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I Lost A Second Mother-in-Law

I left home to head to college as an 18yr old kid who knew everything. I ended up settling nearly 3 hours from my home, which was also the same community my to-be wife came from. College was busy, then work was busy, career building and dates with my then-girlfriend took priority. I didn’t get to know Barb as I should have. I sure wish I had. My girlfriend became my wife, in the fall over twenty years ago. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law became ill with cancer and passed just a short time afterward.

I had some small hiccups with Barb, but she loved her daughter very much and it showed. I have always had great respect for that. I try to tell my children stories about their Grandma. I hope they look forward to seeing her in the afterlife. Also, Barb’s life being cut far too short, taught me a valuable lesson – don’t take the additions in life for granted. I’m not sure I actually took a vow, per se, to never allow a relationship to not be realized, but I sure made efforts from that point forth to strengthen and deepen them. I did so with my step-mom, Debbie.

I can tell you that it has been hard for my wife to not have her mom around for so many years. All those things most of us enjoy and take for granted, my wife has been denied. Talking with your mom about the stupid things your husband did that day? Never happened. Sharing the joy of children, whether that be birth or adoption? No such experiences were shared. The passing down of traditions, cooking together, and activities we all remember with our mothers when we became functioning adults? Too few were passed directly to my wife from her mom. I always have felt bad for my wife in that regard. It still hurts her a bit to this day.

I also lost out. Men are supposed to have a relationship with their mothers-in-law. Granted, we make jokes and I hear a lot of stories about crazy experiences, but overall I know a bunch of guys that think the world of their wives’ moms… I wish I’d spent more time with Barb. But… I did learn a bit, and I made time for and with my father-in-law’s 2nd wife, Debbie.

She was always a tremendous Christian influence on me. And while she wasn’t my wife’s mother, she did a pretty good job of being ‘motherly’ in the traditional sense. My wife was an only child, so Debbie brought with her 3 other children. This gave my wife two sisters and a brother. The oldest sister was killed in an accident at Christmas 15 years ago now. There has been plenty of loss in this family surrounding the Holidays, but we cope.

Cancer chipped away at Debbie for 16 years. Modern medicine and a hefty amount of prayer would push cancer into temporary submission. It didn’t remain silent for long, unfortunately, and each time she’d go through a new treatment to force a rapid division of cells back into check. I never recall over such a long period of time her ever having felt sorry for herself. Barb didn’t either as I remember. Maybe this is just how most moms are wired, I don’t know. But I can tell you that Debbie, throughout all that time, didn’t complain, bellyache, or bawl about her health. Instead, she’d immediately pivot to God and offer Him respect.

When you meet people going through turmoil and they show the Lord humility and awe, that leaves a positive impression, right? Debbie dealt with a lot of really tough things over a very long period of time. Most people get pretty ground down by the world long before that point. Not Debbie. She’s held the line on her belief in God throughout. When He calls her, she’s ready to go. Not a minute sooner, or later. That has always been her sentiment. That wasn’t just something she said. It was the way she lived.

I don’t know how much discipleship she offered in life. Some day I will. But as to the question of seeing someone carry themselves in Christ-like ways? Debbie did a fine job of that and her influence on me and those around her was of great value.

I lost my mother-in-law before I really even got to know her. But I was given a contingency in Debbie, and I don’t believe either of us wasted it. She’d had rough patches with cancer in the past, and the end of her time here was very hard for her. But those things are of temporal significance. The walk she offered others, and the example for us all to consider, was of eternal significance and I’m thankful she shared it with me.

Rest in peace, my sister and mother. You were both salt and light. I thank you.

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