I just watched the latest episode of This Is Us, like I do most Wednesday mornings. This episode was following a storyline we’ve been waiting for. We. My mother-in-law and I. We watched religiously and talked about the characters and the story and where we thought it was going next. We were anxious to find out what the shift to the future was all about (if you don’t watch, This Is Us plays it fast and loose with timelines and can cover decades in one episode). Today I found out, and I can’t discuss it with her, because she’s gone.
My mother-in-law passed away last month. It was something we knew was coming but were completely blindsided by at the same time. Cancer has a way of fooling people into a sense of security. It backs off and makes you believe everything will be okay, and then storms back in relentlessly. When we found out her tumour was growing again, they said she had a few months. We had heard that once before, over a year and a half ago, so while it was devastating to hear again, I’m not sure any of us believed it.
Three weeks later she was gone.
She wanted to take a multi-generational family trip to Florida and visit Disney World and Universal, since we are all big Harry Potter fans. We tried to make it happen, but she couldn’t get medical clearance to safely make the trip. I haven’t gone since she was first diagnosed with cancer because I couldn’t bear to do it when she couldn’t. When we do go again, it will be bittersweet, but I am constantly reminded of something she said to me last year.
“Sheri, I’ve done everything I wanted to do in life.”
I don’t know if that’s entirely true or if she was trying to make me okay with the fact we couldn’t take her on a trip, but she seemed sincere. I think that trip was more about being away with the family than it was about visiting Disney, and we certainly made sure there were many family gatherings to enjoy. She was the glue that kept the family together. I hope we will find a way to keep that part of her alive. We’ve done well so far, mostly spending our time sharing memories and laughing about some of her antics.
The day she became a grandmother
The day Chris became a grandmother was also the day we first met. I had been dating her son for a short time and my 9 year old son and I came to their house for dinner. She was so excited to have us there and she doted on Eric the entire time. During dinner I told Eric that he had to try everything on his plate and she leaned over and told him he didn’t have to eat anything he didn’t want to. I gave her a disapproving look and she quickly recanted, giving Eric a little “oops” grimace. He got away without eating and she started her long history of spoiling her grandkids, as was her right. It didn’t matter to her that Eric wasn’t her biological grandchild, she called him her first grandchild even before my husband adopted him and she was so incredibly proud of him.
Her first grandchild was at her side when she left this world, along with me, her daughters, my husband, my brother-in-law and my father-in-law. I have so much I could say about the day, about how proud I am of every person who was in that room and how much love there was, but it is all so deeply personal. I can say that her family learned to express love to each other through her. While she could be an incredibly stubborn woman who wanted things her way, she was also quick to tell you how much she loves you.
She knew my buttons and how to push them, and I think she did it for fun most of the time, but we enjoyed each other’s company. Truth be told, I may have pushed her buttons as well. For nearly 18 years she persisted at telling me how much she loved me and how proud of me she was, which isn’t something I’ve heard a lot in my life. Not because I’m not loved by own family, but we don’t tend to say those things very often. She was a good listener when I needed an ear and could always make me laugh.
It’s hard to imagine life without her in it.
For now, it’s the little things that will either make me smile or break down in tears. The episodes of This Is Us and Survivor that she will never see, the whoopie cushion she gave the kids that I found in a toy bin, her absence at a family gathering and our shared inability to keep a plant alive, as I throw away another one. She is all around us and I hope we can continue to make her proud.