The Doorbell

This is one of my first attempts at writing fiction. Yet, the story is based on the real life events following D-day.  All of us who have sent someone off to war or experienced it ourselves will feel the sadness when the officer arrives at the door.

My day started like all the others in my 36 years.  A sunny day was promised, the birds sang cheerful songs, and my coffee percolator “perked” on the yellow kitchen counter.  The day’s date was June 11, 1944… a day that changed my life forever.

About eleven o’clock, the doorbell rang.  My old Yorky barked, running to the entryway.  Glancing quickly at the yellow star pasted on the front window, I opened the door.

folded_flagThere standing in full dress uniform with a somber look on his face was an army officer.  “Oh no,” my heart screamed as I fell on my knees to the hard wood floors.

Raising my hand with my head bowed, I felt an envelope being placed in the palm of my hand.  Knowing what this all meant, tears flooded from my eyes.  My neighbor down the street had had this same visit last week.  I was terrified.

Reading the opening words, their meaning put a dagger in my heart. “We regret to inform you…” Reality was here.  My son, John, had died June 6, on what was to become a day the world would never forget named D Day.

As days became weeks, I received further communication from the government as to my choice for his burial — at home here in the United States or in France where he died.

Later I learned that many families whose sons had died that same day, faced the same heart breaking decision.  I chose with thousands of others to leave him there with his friends in France.  We were told that a National Cemetery was being created.

I believe that this was the hardest, loneliest decision I had ever made.  I say “I” because his father, my husband, had died two years earlier.  Knowing that my decision would have been “their” decision, I was at peace.

Needless to say, I felt very alone. My family was gone from me, but together in heaven.

Picturing father and son reunited, perhaps throwing a football to each other, I continued my life but in a completely different way. I remarried in the fifties and moved on with my life.

On June 6, 1984, my second husband and I visited John in Normandy.  Not only was my son there, but also 9,634 other casualties of the war in France.  Each of the grave markers told a different story but all for the same reason.  Never did we imagine forty years before, that we would be able to share this experience — closure of a sort.

Looking back, I think we were comforted that our American boys were all together and that we were honoring them here at their final resting place!

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

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