June 1, 2012

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Joy and sadness during a visit to our hometown

Shirley Vogler MeisterFor weeks, Paul and I looked forward to an extended weekend in our hometown. We know the blessings of enjoying the company of extended family.

Staying with my sister, Beverley, and her husband, John, was well worth the drive to Belleville, Ill. It was good to be there again, and sit on the porch swings to visit with extended family members.

Paul and I were born in Belleville and privileged to have had Catholic educations there. We were married there, too.

Through the years, we’ve made countless trips to Belleville for countless reasons, unfortunately many times because of family deaths.

This time, we happily attended the McKendree University graduation ceremony in Lebanon, Ill.

My niece, JoAnne, a nurse at Belleville Memorial Hospital, earned a master of science degree in nursing education. She and her husband, Ron, have a son and daughter, Jonathon and Allison, who both have worthy educational goals for their futures, too.

Besides spending time with our family, Paul and I also planned to visit with his only cousin left on the Meister side, Antionette Koesterer. Her husband, Ed, preceded her in death. Paul phoned her repeatedly from Indianapolis then again in Belleville, but never received a response.

The next morning, as Paul read the Belleville News-Democrat, which hired me as “social editor” after I graduated from The Academy of Notre Dame, he was shocked to find his cousin’s photo in the obituary section of the newspaper. She died on the day that we drove into town. Paul is now the last living Meister.

Gratefully, we were able to visit some of Antionette’s family at the funeral home before returning to Indianapolis. We also prayed with them and a priest.

Unfortunately, we were unable to attend the Mass of Christian Burial at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Belleville.

We are now praying for her extended family. St. Peter’s, by the way, was for a long time the place of worship for both of our families.

The lesson we have learned from this is that we must continually stay in close touch with our extended families.

If we had written a letter to find out why our calls weren’t being answered, we might have been there more.

Then again, she may have been in a nursing home or hospital for a long time. We don’t know the details, but we do know the pain of not having visited her before her death.

Hindsight is always better than foresight. If nothing else, I hope that readers will take to heart the lesson we sadly learned.

May Antionette forgive us for not being in touch more often, and may God bless all extended families.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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