Updated: Nov 23, 2020
This was the last photo I took of my father, around two hours before he died.
36 years later I returned to the Austrian mountainside where he suffered the massive heart attack that took his life and set up my own photo from the same spot.
Life was a lot different for me in 1983, I was 22 and my father and I were both involved in a church that believed there was a literal battle between the forces of good and evil taking place in a largely unseen realm. We travelled to visit the area around the small town of Eisenertz in Austria with a group of around 15 young people to sing and preach in churches and on the streets. I don’t know what people thought of our attempts to sing ‘auf Deutsch’, we noticed some wry smiles and a few giggles whilst we sang to my out of tune guitar. So my memories of Austria at that time were overshadowed by a feeling of foreboding with thoughts of supernatural or even satanic influences that were dulling the minds of local people to the gospel as we tried to release them from the darkness of lives lived in the shadows of sin.
Fast forward then to 2019 and my opportunity to take a day out from a business trip near Salzburg and drive a couple of hours south into ‘The Green Heart of Austria’ as the region is known. I almost shot past the town on a recently installed bypass but once off the slip road it really was just the same as 36 years ago. Except for the darkness. It was gone if it was ever there in the first place. I no longer attend church, my beliefs now are not really compatible with what I believed back then, but I now had no feelings of oppression, of people living pointless lives without God and in desperate need of deliverance. Eisenertz is in a beautiful location, wedged between green valleys and towering mountains, I really would recommend a visit.
Rather than thoughts of depression and foreboding about revisiting the dark days and place of my Father’s death I felt peaceful and optimistic about the three or four mile walk up the mountainside to try to find the spot where he died. After a brief stop at the same ‘Sunshine Hut’ where we stopped for sandwiches all those years ago, I looked for the area, another 500 yards further on, where dad died. I’m not sure I found the exact spot, but I found a place to look out at the tress and breathe in the clear mountain air, all was calm beautiful and peaceful, it felt like 200 years since I was last there.
The scene in 1983 was very different; one of our party, a paramedic, was doing his best with CPR, one of my best friends was trying to raise Dad from the dead with a terrifying combination of prayers and shouting. By the time an ambulance arrived with a one-armed stretcher bearer my memory of events gets a little hazy, maybe my subconscious was protecting me from the Twin Peaks-esque bizarreness of it all.
So why am I writing this, besides it being a therapy to exorcise a few demons (did I really say that?)? Maybe I can encourage you to revisit some event or place from your past that you’ve been avoiding. How long has it been? How much have you learned since then? What’s changed? I’m certainly glad I went back to find and found a place of peace and beauty. As soon as we can travel again we’ll take a family trip out there and spend some more time exploring and remembering with a totally different perspective.