I had sad news from overseas today.
My godmother’s husband died at the age of almost 86 last Friday.
Of course, at that age, my aunt as I like to refer to her, and anyone who knew them, would have expected him to pass away literally anytime, but it’s still sad. It’s sad because the two really were a wonderful couple and their marriage stands as an example that sometimes, in life, you will meet your true love, the one you’re meant to be with, only late and after many years of struggle and pain.
My godmother stood on my side this year when I rushed overseas to say goodbye to my mother. It was a painful time for many reasons, but she was there for me, no questions asked and, when needed, defended me and my life decisions towards others in my family who were not quite as solidary at a time where really, all that mattered should have been our shared grief.
Godparents, per definition, will take the place of your parents when you lose them. Although I still have my father (somewhere..), my aunt, at 78, reminded that she took this commitment very seriously, even if I am almost 40 now. I did not need to be reminded. She had always shown how much she really cared. About me, but also about my mother who had chosen her, the older neighbour and wife of my father’s first boss as a godmother for little me so many years ago because it just used to be what people did at the time.
I have always known my aunt as a witty and wise woman, strong and outspoken. She had worked her way up to be the head secretary in a renowned scientific institute, taught herself 2 foreign languages on the way and, when I was 14, she took me on a 2 week ski trip where, among other things, she also taught me how to eat properly in a fancy restaurant.
But her life has been a long and painful journey before she found her late husband, a kind man and avid reader, who shared her love for style and her faith, handsome (for an old chap) and with a witty spirit.
My godmother’s first husband was an abusive pig. Oh, he was educated alright, and had a high position in an academic institution. I never really knew what happened, but this year, we talked about it and it almost blew my mind. It seemed odd to hear this woman who never swears, say the words her first husband said to her now 50 years ago or so when he pushed her against the wall, with his hands on her throat.
He had broken both her arms before they were even married.
But she married him. They had a son. Her husband cheated on her, almost publicly, but without a job, with no profession, 50 years ago, it was not that easy for a woman to leave her husband (is it today?) But eventually, she did.
My aunt found herself a job and got an apartment. She fell on her feet and lived for her son. But she also took part in the founding of an association for single women who had left an abusive marriage. I did not know all this.
I knew though, of course, that at the age of 25, her beloved son died tragically in a motorcycle accident caused by someone else. That’s when she left the city she had grown up and gone through so much pain to settle down on the other side of the country. It was here where she would meet her later husband in her church’s community. When they both retired shortly after, they took up travelling and many activities, they renovated a house together that her family inherited and moved there, to an idyllic spot at the coast of the Baltic Sea. My aunt would join, in the middle of her 60s, a group of neighbours that, every morning in summer, would meet and bath naked in the cold sea – and she was still doing it this year!
She also ‘forced’ me to take a swim, to clear my mind and get fresh ideas. It certainly worked, or it was simply being with her. Here she is, in bathing suit for the photo, but still – a classy silhouette for 78 years ! (I was less graceful, Australia has completely spoiled me for Baltic water temperatures I think)
Over the last years, her beloved husband started to lose his sharp mind to Alzheimer’s. She stood like a rock in the foamy waves of life by his side no matter what. Although I am sad for her, I know that her strength and wisdom, as much as her faith will help her through this time of grief. That and the love and support she receives in return just like she has so generously shared it throughout her life. My heart certainly goes out to her.