The Stanford Center, Berlin, Germany
On the tenth memorial of Patrick David Wood (1982-2006)
A little over ten years ago, we were immersed in our separate lives, maybe overwhelmed with the requirements of school, work, survival. A dear young man named Patrick made us stop and wonder. His piano playing filled the Stanford Center where he was a student and an intern. It filled his home in Connecticut throughout his life. His music was masterful. His music books were piled by the piano. His eyes were on the keyboard. His head was filled with notation, phrasing, dynamics, and emotion. Where would it lead him? we silently asked ourselves as he played. He is so purely beautiful, so finely human. Ten years ago we found out the answer. And that horrible ending to Patrick’s music, to his earthly voice, tied us together forever.
On February 6, 2006, Patrick’s friends, Ryan and Steve, feared the worst. They hadn’t heard from Patrick in six days. The first place they called was the Stanford Center. It was Karen and Jutta, the director and her assistant, who waited with Ryan and Steve most of that day at Patrick’s apartment while the police searched for clues. By nighttime, as the snow gently fell, the police took Patrick away in an ambulance. We came to Berlin five days later; and then in 2007, a year after Patrick died; in 2009, three years after Patrick died; and then in 2016, ten years after Patrick’s sad death bound us together in tragedy. We came to know each other, to have conversations no one would have thought possible or necessary ten years before. We shared thoughts, sometimes over and over, on why? Why would he do this? And each time we shared, we gained new perspective, new light on an unanswerable darkness.
My purpose in being at the Stanford Center today is not to dwell on that darkness. Goodness knows I have bombarded Karen and Jutta with those thoughts for many years. My main emphasis instead is to hold them and the Stanford Center as models of support in tragedy. It was Jutta who saw something in Patrick that needed extra attention when he was a student here in 2004. Students were expected to get fingerprinted at the police station on their own. But Patrick looked unsure, maybe with a sly grin or an embarrassed flush on his face as Jutta was explaining what to do. She realized Patrick was a gentle person, maybe even a fragile person, and she took him to the police station herself so that he would feel more confident.
It was the Stanford Center who gathered students in a welcoming dinner that same spring–the dinner where Pat met life-long friends, Ryan Wirtz and Lauren Schneider. It was the Stanford Center, through Wolf-Dietrich Junghanns, that helped Patrick with two sought-after internships in computer programming, the Krupp Internship at BMW in Munich and Siemens in Berlin. Both employers said that Patrick was the best intern they ever had. It was the Stanford Center which let Patrick take a lighter course load that spring. To his credit, he had come prepared for less intense academics. He had already completed a lot of his course requirements. But beyond that, the center instinctively knew that Pat needed more clubbing in Berlin rather than keyboarding in Berlin.
And so it followed that when he died, it was the Stanford Center who called the police and informed Pat’s father Bob through the housing director at Stanford in Palo Alto. Bob, Colin, Libby, and I, Patrick’s family, arrived as soon as we could to be with Pat, and there were official dealings along the way. It was Jutta who obtained the police report faster than normally possible and then translated part of it to us when we were cleaning Pat’s apartment. It was Karen who pulled together a memorial service for Patrick barely a week after he was found. It was the Stanford Center, housed in an historical architectural site, which spearheaded rushed approval for the cox orange apple tree to be planted and the bench to be placed next to it with the plaque for Patrick. It was the Stanford Center, which hosted us every time we returned to Berlin, every time we visited Patrick’s corner of the garden with the plaque that read:
“A Place for Patrick in the City He Loved.”
On one of our visits, Jutta told me, “It was as if I had to reach up and pull him down from the sky,” when he needed help at the police station. I also felt as if I had to reach up and pull him from the sky. But in the end, he did not come down. He stayed in his world of dreams and lost hopes and left us down below.
Lisette, Pat’s mom
June 16, 2016