hoping like anybody else.
A case of a missing person put you into a limbo where you can’t really start the mourning process for the loss of the dear one, but you can’t however neither feel at peace that the dear one is still alive. You simply don’t know. That leaves your psyche if not your soul wondering in search for certainty and it creates a level of stress that wears you down dreadfully.
I decided I was going to do a meditation for Susy, whether she was alive or dead. Deep down I knew she was not here with us on the planet earth any longer. At least not in the form that we all knew her. Each morning I would wake up and sit in front of my altar and with the newspaper's cuts with her story I would pray:
Breathing in I calm my body,
breathing out I send peace to Susy wherever she is.
Breathing in I feel the pain of her loved ones,
breathing out I send waves of peace and compassion to them.
And so on. I don’t know if it helped them but it certainly helped me to stay connected with Susy and her family. Also if she really was in that body, the soul needed comfort  and soothing prayers to let go of the attachment to the body. At least this is what the Bardo tradition explains in "The Tibetan book of the dead".
In Catholic tradition you recite the rosary, asking the Holy Mary to intercede for the passing.
In the book from Sogyal Rinpoche “The Tibetan book of living and dying” there is a section about when someone dies a violent death, in war, accident. I found comfort reading and meditating according to this Buddhist approach. I also went to the Nicholas Church in the city of Amsterdam and sat next to Jesus on the cross, lit a candle and prayed. "Let it be your will", "Help us to accept with grace this cross we bear" were other gentle prayers to bring acceptance in this awful circumstances.

Nicholas Church Amsterdam

Last Thursday, March 7, late in the evening I checked online the local newspaper “” and with my utmost shock I saw written in big letters that it was indeed the body of Susanne Kessler found dead in the water a month earlier. The DNA result confirmed. The body will be coming back to Fondo where she can have a funeral and be placed in the cemetery's tomb together with Harald, her older brother and her father who passed away 12 years ago.

I still don’t know what has happened to her in the last hours of her life. We may never know. I like to hold on to the dream I had sometime ago when she told me she was happy and serene and not to worry.
This is how I will always remember her. A smiling friend,  a wonderful calm presence, being with me in  the most beautiful day of my life. May you rest forever in peace beloved Susy with the angels above.

Basilic St. Agatha and  St. Barbara in Oudenbosch 

I wrote this poem for her:

For Susi
The wind stop blowing
The leaves whisper your Goodbye
The water of the lake are again transparent

You left dear Susy for the great Journey
and now you are finally Home
in the house of the Father.

May your soul be free flying peacefully
together with your beloveds who preceded you
and with the Angels.

Smile to us from above as you always did
And bring comfort to those who love you on this earth
Giving them peace in the silence of your forest

You will always  stay here
in the garden of our heart
Like a flower that embraces the sun

Poem's original version

Per Susi

Il vento si è fermato
le foglie sussurrano il tuo Addio
le acque del lago sono tornate ad essere trasparenti.

Sei partita cara Susi per il grande Viaggio
E ora sei finalmente arrivata
nella casa del Padre.

Che la tua anima possa essere libera
volando serena insieme ai tuoi cari che ti hanno preceduta
e con gli Angeli.

Sorridici da lassù come hai sempre fatto
e conforta chi ti ama sulla terra
donando loro la Pace
nel silenzio dei tuoi boschi.

Resterai per sempre qui nel giardino del nostro cuore
come un fiore
che abbraccia il sole.

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