She had lived through the Second World War, married a farmer and raised seven kids. She’d always been what we would nowadays – in a part of the world blessed (and cursed) with seemingly endless abundance – call “poor”; yet, in a non-materialistic way, she was one of the richest persons I know as she always seemed content and grateful for what she had. Her attitude towards life was one of happiness, and I feel there is a big lesson for me to be learned.
Having been based in a tiny village in Bavaria for the best part of her life she was part of a close-knit community with strongly conservative, catholic values which often wouldn’t foster an openness of mind and heart. Yet she was admirably impartial and used to form her own opinions rather than going with the mainstream and the gossip.
My grandmother was a great traveller, too, though to my knowledge she never went abroad. During the past few years of her live after my grandfather had died and my uncle taken over the farm, she would all of a sudden just pack her little leather suitcase, jump on a train (as much as her hip would still allow her to actually do that) and go on a lengthy journey around Bavaria to visit her seven kids one after the other. After a live filled with responsibilities for others she seemed to enourmosly enjoy the freedom to venture off whenever it pleased her. My aunties just shrugged their shoulders and bought her a mobile phone so that at least she could be tracked down during her somewhat random trips. I’m not sure though how fond she was of the phone. I remember her calling me one day, yelling into my ear: “Katharina? Katharina? I just wanted to test if this works at all. What a crazy thing!” – and then she hung up. It might well have been the only time she’d ever used it.
I still have a very dear letter from her that I like taking with me wherever I go. She sent it me when I spent a summer in Frankfurt working on a temporary contract and not really knowing what the future would bring. In that letter she told me how proud she was that I lived my life my way and that I shouldn’t ever change. In times of low morale when I wonder if I’ve taken the wrong path somewhere I read the letter and it makes me feel good with myself.
For this and so much more my grandmother was loved dearly, and she’ll be missed for a long time after she’s gone.