Saturday, February 28, 2009

One last reflection on my grandfather

It's been well over a month now since my grandfather reposed. It's been a time for me and my family to reflect and count our blessings as to how he touched our lives. The following text is the homily/eulogy that was given at my grandfather's funeral on Wednesday, January 14. It was given by Pr. Robert Cochran, pastor at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Findlay, OH. Although there were several beefs my parents and uncle had with Pr. Cochran for reasons I won't get into, he nevertheless gave a very nice testimony to my grandfather, Christian Ziegler. Memory eternal!

BTW, as the season of Great Lent will be upon us come this Monday, I will not blog again until Pascha, April 19. Sorry for the hiatus.

Pr. Cochran's eulogy:

My parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins grew up in Napoleon, Ohio. When we'd go tosee my older relatives, they all had names lin Ringhausen, Thielman and Meineke, good German names. It was always a mystery to me, then, why a town in which lived my three great uncle Carls, my great aunts, Tillie and Freta and my grandmother, Verna, should be named after a French emperor. It turns out that the great battle to name the area was actually won by the German farmers. They got to name the county, Henry, after their King Henry while the French who resided in the tiny clusters and houses in Henry County only got to name the town. Even today, Napoleon has a population of only 9,000 while 29,000 live in Henry County. Never underestimate the common sense and work ethic of German farmers!

Chris Ziegler was a German farmer whose wrk ethic and common snese were legendary. His grandson, Chris, said that whenever Oma and Opa came to visit, his parents could never get them to stop working! Oma would be making the beds while Opa would be mowing the lawn and working in the garage.

Emil said that Chris[tian] was 100% dedicated to his family and to his work. he asked his dad one time how he measured success. Chris said that he would see himself as having been successful if 1) he died owning one more acre of ground than what he strated with and 2) he had no enemeies. All right, let's take the measure of the man according ot his own criteria.

Did he die owning one mor acre of ground than what he started with? first notice he measured himself according to farm values. Chris entered his peak work years as a soldier, mostly on the Russian fron in WWII. He was a valiant soldier, as evidenced by receiving the Iron Cross. At a Luther Club meeting at our church one time, the WWII vets were asked to rise. Chris stood up and let everyone know that he fought on the other side. This is a small thing, really, but what an image of courage this is. He wasn't proud of having fought against people who were no his friends and church family, b ut he wasn't ashamed of who he was and what he had had to do when the situation called for it. Like all soldiers, he answered the call of duty out of love for his country and family. Everything Chris did arose out of his deep sense of duty and love for his family. When he had to leave his home to get his children the kind of education they needed, he once again flashed the courage he'd exhibited on the battlefield and, at 41, picked up his family and moved to a county that had considered him an enemy. He didn't even speak the langauge! He moved to Hanoverton, Ohio and worked there on farm for 24 years until he retired. So, considering he started with nothing, I'd say he retired with one acre of ground more than what he started with.

But did he die without enemies? I think we'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn't love and respect Chris Ziegler. He was generous and never had a bad word for anyone. Emil said that on the Russian front, Chris promised himself that he would never gain complain about the food or the weather. he was not a man who complained about anything. He was a quiet man but a thoughtful one. He would do anything for his grandkids and never wanted to miss a ball game or a recital no matter how far he would have to travel. He had many friends in the church and was always a delight to be around. As Emil said, it was unnecessary for him to talk: his presence lit upa room. He also had many friends in the Luther Club here in Findlay, the Saxon Club in Salem, Ohio and the Toledo Schwabenverein. Chris' presence lit up many rooms in many cities.

He was a loyal firned, but his real loyalties always rested with his family and his beautiful wife, Magdalena. Lena, he always took such good care of you and the two of you are such a wonderful couple, a model for all of us. Now, I don'tk now if this is true, but Lena claims that she and Chris had only one fight. He wanted to sell a horse to buy a push mower and she dearly loved that horse. Well, Lena if hte only fight you remember is one in which Chris gave you what you wanted, yours is a marriage for the ages and all of us are richer because we experienced the love that you and Chris shared.

I think it is safe top say, then, that Chris leaves nothing but friends and loved ones in his passing. Accordoing to Chris' own criteria, he died a successful man.

But I wanted to add one more way to measure a man:his relationship with God. As Emil said, Chris proclaimed his religion not in words but in his actions. He lived out his faith: he wasn't showy. After all, he was a Lutheran, and looking at the number of people we have in the back, I'd say we have some Lutherans here with us today! He had a simple faith, a deep faith, a faith he shared by example. We will dearly miss him at First Lutheran. It is said that for every member of Chris' generation we lose, we have to addd 10 new members to reach teh same levels of attendance and commitment. In Chris' case, we'd have to add 20!

Emil said that Chris was his hero, that he couldn't call him his idol because he couldn't live up to the standard that Chris set. There is real truth to this: Chris was who he was because of the trials he faced. We live in fear these days that the economy will collapse, that the world will become a dark and terrifying place, of war and pandemics and environmental catastrophe.

Well, Chris' generation, the Great Generation, became great because they survived a dark, terrifying world of economic collapse and war. We all need hte example of men like Chris Ziegler if we are to survive the days ahead. God bless you, Chris. You were a loygal friend, a devoted father, a dear grandfather, a cherished brother in Christ.

We all miss you.

May his memory be eternal. +

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