In Memory of Hazel

Ron Howes, husband of my high school and college classmate, Hazel Ehrnreiter Howes, tells the story.

When Hazel was diagnosed with cancer this past Spring, all plans for travel were put away, we moved into the family lake cabin, making those 40 mile one-way trips to see the doctors. Tests and more tests, radiation treatments, a trip to the Mayo Clinic, where three doctors told us thyroid cancer was normally slow-moving, but this one was especially aggressive.

When a CAT-Scan revealed a new mass that wasn't seen in the one taken just a month earlier, Hazel was hospitalized and radiation treatments were to begin again. It was at that point that common sense stepped in, with the medical team admitting they couldn't get ahead of this one, recommending Hazel be transported back to our cabin by ambulance.  

A hospital bed was set-up in the living room with a good view of the lake, and nurses came in to help us attempt to keep her comfortable. I asked the doctor, "how long", and received the standard answer "six months".

The call went out to our nine children, who came rushing home to be with her.

Hazel lived 6 days.

A week has passed since Hazel died, my son Tom, who came in from the Washington, D.C. area, has been spending time with me here at the cabin, keeping me company and providing great support. The funeral is Tuesday, six of my sons will serve as pallbearers, my son Jim, an operatic tenor, will sing, my daughters Sarah and Annie have been working non-stop, along with my sister-in-law Laura, to arrange the funeral, purchase the double cemetery lot (I finally know where I'll be spending eternity), and I couldn't have survived the week without them.

Today, I thought maybe I should start moving Hazel's clothing and personal possessions from the motorhome into the lake cabin, so that the family could go through them, decide what they would like to keep, and what they felt should be donated to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. It took me all afternoon, almost all of what she'd accumulated in life was in that 30 foot class A motorhome, packed in the closets, under the bed in containers, and I'd even added an additional clothes rack back in the bedroom, an area we always called "the captain's quarters".
Going through Hazel's bedside stand, I found a small notebook. Most of the pages were blank, except for this, written in Hazel's handwriting:
Hello Little One,

You've been with me about 2 weeks now, I'm so glad you're here. I'm going to do my best to grow a wonderful body for your wonderful spirit to live in for a lifetime. I'm your mother and I welcome you and will do my best to love and protect you in your smallness.

Sometimes I'm probably going to be grumpy, and I hope it's not often, I'm sorry about those times. I'm going to enjoy your time with me. It's good to have you so close and always here when I do the dishes or sweep the floors, or go for a walk or read, or snuggle up for the night, you're always here warm and safe with me.

I told your daddy about you, he's excited that a new little person will be coming to live with us.
We don't know which of their children she was expecting, but I think it was Glenn, the first of their 10 children.


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