Even after 94 years, death is too soonA problem with a long life well-lived is you run out of some of your oldest friends when it comes time to mourn your passing. That thought came to me earlier this week during the funeral service for Sarah Vehle. She lived more than 94 years, and until the very end, she was active and independent.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
A problem with a long life well-lived is you run out of some of your oldest friends when it comes time to mourn your passing.
That thought came to me earlier this week during the funeral service for Sarah Vehle. She lived more than 94 years, and until the very end, she was active and independent. She and her late husband, Ab, moved to Reliance in 1948 and to Chamberlain 10 years later. They began making friends the day they moved to Reliance, and they never stopped. They gathered to themselves a host of friends, including my parents and my wife’s parents.
When you live to 94, you outlive many of those friends. So it was that, while a number of old friends were in the church in Chamberlain last Monday for services, many others had already gone on ahead. The photographs and albums in the entryway to the church and in the basement during the luncheon were filled with images of those friends, though, and there were more smiles on the faces in those photographs than you would see in a carnival funhouse. Sarah and Ab delighted in their friendships, and that delight was reciprocated.
I’ve known the Vehles from the time I was a young boy riding to the Shanard Elevator in Reliance with my dad. Ab ran the elevator, and the family lived not far away in a modest house. As I grew old enough to be trusted driving trucks filled with wheat to the elevator, I got to know the Vehle’s older son, Mike. Just as I was a farm kid working for my dad in the fields, he was a small-town kid working for his dad in the elevator. I’d bring the wheat to town, and he’d be there to shovel it off the truck.
When I grew up and married Nancy, we were often invited to join her parents for visits to the Vehle home. Sarah, raised in North Carolina, married Ab in 1944, not long before he shipped off to fight in Europe. Soon after he returned from the war, Ab took his bride with her soft drawl and southern manners to the heart of South Dakota. There, a man from northwest Minnesota and a woman from the South made a home and raised two sons.
When Ab died some years ago, the boys asked if I would be a pallbearer. I was traveling in the west on business and couldn’t make it back. When Dan, the younger son, called from Omaha to tell me of Sarah’s passing and to ask if I’d be a pallbearer, I felt I was being given a second chance to honor a family who has been important to me for much of my life.
I joined three Hamiel boys, a Swanson and a Geddes. As we waited for the service to begin, we shared stories of the Vehle family and of the old days in Lyman County and in Chamberlain. It’s funny how, at a time like that, you recall clearly any number of events and incidents that seemed totally insignificant when they happened half a century earlier. Some of those make you laugh. Some draw a knowing smile. A few, unexpectedly, tug at your heart as you remember where you came from and who helped shape the person you became.
When a Sarah Vehle passes at 94, people my age tend to be accepting, recognizing that she lived a long and productive life and touched many people as she did. Children, sons like Mike and Dan, also recognize that their mother lived a long life. While it was perhaps not quite long enough for them, they know they were blessed to have had as much time as they did.
I was thinking such thoughts last Monday when I looked up and saw Sarah’s two granddaughters, lovely young girls with tears in their eyes and sadness in their hearts. To the grandchildren, it wasn’t about a long life or time well-spent. It was about a grandmother no longer with them.
In their sorrow I saw one more reason to mark this gentle woman’s passing.