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.


  1. Oh San, this made me cry. I’m truly, truly sorry for your loss. The way you described Ina reminds me of the only grandparent I have left, my mom’s mom, and I cannot imagine her ever passing away and how it would make me feel. The fact that Ina passed so suddenly and unexpectedly makes it worse, of course. I’m glad amidst the emotional turmoil you can still remember what an amazing person she was. I love that picture of her; there’s a fun, mischievous twinkle in her eyes. :) Hopefully being with your family will make the loss – or at least this initial numbing shock of it – a little easier to deal with. Have a safe trip here and back. I’m keeping you in my thoughts. <3

  2. So sorry for your loss, dear San! You and your family are in my thoughts. Have a safe trip back to Germany!

  3. i’m so sorry, san. i hope you and your family come to peace and healing sooner rather than later and you will be in my thoughts <3

  4. My Grandma passed when i was in my late 20’s. I was so lucky to have this special woman in my life. Just like you had Ina. I’m sorry that she is gone now, but one thing has struck me about you San. You truly know how to love and value your family! Ina knew in her heart how loved she was, and perhaps this was why she spoke to you last.
    When you are home, love your family well.
    Sending you love, sympathy and blessings.

  5. Ich habe Tränen in den Augen und kann voll und ganz verstehen, wie du dich gerade fühlst. Vor weniger als einer Woche habe ich beide Großeltern beerdigt und die Gefühle sind noch ganz frisch. Ich freue mich aber sehr für dich, dass du die Möglichkeit hast, zur Beerdigung nach Hause zu fliegen. Abschied zu nehmen ist so wichtig! Fühl dich gedrückt. Es tut mir wirklich leid! Es schmerzt zwar unglaublich, aber im Schlaf zu sterben ist der schönste Tod, den man sich wünschen kann. Denk immer daran: “Was man tief in seinem Herzen besitzt, kann man nicht durch den Tod verlieren.” (Joh. Wolfgang v. Goethe) Alles Liebe, Fee

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss and for this broken heart you’re feeling. It’s clear reading your posts that this woman made a big impact on your life, and on your entire family. I’m sure the memories you made with her this holiday season will live on in your heart forever! <3

  7. Sending so much love your way…

  8. Your words are amazingly eloquent for someone dealing with such a deep sense of grief. I’m so sorry for your loss, San. I remember well when my grandmother passed away … she was also in the hospital and I feel like she held on until all three of her children arrived in town and got to see her. Soon after she passed. The human body is a funny thing – I have no doubt your great Ina had some sense of peace in her life, knowing she got to see so many before she passed. Glad to hear you’ll be able to fly home to be with your family during this tough time. I’ll be thinking of you.

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss, San, and I send thoughts and condolences to you and your family. I completely understand your mix of feelings during this hard time; my grandfather passed away on Monday evening (which also happened to be my 30th birthday, ugh). I’m going through a period of sadness and mourning right now myself.

    I’m so glad you get to go be with your family during this hard time. Hugs to you!

  10. Oh my goodness, San, I’m so sorry! It’s never easy to say goodbye to a loved one, especially when it’s unexpected. This post really shows how loved and lovely your great aunt was, and I’m moved to tears to think of the world losing such a beautiful soul, even though I didn’t know her. Praying for safe travels for you, and comfort for your whole family!

  11. Ich musste grad echt schlucken und habe mir auch die ein oder andere Träne weggewischt.
    Es tut mir echt leid. :(

    Meine Oma ist jetzt 93. Es geht ihr zwar nicht wirklich schlecht, aber trotzdem muss man in dem Alter ja eigentlich jeden Tag damit rechnen, dass es zu Ende geht. Und ich ich fürchte mich so vor dem Tag, an dem es so weit ist. :( Wenn meine Mama mich zu ungewöhnlichen Zeiten anruft (tagsüber im Büro oder spätabends) befürchte ich schon immer das Schlimmste.

    Es ist toll, dass du die Möglichkeit hast zur Beerdigung nach Hause zu fliegen. Ich denke, es ist wichtig und gut für dich, dass du dabei sein kannst. Wie du schon geschrieben hast.

    Alles Liebe!

  12. What a beautiful and emotional post. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s hard to lose someone so close to you. My thoughts are with you and your family at this time. Have a safe trip back.

  13. I’m so so sorry for your loss, San! The story about your beloved aunt really gave me goosebumps all over – and I’m so feeling your sadness and grief.
    It’s just wonderful that you fly out to be able to attend her funeral!! I bet your family is happy to have you around and so you can comfort each other!

    Be strong, keep your head up and always think about how brave your aunt was – living 40 years without her love! How hard must that be?

    Feel hugged! Lots of love.

  14. I’m so, so sorry San. This is such a beautiful tribute to your Ina and I’m so glad you’re able to go back to Germany to say good-bye to her. Hugs and love.

  15. aw San I am so incredibly sorry for the loss of your Ina, sounds like she was one heck of a woman. sending lots of love and hugs to you and your family.xo

  16. Oh Sandra, das war ein sehr emotionaler Eintrag. Hab einen guten Flug nach Hause. I am sooo sorry for loss!

  17. I’m so sorry, San. It is clear how special she was to you and how much you love her, which I’m sure makes it that much harder to experience such an unexpected loss. My thoughts are with you!

  18. I am soo sorry for you loss and I am happy that you were able to extend your holiday stay to spend a bit more time with Ina!
    Have a safe trip and try to remember all the great years you had with her!

  19. Das tut mir wirklich sehr leid, man merkt in deinem posting, wie sehr ihr alle an ihr gehangen habt. Ich hoffe, dass dein Trip nach Deutschland und das Dabeisein bei der Beerdigung dir in deinem Trauerprozess hilft.

  20. San, I so feel for you and am truly sorry for your loss. This has moved me in many ways. You are heartbroken but also incredibly lucky to have people like Ina in your life. And I believe she has spent her last days, months, years knowing she was loved by all of you, and an integral part of the family. This does not take the sorrow away, I know. But I hope these become more and more your thoughts, easy the pain and heal your hearts. Until you smile when thinking of her. Safe travels home San.

  21. I’m so sorry for your loss. Ina sounds like an amazing lady. May she be in peace. Hugs.

  22. I’m so sorry for your loss and sending you love and warm thoughts, my friend. This is a touching tribute to her and I’m so glad you’ll be able to be back home with family during this tough time. <3

  23. Dear San, I am so so sorry for your loss. I am thinking of you and sending hugs your way!
    Safe travels xxx

  24. I am so sorry for your loss! Meine Gedanken sind bei dir und deiner Familie! <3

  25. I’m sorry for your loss :( Sending hugs your way!

  26. Beautifully written San! I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Sweet to think she’s with her love again though. <3

  27. I am so so sorry for your loss. Just know that I am here and you can lean on me if you need me.

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