Friday, January 9, 2009

+Memory Eternal to Christian Ziegler


Today, the 9th of January, 2009 at approximately 6:45 pm EST, my grandfather, whom I referred to affectionately as Opa, died. He was 93 years old. I suppose that in many ways I am lucky. How many people can claim to have had even one of their grandparents in their lives for this length of time? I would venture not many. For 32 years of my life, I have known this man and I have had the good fortune to learn a lot from him.

If I had one word to describe my grandfather, it would be this: tough. This man was a farmer and although I have never been a farmer, I can honestly say that being a farmer is nothing short of hard work. And my grandfather did this back in Germany, which was still crippled from the fallout of the first World War which left a great nation poor and bankrupt and her people destitute. But my grandfather, nevertheless, worked. And when he was called to serve in the army of the Third Reich, he went, not to defend Nazism or die for the Fuehrer but to defend his loved ones and his home from those who, even with the best of intentions, sought to do damage to him. On the Russian front, my grandfather was shot about five times. Most of the bullets went in and out; only one stayed. And, having seen it, it was a massive sucker. Nonetheless, he survived some of the worst fighting mankind has ever seen and returned, eventually, to Mehrstetten, where he started his family with his wife Magdalena. 11 years after the war ended, my grandfather, his wife and his two children, Emil and Elfriede, my mother, came to Hanoverton, Ohio where my great-uncle George had a business set up. My grandfather and two of his other brothers worked for my Uncle George and also worked on the farm wher they raised sheep, just like back in Germany. In fact, my grandfather was always called "SchaeferChriste", the Shepherd, Christian.

Living in America was difficult especially with little knowledge of the language, but my grandfather managed to keep his head up and worked hard for my great-uncle, who, in reality, treated his brothers and their kids very poorly. But he worked. I can't recall a time, except in recent memory, where my grandfather was not doing any kind of work, whether it was around the house or in the yard or wherever. He was a very active man.

Over the past couple of years, his health began to fail. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer some years ago. Year after year, pneumonia would strike. Diabetes became a problem. But my grandfather persisted through it all.

But now, his time has come. I will miss him. I know my grandmother, my Oma, will have a difficult time coming to terms with this and I ask that you pray for her. The two of them were married for 65 years nearly. My mother recently took a picture where my grandfather was helping my grandmother across the street holding her hand every inch of the way. A love shared for that long between two people is worth eulogizing any day of the week at any time.

He didn't go pleading or weeping, but simply content; a testimony to the tough man he was. Over the years, my many phone conversations with him were replete with the word "OK" which he would say over and over. I will never hear him say that word to me again, at least not here. But, I get the feeling that even as he was passing, he knew everything was OK and that everything and everyone he would leave on this earth would be OK, too.

I am grateful that I was able to see him one last time just a few short weeks ago. He was very weak, but I know that he was most pleased to see his children and his grandchildren. For a time, his condition did a complete 180. His life meant a lot to us and I can never forget how many times I saw him in my life, especially at his home in Hanoverton where we would so often take summer vacations. I think he had a good life. I only hope that I live a tenth of what he did.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and let light perpetual shine upon him. A hymn O God is befitting for Thee in Zion and a vow will be paid Thee in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer, O Lord. All flesh shall come to Thee.

+Memory Eternal.

1 comment:

Katie said...

A poignant and admirable tribute, Chris.