Saying Goodbye

IMG_1772The winter wind blew hard and cold across the Nebraska plains (large area of mostly flat land) last week. And in that cold wind, a small group of people stood together in a small cemetery (where people are buried) on the edge of a small town to say goodbye to a remarkable woman.

Vivian was 103 when she died. She was born in 1910, before World War I, and she lived most of her life in or near the very small town of Eldorado in central Nebraska.

Life was quite different when Vivian was young. They traveled mostly by train or horse and buggy (light carriage pulled by a horse). And there was no high school in Eldorado, so she boarded (rented a room) with a family in a larger town about fifteen miles (24 km) away so she could go to school.

In high school, Vivian took a special course that earned her a certificate (official document) to teach in a rural (not in the city) school. So after she completed high school, she began teaching in a two-room school not far from where her parents lived.

Vivian married her husband Leland in 1935 during the Great Depression. Times were tough (difficult). Vivian continued to teach and received 45 dollars a month. Leland tried to farm (raise crops like wheat or corn) even though the plains were experiencing the worst drought (time without rain) in history. And the winds that usually brought rain clouds often brought towering (very tall) clouds of dust.

While living on the farm, Leland and Vivian had their first three children – two girls and a boy. Vivian writes in her memoirs (written memories of her life) that “Time went on and we had been on the farm six years and never raised a crop. But they were good years and we enjoyed our little family.”

After six crop failures, it was time to move on (do something different). Leland became the operator and manager of the local Farmers Coop – a service that delivered gas, oil, and other supplies to farmers in the area. Vivian became the Coop bookkeeper (a person who keeps the financial records for a business).

They bought a house, which had four rooms and a tiny (very small) kitchen, for $350. It was small, but it was theirs. And it became home to their little family, which soon included a third girl. Family members loved to return to that small house – and the house they bought later when they retired – for family gatherings at Christmas and other times of the year.

Today Leland and Vivian’s family includes four children, 14 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.

Leland died in 1999 when he was 90, but Vivian lived for 15 more years and continued to enjoy her family. When she turned 100, the entire family gathered for three days of birthday celebration.

Vivian loved her family, and they loved her. She had a great sense of humor (ability to think things are funny). She loved to play games, always played to win, and often did. And if you wanted to know what she thought about something, she was happy to tell you.

Vivian was a devout (having deep religious feelings and commitment) Christian. She was active in her church, read the entire Bible every year, and prayed for her family every day.

When someone once asked Vivian to tell her secret for long life, she replied, “Hating milk, loving chocolate, and God’s care.”

I was there last week in that cold wind to say goodbye to Vivian. Vivian – who I had the privilege (a special opportunity that gives you pleasure) of calling “Mom” for almost 45 years – was my wife’s mother.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

Photo by W. Ediger

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19 Responses to Saying Goodbye

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone,

    Thanks Warren for sharing this personal story.

    I enjoyed reading it and getting to know about Vivian and Leland.

    It is reassuring to know that she went while being loved by so many family members.

    I like the fact that “she was happy to tell you” if you wanted to know something.

    Nowadays, when I get the chance of meeting old people I like to ask them what they think about today’s technology, and smartphones.

    I am also curious to see what they say on how things change and how time goes by so fast.


  2. emiliano says:

    Dear Warren, I like your story so much that I didn´t think it was yours and about
    a member of your family.
    Thank you very much Warren, even more knowing this woman was your wife´s
    My father lives till he was 97 years old and he was also a kind man that enjoy
    life the way this great woman Lilian did.

    Also my mother died with 93 years old but she suffers a lot before she rest.

    Thank you again dear Warren, it is really very beautiful story.

  3. emiliano says:

    Warrem, I think your style is great, I would like to write half the good English you do, but
    I know that is impossible.

    I am going to read your post once and again because you story is wonderful and so good
    nice written.

    It is a real good lesson.

    Thank you very much.

  4. Parviz says:

    It took my breath away

  5. elcomandant says:

    It’s a wonderful story. Mainly because this couple was able to form a big family. I’m happy to hear your family story and I can imagine how much you loved it.

    On the other hand, and now speaking about English language, I realized that you use the expresion “my wife’s mother” instead of “my mother in law”. Is that because it is one more loving way to refer to a such lovely woman? Is it because the first expresion shows more affection?. Is it equal to use an expression or other one?. Could you explain that in more detail please?

    Don’t worry If you can’t I’ll understand it perfectly. Thanks in advance.

    Greetings 😀

  6. lilian says:

    Dear Warren
    I am sorry for your loss ,please accept my condolences ,she was a great woman and I am sure everyone there has already missed her .seems she had been through a tough but in the same way graceful life.

  7. Warren Ediger says:

    elcomandant – Good question. Yes, I chose “my wife’s mother” because it’s more personal – at least to me – and I wanted to bring my wife into the story at that point.

    BTW, it’s mother-in-law – with hyphens.

    Thanks for asking.


  8. Juan (Colombia) says:

    Dear warren thank you very much for sharing this experience even when it was personnal. No everybody in the world does something like that. I really enjoyed reading it and I want to congratulate you for the fact of turning a sad moment into an oportunity to teach ESL community good english. It extremly reinforce the theory that you and Jeff are real devotes of teaching good english. My regards.

