My beautiful mother-in-law.
We lost her yesterday. She was 92 years old and lived a wonderful life full of love and laughter. Emphasis on love.
So much love.
She was only 21 when her own mother died. That was something we had in common since we both lost our moms at young ages.
It changes a person. There's always a hole in your life where your mom belongs. Mom and I used to talk about that loss. And just how much we missed our moms. I found out it doesn't matter how long your mom has been gone, you miss her at all ages. I had Mom longer than my own mother. I used to tell her, "You didn't give birth to me but you are my mom, too."
One of my favorite photos of Mom. She looks so glamorous. So young and carefree.
Mom loved to have fun. And she loved to travel. Her and a bunch of girlfriends once took a trip to the Big Apple when they were young. She would smile as wide as the day was long every time she talked about that trip. She and a couple of her friends went to bed one night only to wake up and discover that the other two had stayed out all night long. Doing who knows what.
She always sounded a bit shocked at that. And a little envious. I always wondered if she would have liked to stay out all night long, too.
She met my father in law and fell in love. He went off to the Korean war and she waited for him to come back. When he returned they married and settled down to raise their family.
They had four children - my husband, his two sisters, and a younger brother.
She was such a pretty bride. And that dress? Simple and sweet. And oh-so-stunning in real life.
She talked about her wedding day with such joy. It was a small wedding but she was surrounded by the people she loved, marrying the man she loved.
Mom and Dad. These two were so in love. He used to sing "You Are My Sunshine" to her and he had a wonderful voice. We had a family reunion at my sister in law's home up north quite a few summers ago and he decided to sing to her in front of the whole family. He set up a chair in the living room, led her to it and had her sit down. He got down on one knee, held her hand, and started singing. I looked around at the family gathered there and saw tears rolling down several cheeks. It was hard to watch them and not cry - there was so much love between them.
One of the sweetest memories I have.
The night before we were bringing Dad to the nursing home, Mom and I had to go out and get him a few things he would need for his stay.
When we got home, Mom went straight into their bedroom to check on him. K was in there with Grandpa and the two of them started singing "You Are My Sunshine" to Mom. Dad would forget some of the words and K would fill in for him. A sort-of duet.
Mom was crying, I was crying.
K and Grampa just kept singing with such love.
Mom was a fantastic cook. She prepared huge holiday meals for big gangs of people and the food was always hot, delicious, and timed perfectly. She could also whip up a three course dinner from an egg, some water, maybe a slice or two of bread and an apple.
I'm not kidding.
She was a magician in the kitchen.
I will never taste potato salad like hers again. Or chocolate chip cookies. Or molasses cookies. And thinking about those things makes my throat get tight and my eyes sting.
Because she cooked with love. For her family, the cooking always included that love. I know that's what made it taste so good.
She loved the beach. She once told me that her father wasn't really a beach person so they didn't get to go much when she was young. I think that must be why she loved it so much.
Her and Dad came to the beach with us several times when the kids were young. They used to walk for miles, collecting all kinds of shells and rocks. I think the beach was one of her happy places.
I love, love, love her laugh in this photo. Her and J had a special relationship. He made her laugh every day. And she loved to laugh. She would come into the room and say to him, "J, what do you think about...." and they would be off, talking about whatever it was she wanted to talk about that day. Sometimes it was a new technology and she would marvel at what he would tell her and sometimes it was political and they would share their opinions. Sometimes it was controversial and sometimes it was a funny story.
She just loved to talk to him.
Mom and K. Me and mini me.
K used to shadow Mom when she was younger. They baked thousands of cookies together and had hundreds of tea parties and picnics. K said Grandma used to pack a lunch for all of them and then would drag Grandpa out under the tree with them to have a picnic lunch.
And he did it. He would stop working and go sit on a blanket with Mom and two little kids, eating hot dogs and chocolate chip cookies and sipping tea from tiny china teacups.
Because you didn't say no to Mom.
You didn't want to.
She asked for very little and when she did ask it was usually for someone else's benefit.
