On March 10th, my 92 year old mother-in-law, Bernadine passed away peacefully . She had suffered a short battle with cancer and now was free of pain. I wrote this story about her to be read at her Memorial. An original poem penned by Bernadine after my husband, her son, passed away in 1998 is also included in this blog. I hope you enjoy the word pictures painted by both pieces.

Choose a Star!

My favorite poet write long ago,
with the beauty of his words,
The “Road Not Taken” by the crowds,
was God’s call that our son heard.

A “Special” friend has told me
whose heart traveled that path unknown,
To choose the “Brightest Star” in Heaven,
and claim it for my own.

With tears and sadness I searched the skies,
and found a star so bright,
Above the gnarled old apply tree,
John climbed with strength and might.

Each cloudless night I find that star,
I named it for our son.
With love I pray, four painful words —
Dear Lord, “They will Be Done!”

BernadineIt’s hard to imagine a world without Bernie Hartzell. She has been a part of my life since I was fourteen years old when I fell in love with her son. I remember that day, the first time I saw John throwing a football to Bruce Newman. Even from a block away, I was smitten with his handsomeness. And so our love story began.

These last seventeen years have been without John. He died in 1998 after valiantly fighting cancer for eight years. I am thankful that his mother suffered for far less time — perhaps a gift from her son. I believe that he has helped her endure these last days of suffering, promising her safe haven in Heaven. I know that Dad too has been beckoning her… and now she is back with two very special men in her life.

So…what does this daughter-in-law want to say about “Bernie”? First, I always knew where I stood with her. Honesty and blatantly speaking out were part of Bernie Hartzell. I also thank her for always choosing family over and above other friendships. I think she loved being a family member. She adored her brother and sisters, always missing them after they died and sharing fond memories of them.

She enjoyed writing stories. In fact, several of her grandchildren inherited this talent expanding it into their careers. I have become a writer late in my own life and I always urged her to write her legacy to leave behind. Those stories of hers that I have in my possession lay safely in the safety deposit box for my granddaughter.

I know we all have our “Bernie” memories. She filled many roles…daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, neighbor and friend. She was one of those to each of us and she blessed our lives for many years.

When my mother died many years ago, Bernie picked up the reins and was there for me…never intending to replace my Mom but to support me as a mother. I thank her for that. The world will be a different place without her but better, because she lived in it for 93 years.

God Bless you Mom!


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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