Last weekend my father’s mother passed away – my Oma.
She was 93, which is a really big number to reach, and I cannot say the end was unexpected. It doesn’t make the passing of a loved one any less sad; it has, I think, made grieving a little easier, knowing that she is resting peacefully now and I take comfort in believing that she is now reunited with the son she lost so many years ago – my father – who was taken from this life before her, in an unnatural order of things.
My own current circumstances meant I couldn’t make it to the funeral in South Africa, which took place yesterday. My mom was there, and both my sisters, and my uncle – Oma’s surviving son – and of course all of the extended family that goes along with all of them. Mom said the funeral was lovely, if you can say that about a funeral. Various people who knew her said various things about her, and the young care-giver who had been looking after her during the days over the last few months of her life sang a hymn. It actually did sound lovely, and I was glad (in a tearful kind of way) because that’s what Oma was. Lovely.
The overwhelming feeling that resides in the place that she holds in my heart is love. She loved her family completely and utterly and that is her legacy.
I remember stopping in to see her on my way home from school as a kid, on my bicycle. She always had cooldrink and freshly baked lemon cake and we’d sit chatting away at her kitchen table, and I remember her smile and sunshine and the taste of sweet lemons as clearly as if it were yesterday.
I remember countless Christmas Eve dinners – the 5 course meals: her secret-ingredient salad dressing; the main course was duck, only we found out as we grew older that it was actually rabbit but she thought we’d be upset if we knew when we were younger but by then we were hooked on the delicious recipe; the prawn cocktail starters; the trifle for dessert… and then the grown-ups would make us wait until they had their coffee and were all sitting down before we could open our presents that were sitting glinting at us from under the tree. I remember her eyes sparkling behind her glasses – I think she must’ve loved teasing us and making us wait!
Mostly I remember her kindness and her smile. She only ever looked at us with love. Near the end, I got to say goodbye. I was in South Africa about a month ago and I visited her in the hospital. My dear Oma, she looked so frail and tiny. She didn’t have a lot of strength so conversation was difficult. But she knew I was there, and she listened to me prattling on about my life and our plans. And when it was time to leave I looked into her eyes, eyes that seemed much darker than I remembered, and we exchanged a look that was filled with love and unspoken understanding.
And I said goodbye.
I didn’t get to say anything at her funeral. I’m glad I have this place so that I was able to say something anyway. Oma was the kind of person who deserves to be remembered.