Last Tuesday, I played the piano at church for the funeral of an 87-year-old man who had lots of friends and a very interesting life. His wife, Rose, had suffered through a journey similar to mine as Alzheimer’s Disease gradually took her husband away. Until I read the obituary, I did not know that Rose and her husband Bob never had children. Seeing Rose at church services and luncheons, I had assumed she was a grandma like everybody else. But no. At the funeral, the family didn’t even fill one pew. There were just Rose, her brother-in-law and his wife and a nephew. We still had a pretty good crowd because Bob had many friends, and the Knights of Columbus paraded in their regalia, but not much family.
I don’t know why they didn’t have children. I didn’t know them very well, and the funeral wasn’t a good time to ask, “Hey, how come you don’t have any kids?” God knows none of us enjoy that question.They married relatively late in life. Bob was 42, and I’m assuming Rose was about the same age. Maybe they just couldn’t get pregnant. Infertility treatments had not yet become common.
One of the speakers at the funeral was Gina, a young woman whom Bob had taught to play the accordion. She said Bob had always wanted a wife and two girls, and she became one of those girls. She sat with the family during the service, her restless little boy making everyone smile with his black suit and bow tie and red rubber boots.
When she asked him to become her teacher, Gina said, Bob started to say no, then told her he thought God was giving him one of the girls he had always wanted. So maybe the answer is that you accept the family you’re given, through birth or otherwise.
It’s not the same as your own, but perhaps God has placed young people in your life who can help fill that emptiness. Rest in peace, Bob, up in heaven playing the “Beer Barrel Polka.”