Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Long Winter

Painted by my mother-in-law's mother
I am lounging on the bed writing this.  I am the last of my family (of 7) to succumb to 4 - 7 days of fever, cough and sinus pain.  I don't know what to call it, I don't think it's technically the flu but it wipes you out.  Thankfully, everyone else is better now except for me and my youngest, who is still hacking today.  It's amazing how tired just lying around makes you feel......

The month of October my mother had emergency heart surgery and I went east to stay with her for her first week out of the hospital.  In December my family had a couple of weeks when the stomach bug went round.  This month of February has passed in a fog of illness as well.  Neither were too serious, but they do put a damper on things.  And sadly, the month of January was marked by the unexpected death of my mother-in-law.

It has been quite a shock to us all and really we haven't had a chance to process it.  Though Mary (her name) was the oldest of the grandparents at 84, in many ways she was the most alive and vibrant of them all.  We had just seen her at Christmas, where she was sweeping up our muddy footprints before we had much managed to enter the house (she was a true Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse;)

Only a couple of weeks after we had returned to Texas, in mid-January (on my oldest son's 21st birthday) we got a call that she had died in the night of a massive heart attack.  How we immediately had to get ready to leave on a two-day drive is for another post, but we got there.  It was bitterly cold and somewhat surreal, as I suppose a funeral for someone who dies suddenly always is.  After all, they were there themselves only a few days before.  

Unfortunately my father-in-law has been really frail these past two years, and it was very clear that he could not remain in their home alone.  Nor did he want to move to Texas (or Florida, where another child lives) so he that week had to move into an assisted living facility. (My husband has one sister who lives nearby, but she was already taking care of HER mother-in-law).

Even though it is a nice place, all these events understandably have been very stressful and disheartening to him.  So many changes in such a short time.  And again, no one (not even my father-in-law, who is the ultimate planner) was prepared because everyone thought that Mary would outlive him.  No one even considered the reverse.

Because of all the major decisions that had to be made, I think no one has had time to properly mourn my mother-in-law yet.  She was a feisty lady, very petite and very beautiful even in her eighties, VERY opinionated and outspoken:), sometimes very funny and mystifying, but she loved her family very much. I was the only daughter-in-law, and because of that I can say that I was her favorite one;)

I have known Mary for almost 30 years myself, and yet she was older than I am now when I met her.  I remember the first time I was ever in her house.  At that time it was one of the largest houses I had ever been in and beautifully decorated.  She loved her home, and she had the gift of order (which I admire but definitely do not share).  Her home was never sterile, there were always magazines and books to read and snacks to eat, but I could always count on it being its same orderly self, as it was even this past Christmas.

She also was a wonder with geraniums.  It is a little amazing to me that her geraniums live on when she herself is gone, but my sister-in-law has promised to give me some cuttings when I go back this summer to help sort out the house.  I know this is a common feeling, but how bewildering it is that the world just keeps on going when someone you love has been absolutely removed from it, leaving such a hole in your own family.

Mary is a Christian, and I do think of her now in heaven.  I imagine she has a cottage with a flower garden overflowing, and I can't wait to visit her when I arrive in that beautiful city.  I figure that if Jesus in His resurrected state spent time visiting with friends, eating with them, breakfasting on the beach, etc.  then we too will have these sorts of experiences in heaven.  He said Himself He is going to prepare a place for us, and why would there be streets unless we will be walking up and down them visiting one another?

"In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." -- John 14:2-3 KJV