Today would have been my Oma's birthday. She died peacefully in her sleep nearly 10 years ago, from what, we don't know. My Opa woke up one morning and went to kiss her good-bye. He found her cheek cold, but the bed under her body still warm. It was heartbreaking.
Oma- Ursula, called Ulla for short- was born in Germany in 1939 and could remember the air raid sirens of WWII. She told me a story of her and her mother being admonished by Gestapo because she had turned on a light to use the bathroom during a raid, then never shut it off. Her father, my Opapa, was forced to join the German army and went AWOL while in Russia, taking more than two years to work his way back to his family. They left Germany until the war was over, then returned to open a restaurant/hotel.
Oma met my South Dakota-raised Opa during his deployment
with the army some twenty years later. She was a waitress in her father's restaurant and Opa and his friends came in. His friends were so rowdy that she threw the whole group out, and Opa returned the next day to apologize. That was that. They married in Germany and my mom was born at the army base hospital. When my mom was 9 months old, they moved back to the US. Oma and Opa had four more children- all boys!- over the
next 10 years, during which time Opa was finishing medical school and his residency.
Opa finally graduated medical school and went on to enjoy a successful career as a urologist. After years of literally going through couch cushions looking for change for bread, they began to live a more comfortable life. They bought a house in Bloomington near Lake Normandale and raised my mom and her brothers there. The house remains in our family today, and will always be Oma and Opa's house to me.
Oma had a thick German accent but never taught us German. (I don't think it was too popular to be German after WWII!) She was fiercely practical. She had expensive taste in everything from clothes to chocolate but rationalized If you buy quality, you don't need as much! (How true!) She carried the plain leather version of Coach purses, which always smelled like Trident gum, and you'd be guaranteed to find a pack of it, Chapstick, a travel pack of Kleenex, and a tin of Nivea if you dumped out its contents. She loved walking through the woods, gardening, and cooking. She taught me that if your husband was on his way home, but you didn't have dinner started, throw some butter and onions in a pan to make it smell good and tell him Dinner's almost ready! when he came through the door. But most of all, she loved Jesus.
She lived the verse to whom much is given, much is required. Both Oma and Opa were very active in their church, in missions, and opened their home to many people in need. She kept a prayer journal and talked about Jesus as though she had met with him that morning. That relationship she modeled serves as a benchmark for me.
I've also inherited her love of thick sweaters, Kraeuterbutter, and Eileen Fisher. I find myself shoving Kleenex up my sleeve, leaving just a bit poking out at my wrist, just like she used to do. During Ulla's bouts of fusiness, I'll say ja, ja, ja while we bounce. I abide by her belief that it's not spoiling, it's nurturing! My mom looks just like her (watch the video below and you will see!).
Even though she is gone, she is very much here.
When we found out I was pregnant, the name Ursula was the front-runner for me. John took some convincing, due to a certain sea
witch sharing the same name! Suffice it to say, Ursula does not make an
appearance on any Top 100 Baby Names list here in the US! I wanted Ulla to have a name that meant something, that had a legacy. Ursula means "little bear; will; determination." Oma was all of those things, and I want Ulla to carry my Oma's mantle of strength, compassion, and great faith.
For those of you that never knew her, this was the video that we played at her wake. It does such a beautiful job of capturing who she was!