We lost my mother-in-law last week. She was 98-years-old so people expect that she was probably in poor health, but in reality the end came quickly. Only three weeks before she entered the hospital she took the bus to a doctor’s appointment all alone. She had offers of help but – no thank you. She was a woman who, when she made up her mind to do something, was going to do it!
If you’ve ever heard me talk about my MIL over the years it was to say that she was the best MIL a girl could have. She never competed, never judged, never demanded anything for herself. She was thankful that I was married to her son.
This is the family’s own Queen Elizabeth, or Betty, at our annual fourth of July party three years ago. You might look at this picture and assume she was a sweet old lady but my mother-in-law? She was so much more.
Betty was a stay-at-home mom with her five boys (yes FIVE), completed an English degree once they were raised, and then began her second career. A career that lasted well into her seventies. She didn’t tell anyone at the junior high where she worked how old she was because, well, it was really none of their business now was it?
My MIL was well read. She loved reading a variety of things, everything from history to recipe books. My husband says that when the other kids in the neighborhood were eating mac ‘n cheese their family was taste testing exotic food items didn’t grace most people’s tables in the 1950s and 60s.
My MIL was concerned about equality for all people and she never said an unkind word about anyone. She wouldn’t hear one either.
My MIL’s family was her everything. She loved her five boys, their wives, her grandchildren-including those who were grands by marriage. She treated all equally and always wanted to know the latest news about them.
My MIL was tough. She had all of the typical old age aches and pains but she never complained. She asked instead, after the welfare of others.
My MIL was independent. She refused to be bothered with suggestions that they move into assisted living. They continued to live in their senior community without help at 97 and 98 years of age. Yes, my FIL Jack was the younger man 😉
My MIL had a strong faith from childhood. She knew where she would be on the day she would leave this earth.
My MIL had intuition. During her last days at home, before she was taken to the hospital, she told my FIL not to go too far or be gone too long when he ventured out from their apartment. She sensed that “something might happen” while he was gone.
My MIL was patient. She slipped into an unresponsive state in the final few days at the hospital but people kept talking to her and telling her that there were family members still on their way to see her. She held on until all that could make it had arrived.
My MIL was private. I talked to my niece-in-law on the phone the last day and told her that sometimes people need permission to let go. Stacey agreed and said that she would probably pass when the voices around her became quiet. She did. When all the family left for dinner that evening, she quietly passed with her husband of 76 years by her side. This was as it was meant to be.
Sweet. What does that mean? My MIL was kind, caring, pleasant, smart, and engaging. But her strength of character made her far more than just a “sweet old lady.”
I’m sad I’ll never see her again but I’m pretty sure she’s had a nice reunion with my mom, and she’s met my dad by now too. I know that in the flash of a moment (because that’s what life is) I will see them all again. Until then, I’m thankful for the role she played in my life. She will be missed.
Thank you for listening to my heart today.
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