Memory Bridge

After the death of my mother- in- law last April, this story was born.  I serve this as a memorial on her first anniversary in Heaven…

memory_bridgeAt the end of one intense counseling session, my therapist made a wise statement about loss.  She described our losses as connected by bridges of experiences . . . hence relationship.  Over time the bridges give us access to a devoted friend, a pet or family member.  When that access stops because of a life change, we have to adjust to living a different way.

The old adage, “Do not burn your bridges,” could be inserted in this instance.  I have always tried to end periods of my life by being gracious and accepting of difficult change. When I look back, I burned few bridges.  My father taught me to be cautious with this because I might need to reach out to that person or bridge at another time.  This is not always easy but I heeded it as best I could over the years.

One of my main bridges recently broke. On March 10 my 92 year old mother-in-law, Bernadine Hartzell, passed away from cancer complications.  Knowing her since I was fourteen years old, she was a bridge to my late husband, John, to my deceased parents and to multiple events throughout my life of seventy years.  In the future, I will no longer be making those regular trips to visit her but I have many memories that I will always cherish.

So, in rethinking this “Bridge” thing, could our connections after a person leaves this earthly life still be based on memory?  Can this memory keep us joined to our past but in a different way? Perhaps . . .

Frequently, I joke with my husband, Jack, that someday while we rock in our chairs on the porch of the nursing home, our memories will keep us warm with happiness.  Even the bad memories will subside into thoughts — perhaps even more accepting — because our world becomes smaller as we age.  Maybe we become more realistic and find peace as the days go by.  Perhaps, we are even happier because of this acceptance.  In other words, the struggles of life are less active.

My relationship with my mother-in-law was not only based on love but also on our differences. Being the mother of an only son, I fully understand the power of love for my male child. Perhaps this is because they are the future of our families, a large part of our husbands, their fathers, and also another “man in our lives.”

Now, as I adjust this broken bridge in my life, I must take time to accept the change. I pray that it will be an easy transition, filled with little apprehension since she is no longer suffering. I already have built a new bridge lined with the softness of love, the knowledge that she is again with her deceased family members and hopefully singing “alto” in the heavenly choir! I also will take time to just “miss her.” That is essential to me because grieving has been a part of my life. No regrets or complaints because I have been blessed with her as a loving relationship.

Bernadine was that to me!

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:

    One of the best in this blog!

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