Friday this week marks one year since the passing of my precious little German granny.
We called her Googie, and she was my penpal, my friend, my role model and my strongest link to my German heritage. In honour of her, here’s a short memorial (my German is a bit rusty, sorry for any errors).
Googie war ein liebevoller Mensch, und ich bin sehr dankbar daß sie meine Großmutter war. Ich vermisse sie sehr. Aber ich bin froh, daß ich sie im 2011 besuchen konnte. Googie war sehr schwach und gebrechlich zu dieser Zeit, aber sie wußte noch, wer ich war. Wir hatten ein Paar Stunden zusammen die von unschätzbarem Wert waren. Wir saßen zusammen im Sonnenschein und redeten langsam über unsre Zeit in Österreich, als wir dort vor zehn Jahren eine Cousine Googies besuchten. Ich hatte auch die Gelegenheit, sie zu sagen, wie sehr ich sie liebte und wie dankbar ich immer sein wäre, daß sie ein Teil meines Lebens war.
My dear granny reached out to more people than anyone I know. She could strike up a conversation with anyone, and made a point of learning a few words of as many languages as possible so she could engage with people from different backgrounds. She was endlessly writing to, visiting or telephoning people she knew and loved.
As a young woman she had been a school teacher, and I remember being amazed that some of her pupils still kept in touch with her over six decades later! She had that effect on people: she could get along with shy little kids and grumpy old men; she could bring out a smile on the toughest face.
I gained many blessings from being one of Googie’s granddaughters. Although we lived with the length of the whole country between us for most of my life, we kept in touch with letters from the moment I could hold a pen. In this way she also introduced me to other relatives and friends of hers that I began to correspond with. Even though I only spent time with Googie in person a handful of times, she was one of the people I felt closest to; I could pour out my heart in my letters and she would always respond in kind.
One of my favourite memories of my relationship with Googie centres around my birthdays. I must have inherited my love of birthdays and gifts and giving from her. When I was younger, the anticipation for my birthday was always heightened by the arrival of a large parcel from my gran, wrapped in brown paper, tied with string and sealed with red wax. Inside there’d be a collection of interesting items… cards, stickers, stationery, dried fruit, trinkets… and usually themed around whatever I was ‘into’ at that stage of my life (such as kittens, or horses, or collecting old perfume bottles).
My granny never forgot a birthday (or any other special occassion) because she had a thick notebook filled with peoples’ names, numbers and important dates. I remember being impressed with that and wanting to make people a priority in my own life too. We also shared a love of reading and of languages.
One of the loveliest things about Googie was that she rarely complained. I love the story of how my gran touched the heart of one of the doctors who was caring for her towards the end. She was very frail and ill then and could barely see, but when he asked her how she was doing she sweetly replied, ‘Life is beautiful, doctor.’ And if you knew Googie, you’d know she meant it.
It’s hard to think about the gap left behind by this very special person. I know there are dozens of people in countries around the world who will miss her letters and phonecalls and presence. I am so grateful to have had her in my life, and I pray that I will take the good from her example and continue her legacy of living life with her arms wide open, welcoming other people and looking for the best in them.
There’s so much more I could say, and then there’s only this:
I miss you terribly, meine kleine Großmutti.