Helga's Stories


Shared by Sue Mullins on October 11, 2016

Mum finally has her “window seat in Heaven,” but I’ve lost my favorite fellow Gemini.  My sweet, beautiful mother-in-law, Helga Hunger Schmidt Gengenbach left this Earthly life just a few hours ago in the arms of Marianne’s sister Jutta, out in California. Words cannot begin to express my pain and grief.  Mum, as I promptly called her to differentiate from my own Mom, was the most optimistic and fun-loving person I ever knew. How she carried on with such lifelong joyfulness in the face of tragic loss – of her brother to WW II, her mother and sister to breast cancer, and her beloved husband Siegfried to premature death – I will never know. But she was literally full of life, as smart as they come, could dissolve instantly into giggles, and lit up my world with her very presence. Mum had a funny rhyming German poem (and usually a song!) for every occasion from the mundane to the extraordinary.  She was a beautiful soprano who loved Bach, Mozart and folk music, and held a world view way beyond her 91 years.  She so graciously opened her world—her German homeland and her Pennsylvania home—to me in her stories and our visits to Avondale.  We spent many hours together admiring Longwood Gardens, and many happy mealtimes talking about her family’s history.  I can still hear the sound, in her delightful singsong German accent, telling me all about her work as a bookkeeper and “the band” of girls she ran with as a young girl in Dortmund before and during the war. I can still feel the warmth of her embrace after a long day in her pretty Avondale garden together, and I will forever see the twinkle in her eye when she walked Marianne down the aisle to marry me in our own garden.  When someone with so powerful a presence and so magical a personality comes into your life, even for just 18 years, it changes you.  I am forever changed by the magic, the grace and the memory of my Mum. She lived from June 2, 1925 to October 7, 2016, and is likely doing the Polka with her favorite dance partner Siegfried once again.  I’ll see you in Heaven, Mum—and save me a window seat!

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