She greeted us at the door of the Schiller family home in Ohio with a smile and warm embrace. The first words she uttered were “thanks for coming.” I was struck by this thoughtful greeting, at a time when she was suffering the dreadful pain of losing a husband. Children born of parents from the Greatest Generation share many of the same heroic virtues. By nature they are kind, thoughtful, possess an unflagging work ethic and have a deep love of God, family and country.
My beloved mother Joan, who would have celebrated her 77th birthday today, January 8, 2018, is one of those children. As a mother, she was a jewel in the heart of the human soul – a gem whose light and love shone brightly even in the darkest hours. When we lost her 16 months ago, after a hard-fought battle with cancer, the world became a little less bright. But she expected us to carry on her legacy of love with passion, so we persevere one day at a time, trying to live up to the heroic example of kindness and love for all people. She remains our inspiration.
We lost another great child from parents of the Greatest Generation this week, my beloved father in law, James Robert “Bob” Schiller. Like my mom, Bob suffered greatly in the last few years of his life enduring weekly blood transfusions and hospital stays. He endured his suffering with patience and hope. Supported by his wife Sue – a truly special woman whose love of family runs deeper than the darkest sea trenches, Bob endured his illness with courage.
Our family spent Christmas week with Bob and Sue. It was a special time for our children to witness the power of the human heart and soul when united with God’s will. I believe Bob hung on through Christmas so he could have time with each of his beloved grandchildren (Calvin, Courtney, Grace, Emma, Andrew, Liam Katherine and Joseph). Despite his obvious pain, he spoke quietly to each of our kids and imparted his love and guidance. To Andrew, he spoke of their shared love of fishing and Scouts. To Emma he spoke of her studies in medicine and encouraged her to persevere. To Grace he spoke of business and her new career, advising her to lead by good example and always do the right thing. He even enjoyed a Chic fil A chocolate shake with the kids, to their enjoyment and delight!
As I watched my husband and his brothers salute their dad one last time at the funeral, I thought of all the sacrifices that Bob and Sue had made for their four sons over a lifetime. In return, their sons feel an unconditional love and deep respect for their parents. In his eulogy, Pete’s brother Stephen spoke of Bob as a devoted dad who “was truly present to us as a coach and Scout leader.” Stephen also went on to share that his dad was not afraid to give “tough love” to the boys when needed, to keep them on track and to show them how much they were loved.
Bob and Sue got it right, in my opinion. They sacrificed to give their boys a good life, but held their sons accountable as members of a family. The boys didn’t have the latest and greatest in terms of toys and stuff, and they didn’t get everything they wanted, but they had something even better – the unconditional love of a mother and father who spent time with them. This is one of the gifts from the children of parents of the Greatest Generation. It is one that was given to me and my siblings by our parents Joan and Joe. It is one we should all try to imitate and give to our children.
Saying goodbye to my mother in law Sue was extremely difficult. She is an exceptional person. In addition to losing her beloved husband Bob this week, she also lost her brother Jack. Two funerals in one week. She didn’t show it though – instead she showed faith and concern for her sons, their wives and her grandchildren and our safe journey home. Like my mother, Sue is a woman who cares of the needs of others above herself. I pray that I can be more like these two “giants” in my life – Joan and Sue. The world needs more love.
May God Bless the soul of Bob and may he rest in His eternal peace.