At the beginning of August, we’ll recognize the one year anniversary of my Mom’s death, six months after Dad’s death. A year after her death I still experience bouts of sadness and spells of missing my parents especially on Sundays, the day I would typically talk with them.
Mom was right when she often said, “Life is for the living”, advising that we not wallow in grief for those passed and, instead, joyfully live our own lives. And we have, as I have written before, far more to celebrate about them then we have to mourn. We were blessed that they epitomized what ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was quoted as saying, “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.” They both lived and died well and lived in ways I emulate while living and died in ways I hope to imitate when it’s my 0wn time to pass to the Great Beyond.
Still, I have found that while Mom was right and life IS for the living, there are some things that their lives held that their deaths took with them that I’d like to have back. Ah, but that’s not to be. Life goes on, which is another way of saying what Mom said about life being for the living.
And speaking of life, the relationship of my siblings and me? We get along well. This being so is a tribute to Mom and Dad’s raising us up the way they did that nourished our willingness to accept each other’s faults and quirks and opinions and beliefs, of which there were—and are—many and varied, ultimately some of them being right and some being wrong. That’s life. While we share Fetzer blood pumping through our veins, we are each very different and we respect those differences with, sure, the inevitable disagreements and arguments that crop up from time to time amongst people with strongly held opinions and beliefs.
How fortunate we are that we do get along so well. I know families of siblings where such is not the case, where tolerating each other at rare family gatherings is the best one can hope, if they ever see each other again after growing up to adulthood.
My parents were anchored in northern Ohio where they were born and raised, unlike their three sons (their daughter, my sister, being the exception staying close to home) who moved far away when adulthood and a son’s quest for freedom beckoned. Other than Dad’s service in China during WWII and his hop scotching east across the country following VJ Day attending college at the University of Southern California, the University of Wisconsin, and finally Ohio State, Mom and Dad were fixed in northern Ohio for nearly nine decades.
As a consequence, one of the many wonderful things their lives held is that they became the gathering place at which we all assembled for frequent family reunions. Life’s milestones…marriages, births, birthdays, deaths, graduations, wedding anniversaries, holidays…were celebrated together as often as possible in northern Ohio at Mom and Dad’s home. Even if one of their “wayward” sons returned home to Ohio for a visit, all the siblings would often travel home just be together for no particular reason than…well…being with each other. Mom and Dad were the glue that held us together and the “lives for the living” that jointly secured my brothers and sister and our families to one, central location.
But as the one year anniversary of Mom’s death approaches, that gathering place is gone. The family home is sold. My sister has moved to central Ohio closer to her daughters. My brother who moved back to Ohio15 years ago to raise his children near my parents is moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico closer to his wife’s family and my youngest brother. I remain in eastern North Carolina with little reason to return to our Fetzer homestead in northern Ohio. Because of the “tyranny of distance” family reunions, while still possible somewhere I suppose, are far less likely now.
Still, the blessings I had of six and a half decades of growing up with and then gathering together with my siblings and parents in northern Ohio and their sweet memories remain with me. I’m thankful for those memories but I miss our reason to gather together and lament, just a little, the glue that held us together being gone even though I know—in my mind at least—that life goes on…that life is for the living.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.