2016 / People / Family


  • Photographer
    Nadja Wohlleben

My grandmother Helga von Randow was 92 years old. On the 18th May 2015, I received a phone call from my mother. She told me that she had just collected my grandmother from the police station. She had been found wandering through the streets lost at 2am, wearing nothing but a T-Shirt. “It cannot go on like this”, my mother said. A few days later, on May 29th, my grandmother was moved out of the apartment in which she had lived in for 55 years, into a retirement home. The state of her dementia had deteriorated so much that she couldn’t be trusted to live by herself any longer. On the 29th October, 5 months to the day, my grandmother passed away. Over the course of these five months, I visited Helga as often as I could, spending quality time with her and documenting her daily life. I am grateful that I got to spend so much time with Helga during her final weeks, doing all the things she loved most: playing card- and dice games, listening to her favorite singer Udo Jürgens, taking her out for walks in the park, and having iced coffee in an Italian cafe. Photographing Helga has helped me work through my own pain of losing her, while trying to understand what was happening to her identity: at times she was interacting like her old witty self; at other times she would be in another world, listlessly staring into nothingness. As time progressed, the effects of Helga’s illness, not only on herself but the other family members, became apparent. No one likes to think about death. When we do we inevitably question our own mortality. We feel helpless when faced with demise, trapped in its consequence and inescapable finality. Yet, the awareness of how limited time is, makes one appreciate each shared moment so much more. This body of work is a tribute to my grandmother, whose grace and courage never seized to amaze and inspire me.