On September 18 of this year, my beloved stepmother, Willene Schaefer Hardy, died in Kansas City, Missouri, after less than 24 hours in a hospice facility. Prior to that, she had resided for several years in two very good assisted care facilities: first in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she lived with my father for 41 years (until he died of heart failure and Alzheimer’s), and then in Kansas City, where four of my five sisters and most of their family members live.
Willene had polio at the age of six. While she could still walk with the aid of leg braces and crutches when she married my father in 1969, it was not long before it became necessary for her to use a wheelchair. After my father’s death, her health steadily declined. She died with severe, whole–body disability and a long list of serious illnesses, including mid–stage kidney failure and the beginnings of leukemia.
My sisters and I loved Willene deeply, and we will all miss her very, very much. Besides being a loving stepmother, she was intelligent, witty, highly educated (with a PhD in English), a faithful correspondent, generous, liberal, tolerant, patient, and amazingly stoical. She was always ready to put the interests of others before her own, and she gave generously to many charities.
Thinking a lot about her and her sterling character, I am newly inspired to try as hard as I can to be more like her.
David and I wish to mention here that Willene was, among all our family members and friends, uniquely supportive of our writing and our book editing work. I could always count on her for thoughtful and honest opinions of our writing and that of others, as well as her opinions of the many book covers that we designed. I will miss such thoughtful judgment and commentary from her more than I can say. In addition, she kindly purchased many of the books by us and by our editing clients.
Thanks to all for reading this. While none of you knew Willene, of course all of you have suffered your own losses of beloved family members and friends. Thus you know that the death of a person who was so significant to you leaves a hole that can never be filled. All we can do is try to remember the good times, be glad that such wonderful people were in our lives, and make the very best of the years that we ourselves have left to us, however many those may be.
Also, please remember that you can never know how many years are left for those you love. Never miss a chance to tell them, whether they are young, old, or in between, how you feel about them. My sisters and I are glad that Willene knew very well how all of us felt about her.