Few things harder than a goodbye

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There are few things in life more difficult than saying that final goodbye.
When my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly in 1997, my husband said the suddenness of his passing was difficult to grasp, and yet a blessing in its quickness. His father had done exactly what he had wanted to do in the days leading up to his final day on this earth.
My mother-in-law missed him terribly, but often said that when the end came for her, she would hope for that same sudden passing.
An ordinary day. This past Tuesday, my mother-in-law spent the morning doing all of the things that she always did.
She took a few phone calls from family members, packed up a box of clothing for charity, and planned to keep a doctor’s appointment for a regular checkup.
She never made it to that doctor’s appointment.
Her son found her when he stopped to visit after work that afternoon. It appears that she passed away suddenly and peacefully.
The days since have passed in a blur as we all grasp the sudden loss of such a wonderful person.
Giving. The stories of her lifetime of giving, not only to her family, but members of her community and her church have been a moving testament of a life well lived.
When her boys were still young, Edie Sutherland and her husband Don bought an ice cream drive-in on the edge of the small town of New London. With her husband holding down a full-time job at the post office, much of the hard work of running a business fell to Edie.
She handled the task with her usual grace. She taught her sons to pitch in and help with the things that needed to be done, such as peeling bushels of potatoes for french fries. She would work hard inside the business all day long, staying up late into the night doing endless laundry and cooking for the next day.
She helped her young sons with their own little business, as they hitched a pony to a surrey cart and hauled ice cream treats all around town, timing their stops at the various factories around town to coincide with employee breaks.
She kept up this pace for several years, and while she acknowledged that it was very hard work, it helped her family prosper.
They were able to sell the business and buy a nice home with a pond and a bit of open land, where she remained all these years.
Creations. There were many times she would do without in order to do for others.
I think of all the millions of wonderful meals, complete with pies and cookies and cakes, she created over her lifetime, all made with a loving heart.
Just one week before her death, she helped prepare a funeral meal after the death of a fellow church member, something she had always done with a willing heart.
Endless smile. She seemed to wear an endless smile, was quick to laugh, was filled with compassion, and withheld judgment of others in such an admirable way. In her quiet strength, she could help others to see a situation from a different point of view, and leave them thinking it was their own idea to have done so.
Six sons and a seemingly endless line of family and friends gathered to pay tribute to a wonderful life that will live on in all who were blessed to have known her.
]There is nothing more difficult, and more wonderful, than this.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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