The following is an excerpt from a letter, written by Johannes Brahms to Julius Otto Grimm. In it he describes the reunion of Robert and Clara Schumann, immediately before Schumann's death. Schumann was at the asylum in Endenich, and up to this point it had been the judgement of his doctors that it would be unwise for him to see his wife, as it might have agitated him and interfered with a hoped-for recovery. However, when it became clear that he was dying, the doctors lifted their interdiction. "Joachim" is Brahms' close friend and colleague, the violinist and composer Joseph Joachim; "Dietrich" another friend, composer and conductor Albert Dietrich. The rumors about the asylum mentioned in the letter were to the effect that it were poorly equipped.|
Surely I will never again experience anything as moving as the reunion of Robert and Clara.
At first he lay for a long time with eyes closed, and she knelt before him, more calmly than one would believe possible. But after a while he recognized her, and also on the next day.
Once he plainly desired to embrace her, flung one arm wide around her.
Of course he had been unable to speak for some time already. One could understand (or perhaps imagine one did) only disconnected words. Even that must have made her happy. He often refused the wine that was offered him, but from her finger he sometimes sucked it up eagerly, at such length and so passionately that one knew with certainty that he recognized the finger.
Tuesday noon Joachim [came] from Heidelberg; that delayed us somewhat in Bonn, otherwise we would have arrived before his passing; as it was, we came half an hour afterwards. It was for me as for you as you read it; we should have breathed easier because he was released, and we couldn't believe it.
He had passed away very gently, so that it was scarcely noticed. His body looked peaceful, then; how comforting it all was. A wife could not have stood it any longer.
Thursday evening they buried him. I led the way, carrying the funeral wreath, Joachim and Dietrich came with us, members of a choral society carried the coffin, there was wind music and singing.
The city had arranged a beautiful site for the occasion well beforehand, planted with five plane-trees. Another comfort to Frau Clara was the Institution itself. All the bad rumours about it which had come to her (from Bettina, for example) were discredited. I wish I could write everything to you as I would like, but it can't be done. In any case, if I write the raw material to you, you can imagine, just as well as read, how sad, how fine, how deeply moving this death was. We (Joachim, Clara and I) have organized the papers Schumann left behind (and that is simply everything that he wrote!). Being in touch with him in this way, one learns to love and honour the man more deeply with each day.
I will be steeping myself in it much and often.
The translation is by Josef Eisinger and Styra Avins, from Johannes Brahms: Life and Letters.