The Gearins, as a family, were scattered throughout the hills of eastern Ohio, between East Liverpool and Youngstown, and in another direction, to Steubenville. Their prominence, which was not based in finances but in long tenure, dated back to the late 1700s, which I suppose made them eligible to be Daughters and Sons of the Revolution, and perhaps some of them had joined.
I dated Ronda, the athletic blonde one, for a while — she was about three years younger than I — and later performed her marriage ceremony to Myron Jones, thus reaffirming that there were no hard feelings to our parting. I believe that Mary Gearin, from whom I learned the lesson I share today, was Ronda’s great-great aunt. Or, maybe great grandmother.
This was the lesson, learned from Mary when she was 95; you never expect to bury the next generation. There is no shock like burying son, daughter, stepchild, or I suppose nephew or niece. That lesson was reaffirmed this week, with the shock of burying my stepson, Gregory.
Mary’s daughter, Marie Allmon (the Allmons were another old line family) was 75 years old; her husband George was 78. To me, in my mid-twenties at the time, those ages seemed ancient.Now, they seem merely middle aged. More to the point, both Marie and George had cancer, and seemed in a race to see who would die first. Marie did.
Out of consideration for Ronda, and at her request, I went to visit Mary, and learned then the previously mentioned lesson. My logical mind told me, Marie was 75 years old, and a cancer patient — this in the mid-1980’s, when cancer was still, far more often than now, a death sentence.
I had sense enough not to intrude my logical mind into the conversation, though, as Mary reminisced with me about raising her five children, and how, as a parent, you never expect to bury your children.That was the aspect that stuck in my mind.
You don’t digest the reality all at one time. It is safe to say that we have not digested the reality, only in part. You accept that you will bury your parents, most likely. You know that there is about a fifty fifty chance you will bury your spouse, and your siblings. You do not expect to bury the next generation.
You make mistakes. A few days ago, a friend who was near us for the past week, mentioned that he was running late because he was fetching a load of 100-pound feed bales. Without thinking, I said “ I’ll call Greg; he’ll come help you load them.”
Most of us have made similar blunders, near the death of a loved one.
I did not know my stepson when he was little. I did, however, walk through the trials and challenges of late teens and young adulthood with him. I was not the perfect stepfather; only St. Joseph can ever claim to have been! But I hope I was the best I could be. Among the gifts he left to us, were two incredible grandchildren.
It will be quite a while before I will remember not to say “ Hey Greg, come put this together; I can’t figure it out.” or “Hey Greg, make my phone do- (whatever).” or “Hey, I can’t lift this by myself; get up and help me move it.” It will be weird to enter the house and not see The Food Channel, left on in the living room by a young man who watched it during his lunch break.
You never expect it to be this way. I guess, as Mary said 25-plus years ago, you learn to deal with it, by dealing with it.
Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis Christian High School. He can be contacted at: