Friday, July 18, 2008
Auf Wiedersehen, Geliebte Tante Ilse!
I took this picture of a sage plant growing through the deck railing at my mother's house just over a week ago. Sage has been regarded as a valuable plant for thousands of years, and its Latin name Salvia derives from the same root as the word salvation. The Romans called it the "herba sacra" or sacred herb because they considered it able to save them from disease or even death.
This Don Juan has been thriving in my mom's garden for over a decade. It was always one of my dad's favorites. Its color and vigor remind me of Tante Ilse's lovely complexion and exuberance. My mom called me this afternoon and told me that Tante Ilse passed away yesterday in Germany. She lost a long battle with cancer, two years after losing her husband to the same disease.
I remember her as the aunt who never overlooked the tiniest detail in matters of hospitality. When I was a child, we stayed with her and my Uncle Helmut while visiting a host of relatives in northern Germany. Their house did not have central heat at that time, and she insisted on tucking me in the huge featherbed every night with a hot water bottle to warm my feet. She also tolerated my sliding down the thickly carpeted, steep stairway at their house, even after my mother stopped me and warned me not to do it again. She merely winked at me when my mother went outside, as if to say "go ahead, I don't mind, do it again!"
I know she had a difficult life at times, having lived through World War II in Germany, enduring the privations associated with it, as well as its aftermath. She also took care of my widowed grandmother (her mother-in-law), believing it to be her duty and an honor to do so. I seldom saw my uncle without a genuine smile lighting up his face. He knew he was married to a gem of a woman, someone who could thrive despite life's hardships and lend her own seemingly limitless strength to others. I wish I was more like her.
Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
And lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
All the days of her life...
Give her the reward she has earned
And let her works bring her praise at the city gate.