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Hazel Aug.1922 – Dec.2015

Sunday, January 10, 2016

(This posting under construction until I figure out the video/sound file insert thingie in this new version of the app) – I would say rest in peace but that would hardly be her preference. Kiss my ass and call it buttermilk, was, for many years, Hazel's response to any question as to what someone who might object to her should do. At the funeral everyone who asked for a copy of the picture requested that the phrase be included. Inexplicably everyone wanted the color version.

I managed to get an audio file of Rachael Bartlebaugh, our niece, singing her grandmother's favorite hymn at the funeral. The best of the tributes – I apologize for the file opening a new page, had to upload it to clip.it. Hopefully this will change in the future.


Hazel Anderson Hodge / Bartlebaugh was my mother-in-law (my wife's father died when she was a baby). She passed at the age of 93 Christmas week – leaving behind a sister who will be a hundred in a few weeks. I shot the picture above a decade ago at Nan's nephew's wedding (a grandson). The most fun any of us have ever seen this strong woman have. Hazel almost never wore sunglasses. But when she put them on, I immediately grabbed the shot. People aren't always easy to capture in a way that conveys what's behind the mask. To me this shot, with the added mask, does.

     The end was expected. Hazel, though she never forgot who those closest to her were, was in such an advanced stage of dementia that for the last three years she held a doll close to her, convinced it was a real baby. She often thought her parents were still alive. She spent those three years in a small, very nice home here in Havre de Grace. Except when we had to be on the Island, we spent an hour and a half or more at lunch time with her three days a week. Nan's brothers and a cousin, coming much farther, filled in the rest of the week – she had visitors every day. I took on the assignment of making her laugh.

She could make me laugh too. We would make sure we had chocolates with us (the Bomboy's factory store is across the street) for when she decided she wasn't going to eat lunch that day – she wasn't easy to argue with. The problem with that was that she liked to share, and simply could not accept that I don't especially like chocolate (or sweets in general for that matter). I would eventually give in and eat a piece, only to have her forget within minutes and be back to working to convince me that I really did like it and needed try it. I would just have to laugh at the hopelessness of my situation. This doesn't even address her attempts to share her the lunch itself.

     I'll confess to never really wanting to speak at a funeral before. I surprised myself this time in that, even though I badly wanted to, I was incapable. As happy as I was for Hazel that her long ordeal was over, and as much as I felt that her life was not wasted, I was much more broken up than I expected. The woman was simply a force to be reckoned with. It's not sadness, there's really nothing to be sad or grieve about. It's very simply the giant hole she leaves behind.

     Hazel warmed to me slowly, I was that damned yankee who married her daughter. But she eventually came around. Born poor in North Carolina, she had to quit school and raise her four younger siblings at about eleven. The rest of the story isn't much better, some worse, and not mine to tell. 

If there is a heaven, with Hazel around, it certainly will not be peaceful garden that Dante envisioned.

Give 'em hell up there Hazel…