Luther Burbank said that, “Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.” As I look and see the pink carnations here, I can’t help but think of Oma Frida as a beautiful flower who made everyone she met, a better person.
Her smile beamed like sunshine, her love of food legendary, and a hug from Oma made any ailment instantly better. In remembering our Oma, we chose the pink carnations because they were part of her wedding bouquet and she loved them so much.
The pink carnation is also the symbolic of a mother’s undying love and we all know how much Oma loved my dad and all her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Oma was born in 1917 during World War I. This was the same year that both the electric drill and marshmallow fluff were invented. It’s hard to imagine all of the technological and world change that Oma witnessed in her life from the invention of the zipper to Velcro to I-phones, from early aviation to the space shuttle.
1917 was also the first year that Christmas lights were commercially available to light up our lives. Oma was one of the brightest lights in my life and I will see her sparkling in every Christmas light from now on.
Oma lived a hard life filled with the challenge of beginning over, and over, and over again. She was orphaned at the age of six and had to go live with a new family. She survived World War II but lost her home and all belongings.
Oma told me stories of throwing her body over my dad’s during bombing raids in the hope that he would survive. After Opa came home from the war, she and Opa immigrated to Canada. Oma began her life over again once more in a new country, spending her first year in indentured servitude on a Saskatchewan farm.
Settling in Good Soil, Saskatchewan, Oma trained and then worked as a nurse’s aide at the local hospital. Oma hated to see any person or any critter, suffer extending her care to patients both near and far. Always the trickster, I remember her telling me stories from the hospital including one time when she took an amputated limb down from the operating room to the kitchen for the soup pot. The cook, fortunately, turned her down.
Some years later, Oma moved to Edmonton and began working at the Misercordia Hospital. With other family members and friends from the Sudenland, she introduced us all to German food and culture and shared her love of sausages across multiple generations.
After two decades in Edmonton, Oma and Opa headed to the Okanagan Valley for their retirement. There, Oma reveled in her garden and often sent us boxes of fruit at harvest time. She and Opa spent days hiking in the surrounding mountains often searching for mushrooms and wild flowers.
Oma always had a delicious German feast ready for us when we came down from a big day of skiing at Silver Star. After Opa died, Oma moved back to Edmonton to be closer to family.
On many Mother’s Days, I had wonderful conversations on the phone with Oma. I would say how amazing it was to still have my Oma and she would always answer, “Whatever comes, comes!” I often asked, “Did you ever think you would live to be 91, 92, 93 or 94?” She answered, “Oh no, I thought I would be dead at 60 since everyone in my family died early.”
Always looking for wisdom, I would then ask, “What do you think the secret of your long life is?” She thought a moment and replied, “I walked everywhere. And I never overeat. I eat my veggies. And have some sweets every now and again. I never hit the bottle much.
Though schnapps are a good cure for an upset stomach and I take everything as it comes.” This was from my Oma would had been declaring to me since I was ten that she was dying, who could still out walk me, and who was famous for carrying heavy cement bags at the age of 70.
Despite all the hardships she’s faced, Oma was a delightful, generous, and loving person. Her voice brightened whenever I called her on the phone. When I visited in person, she would still grab my cheeks, pulling me forward to plant several kisses my forehead, and she would always tell me how much she loved me.
Oma’s spent the last sixteen years living without her dear husband with whom she shared life for over fifty years. If anyone in my life knows about starting again, starting over, picking up the pieces, and going forward, it was my Oma.
And although I am going to miss Oma each and every day, I am happy that she has been freed from her earthly bonds.
I like to picture Oma hiking freely through the hills surrounding Vernon with Opa and Dad at her side, yodeling every step of the way. And on one of my climbs, should I ever see an Edelweiss in a mountain meadow, I’ll know it is Oma winking at me and I’ll wink right back.