'Mozart's grave'

MEMOIR

Searching for Mozart
All but oblivious that the train had been stationary for a minute or two, I glanced up casually from the guidebook and registered, over the fence, low rows of cement crosses in military order by the hundred. Up I leapt and out, the book slapping closed in flight.

Ahead were people walking with purpose in ones and twos, and some groups. Most were elderly, well dressed and warmly wrapped, carrying bulky plastic bags--white and multicolored--stretching taut under the weight. I wished I had worn my cap and scarf. Even in the warm rays, there was a cool nip.

Paths radiated from the entrance, into distances lined to the end with tombstones. A sense of infinity seemed appropriate. Large and small were those stones, white, gray and black, ornate, very ornate, and plain. Relics and representations of lives lived, of presences yet felt by testimony of many gifts of vibrant flowers.

Some headstones had photographs set in ceramic. Eyes long darkened peered out at me. I sensed character and personality from those snapshot glimpses, of strength, humor, vulnerability. What chance that those impressions of mine were close to correct?

I stopped at a new gleaming monument with flowers given that day. The blooms were bright and colorful and cheering, but tears welled as the tip of unseen loss shook me: a babe just one day old, 4/25/95-4/26/95. I thought of Jamie, and pushed out of my mind immediately the concept of losing him. And later I found another new stone with the smiling good-looking likeness of a young man chiseled thereon. Just seventeen. I thought of Rob and again could not begin to contemplate....

A well dressed Austrian, with handsome 60-year-old features, espied my guidebook and asked something in German. “Ich sprachen keine Deutsch,” I managed. And then hopefully, “Do you speak English?” Yes, he spoke excellent English, so I was able to help him locate "Composers Corner" where Strauss, Haydn, Schubert and Beethoven lie cheek-by-jowl, silent, forever. He turned and called to someone partially hidden by granite on a nearby path and gave an almost triumphant high wave of his arm that said, “I told you I’d find them.”

A memorial to Mozart stands in the middle of Composers Corner, but without mention of where he rests; many must presume that he is there, the daddy of them all.

Again I delved into the pages: simply, “Mozart is buried at St. Marx.” And where, St. Marx? Strangely, there was no clue. I assumed it must be a distance from Vienna.

I returned by tram, to see more of that eastern quadrant of the city. Soon, number 72 came trundling along, and as I took my seat and checked how many stops there would be until the terminus, I espied “St. Marx” on the route and decided to investigate. Of course, on alighting I aimed in the wrong direction, and almost immediately after sensing the error saw a direction sign to St. Marx Cemetery.

A mile later I was at the gates, and, sure enough, the map inside--for Austria forbids you to not know where you are and where you are going--had Mozart’s grave prominently marked, almost at the epicenter.

A tiny cemetery by comparison with the Zentralfreidhof, in just a few minutes I was standing at a white marble monument with, simply, “W.A. Mozart” inscribed in gold. There was an angel of slight stature (with a club for some reason) and the impression was modest especially after the splendor of Composer's Corner. Spring flowers delicately graced the surface.

Here lies the genius of geniuses.

I wanted to write a poetic message for music-loving Jamie in that special place, and sat on the nearest bench with a clear view of the grave. But lines would not come. I rested for a while in the gathering gloaming, in contemplation of my beautiful little son so far away, grateful for his presence in my middle age, and in hope that his achievements will bring him perhaps joy and, if not, then some significant measure of satisfaction; surely Wolfgang felt that.

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Only recently did I learn that what appears to be the place where W.A. Mozart is buried, is not. In dire financial straits at the end of this life, his body was thrown into a pauper's grave, the exact location of which is not known.

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