The holiday season (or just winter time!) seems to be the season for sharing – not just food and presents but colds and flus too! Last year Iggy got really sick on New Years Eve and Zac a little later. It was a concern for our two one year olds but we were more worried when my mother-in-law and father-in-law became sick with influenza A.
At 95 and 96 years of age it became a life and death fight. Dad was able to fight it but Mum’s heart issues made it difficult for the hospital to give her the usual treatment. After discussions among the family and one with Mum, it was decided to not ask her to fight but to take her home and care for her there.
I felt priviledged to be able to help with her care for some of the last days she was with us. Although I would have liked to be there until the end, I needed to take a break, so we went home for a few days. It was hard to say good-bye but I know it’s not forever and when that time comes I will get to know the ‘real’ Mum.
Ever since I was a child I’d heard all the mother-in-law jokes and saw how they were portrayed on TV. I’d also seen wonderful real life relationships and longed for one similar. Unfortunately for me it wasn’t to be. Don’t misunderstand, I had a truly wonderful and sweet mother-in-law but by the time I met her she had already begun to lose her memory.
Whenever we visited I’d give her a hug and we would laugh at how it made her hearing aid squeal. I’d ask how she was and she would always answer – “fine as usual!” The last few years she slept a lot but whenever she was awake she would usually have a beautiful smile for me. I will forever cherish the videos we have of her playing with our boys.
One by one, all my husbands siblings and family arrived from around the country and world for her memorial service. I heard more and more stories about the woman she was. There was a theme that emerged over and over, she only had nice things to say about people. She was an amazing person, wife, mother and grandmother. Listening to stories about her made me long all the more to have known her before. Before dementia took her memory and before her hearing made it hard to communicate.
As much as I wish I knew her before the dementia and hearing loss, I can’t turn back the clock to make it happen. It’s something I have had to grieve. I do believe she knew who I was and I was blessed to have known her but it doesn’t change my longing to have met and known the person she had been.
There was another longing that stirred in my heart while I listened to all the stories about my beautiful mother-in-law. I longed to be like her. To only have good things to say, to be encouraging and there for people. To have that true inner beauty that shines on everyone.
While it’s not possible for me to learn from her in person, I can still follow her example. I believe her inner beauty grew from the connection she had with God. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 says “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord-who is the Spirit-makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” NLT