Saying goodbye doesn't get any easier

When my dad died almost 21 years ago, I had only a handful of friends who had lost a parent.

My husband joined what I've heard described as "the club no one wants to be in" when his mom died in February 2017. We lost my mom in November 2020.

And last week we said goodbye to my father-in-law, John. At 93, he outlived his wife and my parents by decades (my dad died at 67 and my mom and mother-in-law each lived to 79).

We credit John's longevity to all the walking he did during the many years he worked as a letter carrier in Hinsdale. Our office was on his route, although he retired long before we started the paper.

Our work lives did intersect a bit, though. I wrote a story for The Doings about his fascination with 17-year cicadas in 1990. He had interviewed residents along his route about the pesky insects and recorded their responses. Then, in 1995, when The Doings celebrated its centennial with a special section, he was in one of the photos on the front cover, delivering an issue to merchant (and friend) Dusty Hanson at Schweidler's.

John loved music in general and Mozart in particular. I saw my first opera, Mozart's very silly "Abduction from the Seraglio," on a Litster family outing. John and Sandra's invitations to Lyric Opera performances inspired Dan and me to get our own season passes to Lyric for a couple of years. And it was their tickets, when he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and could not attend, that allowed us to see "Carmina Burana" at Orchestra Hall, one of the most moving musical performances I've ever attended.

John also loved to read and loved to travel with Sandra. They discovered a castle-turned-hotel in Durnstein, Austria (mid-way between Salzburg and Vienna) one vacation and later gave Dan and me money to stay there on our first trip to Europe together.

My best memories of John, though, are as Ainsley's grandpa. She spent every Thursday with him and Sandra from the time she was three months old until they moved into assisted living when she was 4.

She is taking the loss of her Papa hard. At 14, she has a lot more theological questions than she's had in the past. She wants to know if John wanted to die and whether he is disappointed in her now that he can see everything she is thinking and doing and knows she is not perfect. She also wants to know how I can be sure heaven exists. I'm not sure my "the Bible tells me so" response has been completely reassuring, so I've suggested she take this topic up with our pastor.

I also think there's something about the finality of losing a fourth grandparent. Since 2020 she's also had my birth parents and their spouses as her grandparents.

She asked me if I am sad knowing that someday I will have to watch two more parents die. I said yes, but that is the price you pay for love.

And I try to reassure her that no one you love is ever really gone. I've shared my favorite quote from St. Chrysostom with so many friends and family members who have lost loved ones. I think it's time I shared it with her.

"He whom you love and lose is no longer where he was before. He is now wherever you are."

- Pamela Lannom is editor

of The Hinsdalean.

Readers can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean