It was around this time last year that my mother-in-law passed, just shy of her 57th birthday, after a nasty 10-month bout with the god of all sicknesses, cancer. We just had her one-year memorial service, which has overshadowed any Fourth of July-related activities.
Even before she got sick, I spent a lot of time thinking about death and what it means, and I suppose her illness got me thinking about it more.
But I don’t want to talk about death right now. I’d rather talk about life. And though I only knew my mother-in-law for nine years, they way she lived her life, and how she acted at its end, made a strong impression on me that I’ll never forget.
See the good. My mother-in-law, no matter what, has everyone the benefit of the doubt. Every person, no matter who or what they were, had a chance in her eyes. And if they did something to prove they weren’t worthy of her time or respect, she never acted maliciously towards them. Her attitude was “Everyone’s different, and everyone’s going through something.” So why waste your energy hating them, or letting them control your thoughts and emotions?
Party. My mother-in-law didn’t drink, but she was an incredibly vivacious person. And she loved having fun whenever the chance presented itself. Dancing, music, laughter…she was always the life of a party. As her and my father-in-law ran their own businesses, they worked very hard. But she never forgot that it was good to let loose and have fun with family and friends.
Forgiveness. Even at the end, she forgave people who did them wrong. And let me tell you, she would confront people about things…but always in a respectful manner, from a place of love and of wanting to move past it. She took Church teaching on this very seriously. I think we’d all be better off if we did too.
Family. Family was the most important thing to my mother-in-law. She’d drop–or give–anything to help, whether it was my wife and me, my brother-in-law, her cousins, or her family in Greece. And “family” to her extended to close friends who were having trouble. Maybe she didn’t get enough rewards for this in this life, but I’m sure she is in the next.
Faith. Cancer is the worst. Just knowing someone who has it is hard enough. I can’t imagine being the one diagnosed. When my mother-in-law got the news, she was worried but never lost hope. At least, from the outside it seemed like she didn’t. She questioned why it happened, spoke with our priest and deacon who made many trips to our house, she read, but she never cursed God nor took a negative attitude. The phrase “dying with dignity” gets bandied about a lot these days, but dying is horrible. My mother-in-law’s dignity came from how she comported herself–you could still feel the same light and life coming from her even as she lay sick in bed, under the influence of painkillers. And she passes with a smile on her face, as though she liked what she saw. I don’t know of a much more dignified end than that.
Thank you for indulging me everyone. Enjoy your families while you have the time.
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