The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


December 21, 2013

This season, family will celebrate a ‘wonderful life’

- — One of my favorite movies every Christmas season is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In it, actor Jimmy Stewart plays the role of George Bailey, who makes a wish that he had never been born.

Thanks to the guidance of his guardian angel, George learns how much he actually meant to the lives of other people.

With Christmas upon us, I’d like to take time to recognize the  “wonderful life” of my mother-in-law Vinola Lehner.

Today is mom’s 96th birthday and it will be her last. She is nearing the end of life’s journey, which could come very soon – even before or maybe even on Christmas Day.

But she’s OK with that. She is a religious person and has often told me she is ready to go. When I told her Thursday that her birthday is today, she said: “I’d like to be in heaven on my birthday.”

She has truly had a “wonderful life.” She spent most of it in the West and Midwest, before moving to Hermitage in the 1980s with her husband, the Rev. Otto Lehner, to be closer to their daughter and my wife, LaVon.

While dad died 18 years ago, she carried on and has helped make a “wonderful life” for our family. She has been a blessing for our sons Alex and Joel and their extended families. She has become a part of the Saternow family as well, which is pretty big to start with, but is always open to accepting more members.

Her son Jon and his wife Judy visited from South Dakota recently and brought more joy to her waning time.

As her body wore down over recent years, her mind has remained sharp. She has accepted her pending death with grace and her main concern was: “I’m sorry I’m ruining Christmas for you and LaVon.”

That isn’t going to happen, mom. In fact, it will be even more special. Every Christmas Eve we have family and friends to our house for a festive time. This year we will still celebrate Christmas, because I am a firm believer that life goes on.

But at the same time we will also celebrate the wonderful life of Vinola Lehner who has touched the lives of all of us in a wonderful way.

Some people say that it’s sad when a family member passes near Christmas. But why feel that way? What better time to remember a person than each holiday since they live on in the hearts and mind of all of us.

And while she has suffered physically in recent months, she has remained a beacon of light in a time of darkness in her life.

She has accepted her pending passing and so do I. But tears mix with laughter as I celebrate her wonderful life with my family.

And mom – happy birthday. For your sake, I look forward to hearing a bell ring soon on my Christmas tree. When that happens I know that a new angel will be getting her wings.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for the Opinion Page. He can be reached at

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