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In memoriam : Werner WIDERA (12 April 1922 - 6 October 2014)

La république des lettres —
In memoriam : Werner WIDERA (12 April 1922 - 6 October 2014)

I am not here today to tell you how Werner WIDERA wishes to be remembered. I am here today to tell you how we, his closest family, will remember him, why we will cherish him in our hearts and treasure his spiritual legacy till the day we are called upon to keep him company in the afterlife. Various administrations may know him as Werner WIDERA, a righteous, entrepreneurial and intelligent self-made man, always prepared to do the right thing, diligently and efficiently. But we know him under different names. He is Werner to his beloved wife, Dad to his dutiful loving daughter and son-in-law, and simply Opa to my sister and myself.

I cannot recall one day passing without him giving proof of his self-effacing commitment for others. Some may call it unconditional love or caritas but I see this as the highest form of oblative love. There is no doubt that Opa has always been willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of others. I remember that when my sister and I were children, staying over at our grandparents’ house during the summer vacation, we would wake up at six and watch cartoons on TV. While our grandpa could have slept in, while our Opa could have fixed himself a quick snack before catering to anyone else’s needs, he consistently walked straight into the kitchen as soon as he heard us up and started assembling a scrumptious breakfast whose delicious taste never outshone the love and dedication he put in its preparation.

To some extent, it might be argued that Opa has been far more generous towards life than life has been towards him. Not only did he have to go through the atrocities of World War II to which he lost his father and two brothers but our grandmother and he experienced the hardships of being New Australians in postwar Australia, at a time when most immigrants had to come to terms with the second-rate citizenship they were offered. Way before the heydays of multiculturalism which peaked in the 1970s, a new life starting from scratch essentially meant eking out a living through the menial jobs that were readily made available to newcomers. “Life is not meant to be easy” is a phrase Opa now and again loves to drop in our casual conversations. Not that Opa has any political affinities with Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, but this phrase which has left a lasting impression in his mind is a giveaway that he is certainly not one of those who half-expects everything to be handed to them on a plate.

He knows all too well that life comes across as a constant struggle and it hardly bothers him because he sees himself as a giver, not as a taker. In late July, he confessed how much his predicament had become an embarrassment to him precisely because of this self-ascribed role. No matter how much he appreciates the assistance of the medical staff who have been helping him survive and of the wonderful neighbours who have been giving a helping hand in various ways, no matter how much he values the support and concerns of his family, Opa is still far more comfortable being a provider than a depender. In this respect, few will disagree with the fact that Oma has played a crucial role in helping Opa preserve his sense of purpose and his idea of usefulness in life.

Another way to understand Opa’s stance in life is to observe his unflinching ability and dogged determination to take everything in his stride: the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows, the expected and unexpected, the good fortune and the misfortunes alike.

I must confess that I have deliberately used the present tense in this eulogy because, even though I know that Opa will be sorely missed, I find solace in the thought that, from now on, he watches over us, and especially over his wife who has truly inspired him the strength to soldier on in the throes of his courageous battle for a gracious departure.

At 92, you have won the day Opa and let me tell you how much we are all so proud of you.

requiescat in pace.

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