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Posted on Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 7 a.m.

Fighting to move past tragedy will be vital for many, though difficult

By Robert Faber

Several years ago the editor of this paper invited me to write a series of columns on the facts of aging. He felt that buried in my eight-plus decades of life I had probably achieved some degree of expertise that might prove helpful to those still on the edge. I agreed with his presumption and was flattered by the offer, so for the following several years I wrote columns on aging that soon morphed into assorted reactions to some of the facts and problems of life in general.

Time has passed and - after sixty-one years of marriage - so has my wife, Eunice. And for the same reason that I was asked to write my column to prepare some of its readers for the next phase, now submit this single piece in preparation for the phase after that.

Unfortunately, I can find no sound preparation for that next phase. The goal in such a long and wondrous relationship, after all, is simply more of same and any variation from that is - or was - beyond my interest or comprehension.


While moving on may seem impossible at times, sometimes it is a necessary fight to keep moving forward.

In the same way that old age, for those fortunate enough to achieve it, is simply a late chapter in the affairs of us all, progression onward through death is equally inevitable. At the time of its occurrence, however, it is not necessarily one that is comprehensible. Despite the pain of my loss, it remains a tragedy that awaits most of us and if there is a way to reduce the suffering of the survivor - or at least to limit its longevity - then that should be examined and implemented.

Yesterday, while seated in the lobby at the the University of Michigan’s Physical Therapy building, an elderly man of about 70 or 75 (a youngster by my current standards) hobbled in on his cane and was greeted by the receptionist with a, “Hi, Mr. So-and-so. And how are you today?” The response was an equally hearty, “Great! I’m walking and doing things - with pleasure and not much pain.” Speaking to him as he left the facility I congratulated him on his enthusiasm despite his physical problems and his response was, “Why not? I’m not going to let problems of inconvenience dictate to me what I will or will not do.” He had been crippled by some sort of painful leg and back problem about a year ago and has since been fighting back. After a year of therapy he has reduced his limitations, was now able to walk - slowly and unsteadily - for about two miles and was increasingly anxious to move on.

And that should be an inspirational model for the rest of us. My wife’s death decimated me. I loved her and relied on her presence before she died and on those memories of her afterward. But that must not be the end of the story for the survivors. All those friends who had suffered similar such tragedies have been advising me to find new interests, to continue on. Whether I can or will is still to be determined, but what is already clear is that the fight itself must be undertaken.

The richness of our relationship continues - looking back with pleasure and satisfaction on the friends we made, the children we have and the memories we created. Those decades of joys and love will never be repeated, but their absence should not be allowed to shape the future. And that is what that old man’s enthusiasm teaches all of us - work to embrace moments of the future rather than to rely on comparisons with the past.

At least, that is the theory. I’m not yet sure I can buy it.

Robert Faber has been a resident of Ann Arbor since 1954. He previously owned a fabric store and later a travel agency. He served a couple of terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. His wife of more than 60 years, Eunice, died March 20. He may be reached at



Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 2:08 a.m.

Thank you for your view of life, Mr. Faber......


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

Mr. Faber, may God comfort you during this difficult time. May He send his angels to surround you with peace.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 3:15 a.m.

Mr. Faber: It is a searing pain to find oneself alone. The Washtenaw Legal News had a piece with good insight: Allow yourself to feel the pain. Don't try to mask it, dull it, or push it away. If you let yourself work through it, then it helps you to heal. Thank you for fighting your fight. Your strength helps others to find their courage and healing. I am sorry for your loss.


Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

I have treasured reading your columns. With my deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved wife. What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower, We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind...


Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

from William Wordsworth's Ode to Intimations of Immortality


Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

Dear Mr. Faber, You had the strength to get up out of bed, face the day and write this difficult piece. That is a beginning on your journey forward. You also give a gift to every person that reads this. A reminder that each day, each moment is precious and we must remember that for ourselves and for those we love. Thank you.

Resident A2

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Mr. Faber, thank you for writing your story and my condolences on the loss of your dear wife. How wonderful that you two shared a deep love that so many of us dream of. Hold tight to your memories and may God bless you.


Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Bob, I am sorry for your loss. But, I want to thank you and the the commenters who help remind me that I am not the only one facing challenges in aging and despite the problems, one can age gracefully.

Dog Guy

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

Offering no insight, wit, or revelation other than keep on with the keeping on, Faber reassures me that I am not uniquely missing out on any secret wisdom of aging.


Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

Mr. Faber, you have my deepest sympathies on the loss of your wife and the grief you have suffered. Not to diminish your experience but my wife and I have both read your column and were struck by these thoughts. We have been married 33 years and know someday one of us will experience the others passing. However bad we feel then will pale in comparison to the grief we felt when our daughter was taken from us just over 2 years ago. Since that time many of our friends and even some family members have abandoned us because they don't want to think it might happen to them. We are grateful we have each other and fell our marriage has been strengthened by this tragedy. We are also grateful for the few people who stayed by us during this period.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

Joe, so sorry about your loss but if it helps any, please know that because of your well-written remarks, I intend to hug my daughters a lot more often. God bless you both.

martini man

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

Joe, My wife and I having lost a son, know that there is no pain nor grief that can compare . Unless someone has experienced it , they have no idea what it's like. And I hope others will not have to find out. But unfortunately, many will.


Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

Joe, I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter. I know all about people abandoning you when you have a horrible thing happens to your child. I agree that people don't want to think about it happening to them. I guess all the we can do is try not to be like that....and offer to be there for others who are faced with a tragedy. I remember two people, one friend and one family when it happened pacing in my room saying "I don't know what to do for you..." In reality of course they were doing the best thing they could do....standing by me when I needed it the most. My heart goes out to you and your wife. Stay strong.


Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

Mr Faber, Thank you for the thoughts. Us youngsters ( 63 ) would do well to listen.

tom swift jr.

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

Mr. Faber, my condolences, I wish you the best, grief is a difficult process. Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts.


Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.

Excellent, Mr Faber. My condolences, again, for the loss of your wife. The hardest part of aging is loss. I HATE it. I hate losing people I love. One thing I've found that works is when I feel that pain, I force myself to replace it with gratitude. Being thankful for what I have been given....length of years, fair health, etc. makes it impossible to wallow in my losses. Funny when young folks tell me "I don't want to get old if I'm sickly, or deaf, or blind "...or some such thing. I just smile. Because in reality when you reach the "golden years" you learn to savor each day you are given. You don't need to be in tip top just need to LOVE the life you have been given and be thankful for it. Thanks for your insight, Mr Faber. Cash


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

And thanks for yours, Cash.