On Mothers in Laws
For nearly thirty years, I had hoped my mother in-law would love and embrace me. I wished she would tell me I was a good wife to her son and a good mother to her grandchildren. I wanted to hear her tell me what a good job I was doing as a stay-at-home mom.
We’ve all heard the mother-in-law stories. Well, my mother-in-law was one of those mothers-in-law.
She could be negative and harsh at times. Over the years, there were times when her words stung and brought tears to my eyes. Her somewhat abrasive nature was matched by a tender side that only some got to see.
These past few years, our family watched as my mother-in-law struggled with her health and became more and more frail. Last week, she fell and broke her hip.
My husband and son, along with my brother-in-law and nephew, were out of town hunting for 10 days.Since it was a long-planned trip, and we didn’t want to ask them to come home unless it was necessary. So my sister-in-law and I stepped in to make sure Mom was taken care of each and every day. Surprisingly, she didn’t seem to mind this. In fact, she had given her sons her blessing to keep hunting—which, if you knew her, was actually quite profound and a gift.
As we waited for Mom’s surgery, we helped her eat, combed her hair, and washed her face. When surgery day came, we had to face some hard realities concerning the risks. After surgery, it took all day for her to come out of recovery—and that’s when our concern started to grow. Mom’s heart rate was irregular, so they transferred her to the CCU.
For six days, my sister-in-law and I kept her company, brought flowers, food, and visitors and watched from a distance as Mom interacted with all of us, and with the nursing staff (who were phenomenal!).
Instead of being one to complain, Mom was just so gracious and thankful—and she made us laugh out loud once, when she asked a nurse, “Is that guy a Mexican?” (Those of you who don’t know my mother in law won’t get it, but those who did will be laughing alongside us. I wanted to ask her, “Are you German?!”)
In her typical way, Mom picked through her pills and took out the ones she did not “like.” Yet, all the while, she graciously understood she needed the daughters’ help. And she let us help.
In those six days, I learned how to brush dentures and put them back in, and how to comb hair and feed soup to someone lying on her side. I learned how to rub lotion on swollen knees, and massage gnarled, worn out feet that have walked many miles.
There was a strange phenomenon that happened during those days. My mother-in-law asked for a kiss each time I visited—and told me she need four hugs and four kisses a day. After anyone did anything for her, she said, “Thank you.”
She spoke of Dad and how much she missed him, and she cried each time she did so. She asked the nurses whether they had seen him during his own hospital stay two years ago. She spoke of the loss of her grandson Trevor.
She recalled all her visitors and her conversations with each one. She was very aware and coherent. She told me she prayed for each of us, by name, each day, and gave thanks before her meals.
But, for me, the clincher was that each time I was there, she would ask the nurses, “Do you know the restaurant Tracycakes? Have you been there?” And then she would say, “This is my daughter-in-law. She owns it.”
For the first time, perhaps ever, I realized Mom was proud of me! By the time the week was done, she had introduced me countless times as her daughter-in-law who owns Tracycakes. And although I was getting somewhat embarrassed, I will cherish that always.
In her last days, she made sure I knew that she loved me.
Thank you, Mom, for that gift. As you entered heaven, I’m sure there was a great deal of noise as Dad greeted you with open arms and maybe even a dance. You will be missed.
“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
- John 16:22