When the Man and I were young parents, we had the opportunity to move far from home - the Man had received a wonderful work offer and we seriously considered it.
We turned it down for one reason.
J and K were the only grandchildren in the area. They were the only grandchildren in the state. Outside of them, the nearest grandchildren were seven hours away.
The Man knew it would hurt his Mom to lose those kids so we stayed.
We never regretted it. Not once.
One of the best things we ever did was make sure that Mom and Dad were part of their everyday life. They have so many memories with Grandma and Grandpa. Sleepovers and sunny summer days playing in the workshop. Baking cookies and brewing tea for picnics. Playing chess and playing hide and seek. Ball games, open houses, Christmas pageants at church and chorus concerts at school. Awards ceremonies, Grandparents day, dance recitals, graduations. Birthday parties and planting flowers.
Mom and Dad were so committed to them. J and K would not be the loving, compassionate adults they are today if not for the influence of their grandparents yesterday. I'm as sure of that as I am the sun will come up tomorrow.
She had the greatest smile.
I'm so thankful for her sunny disposition and her ability to see the light through the darkness.
When the Man and I brought our first baby home from the hospital, Mom came to spend some time with us to help me care for this tiny one.
She was amazing.
She was calm. And that calmed me.
She showered J with love, while talking to him and cooing at him. And I learned how to communicate with my new little one.
When I was feeding him one night, deep into the night, she saw how tired I was and how depressed I felt. I was crying a little bit and she put her arm around me and said, "Oh, honey. Things always look darker at night. But the morning will come and the sun will come up. And everything feels better in the light."
I've remembered that conversation during many dark moments that life has thrown at me.
She loved them so.
She never shied away from learning about new things. She didn't always commit to using new technology but she wasn't afraid of it.
A lot of these photos are from her 90th birthday party a few years ago. One of her grandsons couldn't be there so his mom facetimed with him so he could talk to Grandma.
Mom and my beautiful sister in law.
Mom's health has been declining the past few weeks.
It got to a critical point this weekend and she was in a fight for her life. She just wasn't strong enough to win. She was a tiny peanut, so small and frail. I had taken her to the doctor last week and she got on the scale.
She weighed 95 pounds. I told her we had to bulk her up.
She laughed and said, "I've wanted to be that weight my whole life! And now? I only go to the doctor's office!"
A few days later we were in the ER with her and it was too much for her to recover from. We called family and my sister in law and brother in law decided to come immediately. It took them four hours to get to the hospital.
During that time, our family started the vigil, taking turns sitting by her side. Rubbing her head, smoothing her hair, talking to her. Telling her how much we loved her. She was awake but had a very difficult time talking, she was so weak. The doctors and nurses were wonderful but they had to do so many tests and some of them were uncomfortable. At one point, while we were waiting for something, I looked over at Mom lying on the bed, staring off into nothing, and saw a tear running down her cheek.
I took a tissue and wiped her eyes. She looked at me, her eyes filled with pain. Not physical pain but the pain of knowing the difficult road ahead. She mouthed, "thank you" and held my hands until it was time for the next test.
It was the last thing I would do for her.
The doctor called us the next morning and told us to come as soon as we could. She was passing but was still conscious and able to communicate with us. Before they started comfort care, they wanted us to have a chance to talk to her. We all had time to tell her how much we loved her. The Man told her she would be with Dad soon and she beamed at him, full of joy.
Mom knew her savior, Jesus Christ, was waiting for her. And I'm sure Dad was waiting too. We knew where she was going and it was going to be a day of rejoicing when God called her home. My sister in law and I had talked with Mom over the past few months and we knew she wasn't afraid to die. She was ready to go home.
All six of us sat with Mom until late the last night. By that point, she was on morphine and sleeping comfortably. My sister in law wanted to stay with her. She spent the night holding Mom's hand and talking to her, words of love and comfort.
She took her last breath and died peacefully the next morning.
Loved, cherished, missed.
I don't know what I'll do without her.