Where Is Bernadine?

My mother-in-law, Bernadine, died one month ago. Because she had pre-arranged, pre-paid and organized her final wishes, the family followed directions and had her cremated. That was done within the first forty-eight hours after her death. Everyone, though sad, felt good about abiding by her plans and agreed to pick up the ashes at the end of the week.

BernadineA problem arose because no one except my niece, Andrea, wanted to go to the funeral home and bring “Bernadine home.” So she did… bless her heart. Later that day, she called my sister-in-law telling her that Gramma was safely in her back seat, enclosed in a cardboard box! My niece continued to keep us informed as the days went by and the box was moved from place to place, room to room and found its way into several back seats of cars my niece drove to work.

Now, a month later, I inquired via email as to where was “Gramma Bernadine?” My niece quickly retorted that now she was on the laundry room shelf safely stored from her children’s inquisitive hands. Two very active pre schoolers share life with my niece and her husband so “Gramma” is patiently awaiting her final trip to Milwaukee. The memorial service will be held there next week and she will again be next to her beloved husband who died sixteen years ago.

One of our tasks will be to select an appropriate urn for these beloved ashes. She will be placed in an affordable, pre-paid container before resting next to her husband. I can only imagine the joy we all will feel when they are once again back together! The journey will be completed after a long life of 92 years where she can rest forever with God and other deceased loved ones including her son. In other words, they will be a family again waiting for all the rest of us to join them when our time comes.

I have to chuckle about the box of ashes. Bernadine was always in charge! Now her remains are in the charge of someone else. I think my niece is very brave as she cares for this final remnant of her much loved Grandmother. I had to tease her about having Gramma in the back seat of her car because Gramma loved to give directions from that position!

So for now, Gramma is patiently awaiting her return to her beloved state of Wisconsin. Spending most of her life there, she will finally join her entire family of brother, sisters, mother, father and nieces and nephews in the family plot. I think it is a beautiful thing when families are laid to rest together again — something that is quite uncommon in today’s world.

The question “Where is Gramma Bernadine?,” no longer will be uttered from my lips. I, along with everyone else, will know where she is — at least her physical presence. We really know that her final home will not be in an urn, it will be with God who gave her an extraordinary life on earth. I believe she will sing in the heavenly choir, bake in the gourmet kitchen tucked behind heaven’s clouds and hang angel outfits on clotheslines of gold. Those are my wishes for my mother-in-law.

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.

Comments (1)

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  1. john says:

    Classic. I bet all families have a funny story to tell like this for a loved one’s end. Great writing as always from Mary Ann!

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