  9. Parviz says:

    Lucky Warren,
    You must have learned a lot from her.

  10. SD says:

    I really impressed. Your writting style is wonderful. It’s proud of me to have the privilege of learning English from you and ESL team.

    Thanks to all of you and your creative endeavor

  11. Genji says:

    Dear Warren.
    Thank you for posting a impressive story.
    I like listening to a true lifelong story.
    You have my sympathy.
    May your mother in law rest in peace.

  12. sara says:

    Thanks Dear Warren for sharing,may you & your wife live as long as they did with health & happiness and we could have the privilege of learning from you.

  13. Øyvor says:

    How lucky you are who knew such a woman!!

    Somehow I`m able to visualize this very well, as I..and all mine live in this tiny village up in north..
    simple living, but oh, so much joy..despite all hard work..

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience!

  14. November says:

    Hello Ediger,
    I’m terribly sorry for your lost because ms. Vivian was surely a down-to-earth woman.
    It is wonderful that she could enjoy life as much as she could, and 103 is indeed an unreachable age for most of the people (I wish my grandparents could live that long).
    I don’t like neither milk or chocolate that much, but after reading this, I may try to love chocolate a little bit more .. maybe the bitter taste which mixed with sweetness will make me happy and live healthier 🙂



  15. Annie says:

    Very good writing. I know it was written from the bottom of the heart. very touching…
    From this artical I leaned how a typical American lady’s life is and it brings me peace and joy.

    Dear Vivian, Rest in Peace!

    Annie from China

  16. emiliano says:

    Vivian was born four years before than my mother Paquita and my father Emiliano who were born in 1914
    when first war was in Europe.
    Vivian was married four years before that my parents that were married in 1939 when Spanish Civil War
    was over and the Second War was begining in Europe, they married in Salas de los Infantes (Burgos).
    My sister was born in 1941 in the same city, Salas, when Second War was in Europe. My other sister
    was born in a Little village of Burgos in the year 1942 and the second war asolate the world.

    When the Second War was finishing my parents had the third boy in Madrid, the capital of Spain, and life
    was really very hard in the Spanish lands.
    The dictator Franco has been in the wrong side and all the country were punished and isolated by the
    Not Marshall help to Spain, even there was forbiden any kind of commerce with that country.

    The hungry in Spanish lands were the rule to every body, and my parents have a very hasr time to
    grew up their children.
    There were not coal to burn, not bread to eat, not milk to drink, not coffe, not sugar, not olil, not
    chocolate, in fact nothing that not were strictly necessary to survive.

    Dear Warren, life over those years was hard, but people was happy and my mother and father were
    absolutely great with all their family and children.
    Lot of relatives of my father and mother came to the big city from Burgos and be hospedated with
    Paquita and Emiliano in their house, mine too, till the moment they had a work and got married.

    All my parent´s life their house was a place where relatives were going for years and had feasts
    with good food and nice meetins where the family shared their rest time in the week ends.

    All this was over about the sixties when the Spanish people were accepted in Europe and tourist
    started to come here.

    Thank you Warren, I have enjoyed your story so much and it is sure Vivian was like a second
    mother for you, lucky to have her in your family.


  17. emiliano says:

    Cuca´s mother was born in 1907 in Santander, she had one brother and two sisters
    and her father was hair dresed in the city.
    Josefa, that´s the name of Cuca´s mother, was married in 1931 in Santander, with
    a man called Agustin, who was born in Salamanca the same year than Josefa, which
    was the name of the girl.

    Once married they came to Madrid, where they had four children. The two younger
    were dead in their Madrid house along the Civil War as life in the Capital was very hard
    in the City.
    Thousand of people died in the city by hungry, the war, and fusilated by their ideas.
    Cuca´s father was in prission for his ideas too, but after some time he was liberated
    once again.
    Cuca was born when her parents thought it was not possible to have more children.
    When she was born there were ten persons in the house, her family and her father´s
    family as they have not any house in the city.
    Several houses were destroyed in the Civil War and people have to live with their

    Cuca grew up among adults, she was the baby and the Little children as her brother
    and sister were fifteen of forteen years older than her.
    She was taught for her brothers as they started to go to the university.
    Cuca´s father wanted that his children could study a carrer in Madrid University.

    It was not posible for Cuca as Agustin, her father, died in 1960 and she had to work
    with 17 years old.

    You may see that life for my dear Cuca was even hard than mine as she lost her
    dear father when she was only 14 years old.

    Thank you Warren your story insipired me to tell our story too.
    Life in Spain has been very very hard but Spanish people are cheerful despite it.
    Those time the families and Friends helped each other a lot, just the same as
    now with the crisis, time repeats its circles after all.


  18. Cary says:

    I like this: the secret of long life is “Hating milk, loving chocolate, and God’s care.”

  19. elcomandant says:

    Thanks, Warren, for answering . And thanks for teaching me too. From now on I’ll use “mother-in-law”
    Have a good monday.

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