Where to begin…
I know. I am not on a soapbox. I am sitting on the couch next to you. I used to say this. I am not here to lecture or boast. Iris and I had our ups and our downs. I married her youngest son. She adored Justin. Looking back I can see the heartache of losing your boy to another woman. She took good care of him. And he moved on. As I watch, my sons turn into men I see more clearly the deep divide. As a mom of young adult sons and toddler sons, it is even more apparent how great the divide is. Sam and Charlie follow me around the house and call to me, they need constant kisses and hugs, and at bedtime they want me to lie with them and read “just one more book.” John and Luke still need me. But tackling the 6’3″ and 6’4″ man-children takes training, agility, and a scheduled pounce.
And soon, their limited affections will be directed toward someone else. Sooner than later.
When this happens, I will be the mother-in-law.
It is a shame. Mother-in-law is synonymous with wicked step-mother. Neither is fair. Individuals shouldn’t be branded as villains based on marriage status. But it happens. Human nature I guess. But as someone whose mother-in-law who is gone, I will say I wish I had it to do over again.
On the happier side, Iris and I shared the last months of her life in a unique way. This time of year is most vivid in my mind with those last weeks. Cooler, shorter days; the leaves were changing. She moved in with us to die. I am no nurse. I was able to prove this quickly. Although after many of the comical scenarios she would say, “put this in your book,” I doubt I ever will. And they were funny, and therapeutic, but less than dignified on either of our parts. And they are mine, Justin’s, and the children’s.
Before it was terribly bad, we laughed. We never talked about the contention of our past, although at some point we both did apologize, a non-specific apology. We watched Law and Order and visited. It wasn’t stressful, or boastful. It wasn’t even sad. She had lost much; she was ready.
I have precious memories of Justin pushing Iris and our baby Sam up and down the sidewalk in a wheelchair. And him feeding her soup. My children lying on the bed with her. Visits from friends coming to say goodbye. Her brothers, her sister, nieces, and nephews. And on the night before she would lose consciousness for four days, and never speak again, her last word: Natalie. And her granddaughter came to sit with her “Mimi,” and they needed each other much.
And I am not naive. I have seen and heard some pretty gruesome mother-in-law stories. Some warrant hate. But, as Christians, we cannot speak life into this hate. As daughters of the Risen Christ, we are called to a higher level of speech. And if your mother-in-law is as wicked as they come, and Christ dwells in you, He alone is your strong tower. Iris and I behaved badly. At times very badly. I saw an excerpt on Facebook where a mother-in-law shredded her would be daughter-in-law’s wedding dress the night before her wedding. This is lunacy at best. Still, hate is not therapeutic, healing, or from Jesus. And the act of destroying the dress, it isn’t even unforgivable.
Nothing is unforgivable in Jesus.
Perhaps your mother-in-law is a thorn in your side. Perhaps you are one in her’s. But surely I say to you, do not waste a moment of your time in hate. Be bigger. Be better. Be above the world’s standards for cliche statements. She can make you crazy, furious, horrified, and exhausted – still there is no place in the life of a believer for hate. Dare I say, if you can’t say anything nice… And even if she is in prison for hiring a hitman to take you out… she gave your man life. He may not be perfect, he may not even be by your side anymore, but our God makes ALL THINGS work together for GOOD for those who love HIM. Becuase of this we needn’t speak hate. Your children exist as part of her deeds, if you can find one glimpse of good from her life, you have everything to be thankful.
You may have every reason to stay away from her, and I am not asking you to do otherwise. I just wish you wouldn’t say you “hate.” Honor you husband, who may not have warm fuzzy feelings about her, honor your children, and honor your future in-laws by speaking only that which is good. For it isn’t what goes into you that makes you unclean, it is what comes out. And when we speak blessings – we are truly blessed.
On the other side of this journey I wish I had been more grace-filled, less stressed and above the world’s perceptions of how a “perfect” mother/daughter-in-law relationship looks. On the other side, I remember things I admired in her. Things that she left behind, in my husband and my children. I miss that the younger babies won’t know her. And although she did once threaten to call CPS if I put the kids to bed without a bath, and may have followed through, she truly wanted good for them. And so, this post may lack snarkiness, it may lack any humor, and it may seem as though I am preaching – but there are only a few days left of the 31 Day Challenge, and this is one – I truly wish you’d stop saying…
But Ruth replied, “Do not urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami