December 3, 1949. Hamburg, Germany.
It’s raining and a bride in black rubber boots rushes with her soon husband-to-be to the automobile ready to take them to the church. The tires get caught in mud on the way. They are late for the ceremony. Pictures outside are taken, the guests holding umbrellas and wearing anything but festive footwear.
But they were in love. She had been told to ignore that skinny soldier boy, recently home after the lost war. He was nothing but trouble. But trouble stuck around and sixty-five years later, he sits at her hospital bedside, holding her hand. No one hears his soft voice as he speaks to her. Is he telling her he loves her? Loves her the way he did on the first day? Loves her even more? Is he telling her everything will be all right and she will be Home soon?
Maybe there are memories flashing through his head. Maybe he is remembering their early years together, their tiny apartment, the way she smiled, the way she did her hair. They had a daughter and then two boys. When the fourth child was on its way, they moved out of the city.
Maybe he remembers going to church alone at first. It was too far to walk with a new baby. Maybe he smiles, remembering how the people greeted him and told him young, single men were very welcome. Maybe he smiles, remembering telling them thank you but he was married and had four children. He didn’t know his mother would live to be 103 and looking young would be a blessing and a curse for his coming descendants.
He remembers them growing up, getting married, having children of their own. There were sorrows and many hardships. Seventeen grandchildren, but one was killed only weeks after her happy wedding. One married the wrong man and he kidnapped their three children and disappeared. Four were far away and rarely seen. Others came only when they needed money.
They prayed. Every day they prayed. Every single day they prayed for every child, every grandchild, every great-grandchild. They prayed for everyone they knew. They blessed people with their generosity. They loved and were loved.
It was a rich life. It was long. There were so many memories — some simple, others extraordinary. It was worth it.
Today is my grandparents’ 65th anniversary (church wedding). My grandmother is in the hospital, dying. I remember the last time I spoke to her. She called me. She’s been so sick lately, her pain is hardly bearable. Her voice was weak and slow, but she told me she wanted to ask me a favor. Opa had just gone out to the pharmacy, so she said she had to use her chance to ask me to make a request for a song on the radio station she and my grandfather like to listen to. She wanted to surprise him on December 3rd with a song she picked for him. “Du bist Gottes Geschenk” (you are God’s gift). I wouldn’t trade my grandparents for any other in the world.