Sunday, June 15, 2014

MABEL

My mother-in-law died this morning. She lived a full and long life and was, indeed, ready to die, but she will be greatly missed by our whole family. I loved her sprite and unpretentious self!

She was a hard-working farm wife, marrying after losing her only sibling and parents in young adulthood. She was not a woman of great humor or spontaneous fun. She did not express her emotions well. Perhaps the great losses she had early in life or the serious nature of her daily vocation or being married to a stoic Swede tempered whatever mirth she may have otherwise displayed. But she was sweet and energetic in her own gentle quiet way.

At the beginning of our marriage, I always felt she thought I was from the wrong side of the tracks, or that Dick married beneath himself. I knew nothing of life-on-the-farm, and that was of great importance to her. For years I felt hurt that she never asked me about my career or my opinions and I was never able to engage her in discussions about deeper issues that I love to share with other women.

Eventually I accepted what I could not change, and learned to chat about things in her comfort zone. When I turned to the subjects of crops and farming and weather patterns and cooking and her relatives, she always had a good deal to share. Though I always yearned for a deeper relationship with Mabel, I learned to be content with what she was comfortable with and what mattered to her own sensibilities. When I had Sam, we often talked about raising children and she always had good common sense about that. She was always an engaged grandma whenever she was with Sam, and I loved seeing her interact with him.

She was a wonderful gardener, a good cook, and a generous neighbor and friend who was always inviting people over for dinner. There was always food for more mouths at her home. She took painting classes in retirement and became quite an accomplished artist. She and I shared a love of reading.

I loved that Mabel was a true prayer warrior. After my diagnosis, she never failed to tell me she was praying for me every day, and that touched me so. 

My favorite memory of her is also the funniest memory I have. A lifelong orthodox Baptist teetotaler, she was clearly out of her element when at my nephew Dan's wedding reception, the waiters poured champagne for all the guests to toast the bride and groom. We looked down at the table she sat at with my father-in-law and others and she turned pale as the toast was made and her husband picked up his glass and took a sip with the rest of the crowd.

The look on Mabel's face, the daggers in her eyes toward Art as he imbibed an ounce of champagne was too priceless for words. I can still belly laugh thinking about it. She was about as non-confrontational as a woman could be, but if in their marriage she ever chewed him out, it was probably that night in their motel room!!

I most admired about her the easy adjustment she made when she had to sell her home and move into an assisted living facility. She transitioned with grace and without yearning for the “things” she had to give up. What a great example she was of successful relocation in old age. She was so kind to other residents and to the staff and was always appreciative of any help given her. 

I was a verbal and expressive city girl, and she was a reserved farm wife. In most ways, our lives could not have been more different. 

And yet.

For the love of one man, her baby and my husband, we were united. She birthed the man whom I chose for life, the man without whom my life pales and weakens.

Mabel and I both deeply loved this one man.

In the end, perhaps it is not the breaks in the chain that define a relationship, but the links.

And our largest link joined our two hearts forever.

Rest well, dear lady. And thank you for sharing your son with me.


4 comments:

Rachel J said...

Ok. Not fair to post this when I am unable to find Kleenex.

wOw.

This was amazing.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your family's loss Mary. My prayers are coming your way.
Jo

Cole said...

What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman. So thankful she was such a strong, faithful woman and loving member of your family. Praying for comfort for all of you.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly said. My relationship with Don's mom mirrored yours with Mabel. Beautifully written!
~Kim Nelson