Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Passing of Aaron R. Roland by Cyma Shapiro

Aaron was my father-in-law.  Aaron died last month; last week, we held a Memorial Service for him.
I’m writing this blog post in memory of him.  I’m writing this to honor and acknowledge my husband’s grief; the loss for my four children; the pain in my heart. I’m also writing this because I want a few simple moments to reflect on Aaron R. Roland.
As a devout Baptist/Methodist, Bud and his wife, Sarah, welcomed me, a Jew, into their lives with open arms; much of the rest of the family did not. They also graciously accepted when their only son, my husband, later converted to Judaism. There was no discussion and no repercussions.
Aaron was a product of his environment – grew up in coal-mining country, struggled to get his high school degree, and left to serve in the war. He and his wife lived in company housing for most of their lives – just happy that they could provide a stable environment for their two children. And while Aaron was not at all a model father or husband, his overtures to us went far to show the man he truly was and gave inkling to the goodness, realness and pureness that my husband surely is. I waited a long time to find my husband – a gem of a man. The real deal. And, while not cut from the same cloth as the rest of his extended family, those important, admirable traits were very much part of his DNA.  And, that DNA came from his father.
When I became older, I started reading the obituary section of our local newspaper. Sometimes, I would even read the obituaries in the New York Times.  Nearly every time I’d read about someone’s life and legacy I’d think that I would have loved to have met them, or that their life was so fascinating that I hoped the people around them knew of their intricacies and life-achievements before they passed on.  It always felt sad to learn about them in death; many times I thought I would have loved to have spent time with them in life. I’d also think about how many people we pass by and dismiss simply as one or two-dimensional entities – innumerable fleeting images in our daily lives - only to realize that all of them are three-dimensional and most of them had great life stories to tell.  Many of us would often learn about them after their passing – through obituaries and memorials; often we’d wish we’d known these things when they were alive.
But, here is the simple message: all of these people had a purpose on this earth. All of them did many great things large and small. And, all of them had touched many lives along the way. And, then they were gone.
So, although “Bud/Pop-Pop” was a gunner in the Korean War, and a 25-year employee for the Philadelphia Electric Company, his life might have gone unnoticed were it not to for his three greatest acts: serving his country; his acceptance of my husband and I; and the legacy he left behind.
I have cried many times in the last few weeks.  He will be sorely missed.

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