Inauguration day • Ventura beach • my beloved great-aunt •
Ventura harbor • friend mail • airport breakfast •
all mine • snow! • beef-veggie-soup •
Archives for January 2013
I was honestly hoping that at this point I would have my Google Reader down to 0 and be all caught up with my Christmas recaps and vacation stories, but 2013 has seriously started off throwing me a curve ball that I wasn’t prepared for.
I’m sad. And heartbroken. And frankly, a little bit angry. But also relieved. And thankful. It’s a mix of emotions that are quite confusing and strange to work through. I feel like somebody’s sitting on my chest, like I am not quite aligned with the universe right now. At the same time, I feel peace and love and gratitude for the wonderful person that was my great-aunt.
She was kind and loving, with a beautiful, infectious laugh. She liked to entertain. I could talk hours on the phone with her. Her real name was Sybille, but nobody in my family called her that. For us, she was simply ‘Ina’ (pronounced ‘Eenna’). She was my grandma’s sister. My grandma died early, when my sister and I were only 6 years old. My Dad was in his mid-30’s, when he lost his mom, the age that I am now. After losing her so early in his life, the only comfort must have been to know that Ina was around. She had no kids of her own, but was always very important to my Dad, and subsequently to us. We didn’t call her grandma, but that is what she was to us. She was a central part to our family and will always be.
Our beloved Ina passed away on Saturday afternoon. Tears are streaming down my face writing this.
She passed away.
It’s really hard to comprehend. Wait, didn’t I just tell you that we were going to move her into my parents’ house, that the move was scheduled for last Wednesday and that she herself was just taking a little detour through the hospital? That’s correct. I honestly didn’t see it coming. She was in good spirits when I left almost two weeks ago, we were imagining her new place together and she already invited me to have coffee with her there soon.
I honestly don’t know what happened last week. Yes, they were draining fluids from her body. Yes, this exhausted her and she slept a lot. However, nobody, not even the doctor seemed to be concerned by that. He was overall really happy with her current condition and said that she just might need a couple of weeks to recover. Then everything went so fast. I had just talked to her, albeit briefly, on Friday morning.
I was staying at my friend Maegan’s house Friday night when my Dad called and said “We’re heading to the hospital”. It was early Saturday morning in Germany.
I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to understand.
Here we were, having just packed boxes in her apartment which were moved to her new place last Wednesday. Everything was ready for her to move in. I went to bed with a bad feeling.
I had a restless night, weird dreams. Then my phone rang around 7:45 am – my Dad.
Ina had passed away at 12:30 pm. She had simply stopped breathing in her sleep. She was surrounded by all her loved ones (all except for me, but I found out later that I had been the last person that she had actually talked to. I’d like to think that this was her goodbye to me).
We’re all heartbroken. I can’t imagine for her to not be there. My first thought was “She won’t call me anymore.” It doesn’t seem real.
At the same time, I feel so much love when I think of her and I am so very grateful that she was part of our lives. It’s comforting to know that she lived such a full and beautiful, albeit sometimes hard, life, that she was able to care for herself in her own home until the very end, that she died peacefully in her sleep without any pain or fear. This is what she had hoped for so desperately (and which probably became reality because of her strong-will and stubbornness.) She didn’t want to be a burden on anyone.
Ina lost her husband unexpectedly in the early 1970’s and she lived 40 years in love and anticipation of being reunited with him after her death. It’s beautiful and inspiring and I strongly believe that she is with him now. And with her sister, my sorely missed grandma.
I know, it might seem a little crazy (but honestly, it is all a little crazy in my head right now) since I just got back from overseas, but I’m flying out again tomorrow to attend Ina’s funeral next week. I promised her I’d come home if anything happened. I had long since set aside vacation time for a situation like this (because one never knows what might happen) and I am so thankful for a very cool boss who didn’t hesitate to approve the trip. I think being there, being with my family and attending her funeral will help me accept, understand and heal.
I love and miss you, Ina. You’ll forever be one of my most favorite people.
Happy new year to you, lovelies.
Once again, I am super-late with my New Year’s wishes. I apologize. In case you thought I was going to quit this blog for good: nope! But I know it’s been awfully quiet around here the last few weeks. I was completely “unplugged” while in Germany and it felt really, really good. I had a really intense time with my family and every day was pretty much filled to the brim with awesome things (and just a little bit of down time here and there, but not much).
Originally, I was only supposed to be gone for 3 weeks, but shortly before my return flight, I did something that I’ve never done before: I postponed my flight. The day before I was to leave my family, I just called up the airline, asked how much it would be to change my flight and when the airline fee was ridiculously inexpensive, just DID IT. I calmly walked downstairs to have breakfast with my parents and casually dropped the bomb (aka, ‘I am staying another week’).
I know. It sounds to good to be true, right? Extending one’s vacation on a whim?
However, the reason behind my decision were a little bit more complicated. You see, we spontaneously decided on Christmas Eve that we’d move my (90-year old) great aunt into the ‘granny flat’ in my parents’ house. Up until now, she had still been living in her 1-bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor! Without an elevator! It’s pretty impressive that she was able to walk up and down those stairs every day, but she’s now getting to a point where this becomes too much of a burden on her (physically) and we could finally convince her to move. She gave notice right after New Year’s (in Germany, you have to give three months-notice!) and my sister and I spent afternoons at her place packing up her belongings. While she agreed to move and is looking forward to be around family more, leaving a place where she has lived for 30 years and the whole process of packing up her life is hard.
I just came to the conclusion that I could not just up and leave and leave all the work of the move to the rest of my family, because frankly, I am never there to help with anything during the rest of the year. Well, one could argue that I am never there for the fun parts (birthdays and other get-togethers) either. Very true.
To top it all off, my great-aunt was really overwhelmed and stressed out by the moving activities and ended up in the hospital last Wednesday (she’s still there). I don’t want to imagine what it would have felt like, if I had left the previous weekend. I was just so relieved that I was able to stay.
So anyway, I have a very cool boss who was fine with my extended stay and it felt really good to be able to just be there for my great aunt and the rest of my family. Saying goodbye never gets easier and was particularly hard this time, so bear with me while I try to adjust back into my life here. Recaps to come soon!