Do you know what is worse than going to the funeral of my beloved Aunt? Going to see Oma the next day. The minute she saw us, she started to cry. It literally broke my heart into pieces and I dropped on the floor and just held her. Her head on mine, her body shaking in my arms.

I looked up to blink my tears away and locked eyes with my sister. My strong, stoic, matter-of-fact sister. Also in tears. I couldn’t even look at my mother. I couldn’t stop my tears. It wasn’t my call to tell Oma, and I didn’t understand why anyone would tell her. I thought this was a good time for a little white lie. Oma can’t talk, her speech comes out jumbled, but she is still there. Inside that body that doesn’t quite work anymore, my Oma is still there.

She understood Marianne was gone, and when she saw us, when she saw my mom, she just melted down. No one should ever have to bury a child, not at 20, not at 33, not at 99. I could feel her pain, and then I felt her shut down. She closed her eyes, refused to face the world, and shut us out.

But that, that I can deal with. Getting older hasn’t changed my Oma one bit. She’s always been stubborn “Eigenwijs”, and over the years I’ve had to work my way around it. I’m the oldest grandchild, I know how my Oma works. I got her to open her eyes. I got her to see me, my sister, my mom and most importantly the great-grandchildren.

Seeing us didn’t change a thing, but it did help. We took her out for a little walk, through the nursing home it was too cold outside, and then to the little café for coffee, cookies and an advocaatje (a dutch, thick, egg liquor eaten with a spoon) for my Oma. It was barely lunch, but sometimes a stiff drink is what you need.

Slowly her mood changed, she looked more alert, reached out for the kids, and finally, finally she started to smile.