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In the month of September, 2005, Bernhard began his Master's Degree program in Beijing. At the same time, he obtained the highest level of proficiency, level 11 of the HSK test, within the Chinese government's formal examination structure.

The following July, around the second or third week of that month, Bernhard returned home to enjoy his end of summer semester break. This concluded his first year of studies in the Master Degree program.

The summer at home would be busy for him as he needed to prepare for the German examination as an official interpreter of Chinese. This test was to take place on 5 September 2006 at Leipzig. Despite his expertise, Bernhard entered preparatory studies between 31 July and 12 August at the international Summer School of the University of Mainz at the university's Germersheim facility.

Bernhard's father and I drove to Leipzig on 4 September 2006 to be present for the examination set for the following day. We were already familiar with the location of the examination, we even stayed at the same hotel as we had the year before, and we enjoyed another dinner together at the same familiar Italian restaurant. Bernhard's father drove him to the examination center the following day, 5 September.

Leipzig, the day before examination

By noon, Bernhard had already completed the examination and had already been informed that he has passed.

Happily, we met Bernhardt after his examination and even marked his success with the taking of a photograph before enjoying dinner together before our return to Cologne.


after examination


dinner at Leipzig on 5 September, 2006

Bernhard was set to depart for Beijing on 6 September. As in the past each time that he left us for studies abroad, I made Bernhard's favourite food for lunch before his father and he would leave for the train station at half past one o'clock so that he could take the Cologne train to Frankfurt alone. Once there, he would fly out of Germany for Beijing, departing at twenty minutes past five o'clock.

On this last day, Bernhard's father left the house first to bring the car from the garage. I embraced my son as he prepared to leave our home again saying to him as I always did: “take good care of yourself, I want you to come home healthy again.”

With his smile and typical laugh, Bernhard said goodbye cheerfully.

Of course I did not know that this goodbye would be forever. Nevertheless, as I did every time my son left for long periods, I wept bitterly missing him instantly as he drove out of sight.