Updated: Sep 7, 2019
Wilhelmina, known as Helma, Beringer was my paternal grandmother. She was born in 1904 and spent her life in Schaffhausen (Hessen), Germany. I did not have a chance to know her and I do not remember my grandmother. Not only did she die when I was only three years old, but she also lived very far away from us. My parents emigrated from Germany, went first to the U.S., and then eventually settled in Canada.
However, I “met” my grandmother when she came to visit us in Canada after I was born. She stayed in our house for a month or so and helped my mother with the newborn and housework when my father was at work. After this period, she went back to Germany and soon thereafter was killed in a biking accident. Like everyone else at the time, her bike was her primary mode of transportation and she biked everywhere. One day when she was biking on the road, a huge truck passed her, and although it did not touch her, the force of air of the passing truck caused her to fall. It was pre-helmet era, she sustained extensive and serious injuries, and died in a hospital a couple of days later.
Grandmother Helma had six children. There were five boys and one girl. My father was her oldest. One time when I was browsing old family albums I realized that he was also the most photographed one. All her children loved and respected her enormously. They also took care of her in the most touching way. One of my uncles built a house for her, to which she was supposed to retire as she had been widowed, but she never got the chance to do so, due to her unexpected death. The house was ready and fully decorated when the accident occurred. There was a portrait of her in that house and I remember vividly that when I visited my family in Germany everybody told me how much I looked like grandmother Wilhelmina. I was always curious about this woman.
One time not long ago, when I visited our old town in Germany with my father there was a family reunion and my father gave a speech in which he talked about his mother. While he was talking, I noticed that his brother started to cry. I was shocked. My uncle was an elderly man and, in that moment, I was surprised to see him cry for a woman who had been dead many years. After the party, I mentioned his brother’s reaction to the speech to my father, expecting some explanation. My father said: “Your grandmother was very well loved,” and I still ponder these words. In this way, even if I never knew her, she has been present in my life both through family stories and emotional testimonies of her memory made by my family.