White-washed walls, accented with stained-glass windows forged hundreds of years ago, and somber organ music, which set the mood, welcomed us in as we soberly entered the small Kapelle, a tiny church. Near the front of the small altar, we took a moment to pause in front of the urn, perched in a make-shift garden of vibrant flower bouquets. Then we turned and took a seat in one of the awaiting pews. Occasional sniffling here and there interrupted and enhanced the organ music vibrating in the air. We listened, we cried, and we waited.
The pastor entered from the rear and took his place at the front. He welcomed us. He spoke about the beauty of life and the inevitability of death, and the fact that they both exist in partnership; one is not possible without the other. Then he described the beloved. She was born in 1915. She survived the depression, she studied and worked as a florist, she survived two world wars and lost everything twice, she married and bore children, who then bore their own children. As a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, she lived an amazing and full life.
I first met her when I was dating her grandson. While we were still dating and getting to know each other, he announced that he wanted me to meet his family, especially his grandmother. I remember how stressful and uncertain that made me feel. “Why does he want me to meet his grandmother and his family? What if she doesn’t like me? I am definitely not what his family is expecting in a mate. Will his family like me? We’re so different. It’ll never work.” We chose a weekend and drove to his hometown, not far from Berlin, in East Germany. I remember noting how the landscape changed as we drove closer to his home: Cities with high rises and modern buildings gave way to thick forests, which gave way to fields of wind turbines, which gave way to thick forests again. His town, dating back to the Medieval Ages, was older than my country, the U.S.A. Wow!
He took me to her summer home for an afternoon of coffee and cake. Her confident presence, warm hospitality, and infectious smile welcomed me immediately. But as a foreigner in a very protective homogenous land, tainted with unimaginable history of discrimination, I was scared, unsure of myself and not at all confident about the visit. After the visit, her grandson declared with a smile, “She really likes you.” I was relieved and pleased (so was the grandson). I asked him what his parents thought and he replied, “It’s more important to me that my grandmother likes you.”
My grandmother in law passed away on 5 Dec 2013, just shy of her 98th Birthday. She will be missed but not forgotten by those who loved and survived her. Life is short; make sure you’re living the life YOU want!