family · Grief

Peeps and Pictures

My husband’s youngest brother, Ken, passed away last September in Kansas. The New York memorial service was held this past Friday.

Bud’s sister, Jeannie, gave a eulogy. It reminded me a little of my own words about my brother Stewart — how we all carry pieces of our loved ones with us.

In her eulogy, Jeannie said, “[Ken] was the kind of person who would buy a huge roll of paper, paint, a palette, and not brushes, but Marshmallow Peeps for his kids to paint with for Easter.” I loved that image of Ken — fun, creative, involved with his kids.

The day after Ken’s memorial service, we had a Zaengle family reunion. Bud is number two of thirteen children — plus a cousin came to live with them when her mother died.

So Bud’s parents raised fourteen children.

In a tiny house.

With one bathroom.

But I digress.

His father passed away over 10 years. Bud’s brother, Jack, passed away in 2007, and then Ken in 2017.

On Saturday I tried to sneak a photo while a real photographer was taking a group picture of the remaining nuclear family. Clearly, I am NOT a photographer — Tom’s face is hidden behind Jeannie’s pink hat, Don is half hidden by Joe, and Mary is all but obliterated by Anne. But here they are:

Maybe when the big group pictures are available, I’ll post one here.

I left the party early on Saturday to bring Mary to a “thing.” (Trust me, there WILL be a post about that at a future time.)

The next morning, Bud was telling me about what I missed in the evening.

“Ellie did the cutest thing,” he said. Ellie is Ken’s daughter.


Bud said, “She had a box full of little squares of yellow paper. She had drawn a picture on each one, and the picture told a story. She was handing them out and I got one of the last ones.”

He pulled it out of his pocket to show me.

“The person on the right,” Bud explained, “loves candy. He’s standing outside a candy store and looking in the window at all the candy. And he’s drooling because he wants to eat it all.”

I laughed.

And looked for the Peeps in the candy display.

Clearly, Peeps would not be found in the candy store though. They would be in the art store. With all the brushes.

I could see Ken in Ellie and in her picture.

Thank you, Jeannie, for that reminder to look for Ken. It’s a beautiful way to remember those who have gone before.


Ashokan Farewell

It felt like such a private moment. The delicate strains of the violin playing Ashokan Farewell swirled around us in the great sanctuary.

I watched her play, and then I had to look away.

It was Bob Herst’s memorial service. I knew that I needed to be there.  Our families’ lives have long been intertwined. Both families, ours and the Hersts, arrived in Cooperstown in 1967. They had four children, we had five — my youngest brother the only one without a corresponding Herst.

In those early years, I sat in the front row and played tic-tac-toe with Calvin on the nap of the velvet pew cushions of the Presbyterian Church while his father stood at the lectern and preached. Calvin knew the Lord’s Prayer and all the words to the Nicene Creed; at the age of 8, I was duly impressed.

We vacationed with them in Myrtle Beach. One time, at a crowded restaurant, in order for our large party to be seated, we had split up — adults at one table, children at another. Ricky harassed our waitress by flipping up his eyelids and batting them at her while he ordered.

Oh, the memories.

When someone at the memorial service talked about the Herst’s hospitality, I remembered sitting in their kitchen while Ricky prepared blue mashed potatoes. I mentioned it to him yesterday.

“You were ahead of your time,” I told him. “I thought of you when they started coming out with blue foods.”

I thought of me when they started making blue foods,” he laughed.

But their house was always open. I never felt unwelcome there.

And it seems like there was always music there. Sweet music. Rich music. Cello. Violin. Piano. Trumpet. French horn.

Calvin played the organ at my wedding. He has made a living of music.

Jean Herst -- waiting to play
Jean Herst — waiting to play

He accompanied his mother at the memorial service.

Ashokan Farewell — gentle and sorrowful.

She began playing solo and then Calvin joined in.

Although, she had a music stand in front of her, I don’t think she looked at it. Her eyes were closed and the music rose as the bow passed over the strings.

Heartache was etched in the lines on her face, but love poured from the violin. I watched until I couldn’t bear it.

She held the last note and left it lingering over us.

When she stopped, silence fell on the seated congregation.

How can anyone speak after that?

playing Ashokan Farewell
playing Ashokan Farewell

Later I hugged her.

“You were so brave,” I told her. “You played beautifully.”

“It was his request,” she said.

Nearly 66 years together. She honored him well.