Mama #2: A Tribute To My Mother(In-Law)

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On the day I married her son, she hugged me warmly and with tear-filled eyes said, “You are now my daughter, and although you have a mother, I am now your Mama #2.” The promise was sealed and honored from that day forward. I’ve never received a daughter-in-law card, been introduced, or treated as anything other than her daughter.

I met her son in the first grade. He was my first love and boyfriend throughout high school. Honestly, part of the reason I fell in love with him is because of her. The three-story colonial home at the end of a long drive, beautifully decorated with her impeccable taste, the endless cooking and laundry to keep up with her husband and five football-playing boys, and her never-ending devotion to her family. She embodied everything I hoped I would be as a mother.

Years later, when I broke her son’s heart and moved on, she remained kind to me despite his pain and consequently her own. Several years later she was the first to welcome me back into her family, and to tell me, “He never stopped loving you, and neither did I.”

Shedding tears with my mom, she watched me try on wedding dresses and helped us plan our special day. A year later, she soothed my fears in the delivery room as I gave birth to her grandson. She taught me the art and beauty of nursing a baby as she stocked our freezer full of meals with little notes attached, ‘Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 1 hour.’ She quilted each grandbaby a blanket that became soft and worn over the years and was quick to reassure me of what a good mother I was to her grandchildren and her gratitude for loving her son.

Even though there were four other daughters for her to love and endless flooding of her heart and home, she had the unique ability to make you feel adored and cherished. Each of us girls felt as though we were her favorite, because we were, just in different ways.

Sitting on the deck beside the pool one evening, with several daughters(in-law), each with a glass of wine in hand surrounding her, she shared that she never felt as good in her own skin as she did that year. She had just turned sixty, and she looked as beautiful outside, with her glowy Italian skin reflecting the light from the moon on that late fall night, as she explained she felt on the inside. She offered the wisdom to her young daughters that only a well-seasoned mother can about motherhood, marriage, and most importantly, the beauty of being a woman. Three months later she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer that took her life within twelve short and excruciatingly long months. Our foundation cracked the day of her diagnosis, and at times seems to be incapable of mending.

As I lay in her bed holding her over those months, she asked that I now make a promise to her, “Never forget how much I love you. Never forget how much I love you.” She repeated it as though trying to solidify it in my mind, body and soul. During her illness, she continued to show me by example what a mother’s love truly means. She wanted us to know that she wasn’t angry that she was the one that got sick. “I’m grateful that it was none of you,” she said, as she looked at each one of us and shared the news that her doctors advised that treatment would no longer be beneficial.

During her last visit to my home, we sat outside, listening to the birds, as the kids played and I painted her nails. She looked at the youngest of my three children, as he toddled around the yard, unphased by the loss of her hair and rounded ‘moon face’ from being pumped full of steroids, and cried, “I’m so sad I won’t get to be a part of this...” She gestured to her grandchildren.

Her final promise as “her girls” sat on the edges of her bed: “Something beautiful will come from this.” She repeated it again, “Something beautiful will come from this.” I wish I knew what that meant, or if that’s even true, but maybe two years after her passing it’s too soon to understand. What I know for sure, is something beautiful came from the love she gave all of her children and grandchildren.

The night of her passing from this life to the next, she was held in the arms of her high school sweetheart. As we circled her bed, he opened the sliding glass door from their bedroom and released her spirit to the moon shining brightly above.

While filling out Mother’s Day cards, my baby, who becomes less baby and more of a child every day, asked to make his Grammy a Mother’s Day card and wondered, in the way only small innocent children do, if our postal carrier knew how to deliver it to heaven. I let him make her a card, and I sat in our pantry and quietly cried. Even though he may not remember his Grammy and my Mama #2, he knows her. He knows her because she is alive in our home, in the stories and memories we share, in the faces of his dad and his four uncles, the meals we make from her recipe cards, and the quilts we wrap ourselves in as a reminder of her enduring love. Happy Mother’s Day My Mama #2 and may something beautiful come from this...

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