The Saturday began happy. The sun was shining; the air nippy; the leaves on the trees were colored gold and red and green, as was the ground they fell upon. The kids aged 10, 8, and 5 were even in a good mood!
My husband and I, along with the little ones, went over to my in-laws for a day of doing laundry. When we arrived my father-in-law cautioned the kids to be quiet because their grandmother was still sleeping; she had a hard night, meaning she didn’t sleep well and was in pain.
We were all there at the house the night before as well; they sat for our oldest son after school who suffered from ADHD, but it hadn’t yet been diagnosed—another story to share one day. When we left that evening my mother-in-law had a really bad headache. We saw that she wasn’t feeling well, so we went home.
That is how we could imagine what kind of a rough night she had.
The local farmers’ market was held just down the street from my in-laws, so my oldest son and I took a little walk to see what we could find for lunch to go with the roast that I put in the oven. We wanted to give Grandma a good meal when she woke up. We bought carrots and potatoes, plus a few other items.
Back at the house dinner—living in the Midwest that’s what we call the noontime meal—was nearly ready. Grandpa asked me to go check on Grandma, as it was a bit unusual even for her to sleep this long. I did what I was asked to do. What I found changed our lives forever.
I knew as soon as I walked into the bedroom and saw the kids’ grandmother lying on the bed that she had gone away in the middle of the night. I did not panic. I did not scream. I did not cry. I simply walked over to her, pulled the covers up to her chin to keep her warm, leaned down, kissed her forehead and quietly said, “You will be missed.”
Quite literally, after telling my husband, his dad, and the kids what happened, the sun went under the massive cloud cover that brought a cold, driving wind. By the time the coroner left, the day darkened further with rain, snow, and sleet. Indeed, our sunshine had gone away.
And so did the strength I showed earlier. After the calls were made to my husband’s brothers and sister, there wasn’t much else to do but think and feel and go numb.
At my mother-in-law’s wake people had a chance to say something about this wonderful woman who left this world all too soon. I felt the need to be one of those people. Standing up at the lectern, saying a few words that I don’t really remember, yet wailing, “I don’t know what I’m going to do without her!”
How selfish that was of me! But I had lost my source of support, emotionally and financially. How were we going to survive? She gave us money. She fed us. She took care of the kids. And so much more!
What I realized years later, after the grief had passed, was that she was still caring for us in Heaven. For soon my little family was living in a nice apartment; our income was increasing; our son was getting the help he needed; all the wrongs were beginning to be righted.
I miss my mother-in-law dearly and think about her nearly every day. I am also in deep gratitude because even though the loss of her was oh so very painful, I grew up during that time. I was able to stand on my own two feet, and that I was strong enough to be in the world surrounded by love and possibility, and unafraid of what might be coming next.
Amazing how one’s passing can give strength to another; I suppose it’s similar to the passing of the torch at the Olympics.
I share this story as it’s the anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death and also my coming of age these twenty-one years later.
Emotional growth is just as important as our physical and personal growth; the three may be ever-changing; however, when in alignment there becomes a state of Being that is filled with a graceful and peaceful existence bar none. I believe it’s call Enlightenment.
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” ~Joan Didion
Peggy Lee Hanson, personal transition guide and mentor, is expert at compassionately helping those suffering loss of any proportion, especially through unemployment. Using proven strategies and support, she teaches how to move quickly and easily through current or impending life-changing moments so that you can have the life you are meant -- and deserve -- to live.
PeggyLee is a Speaker, Best-selling author on Amazon.com, Certified Dream Coach® & Group Leader®, Trained True Purpose Coach®, and CEO and Founder of MyDreamArchitect.com, a subsidiary of Personal Transition Guidance, LLC. Also, Peggy Lee has co-facilitated mastermind groups and appeared as a regular columnist for online communities. She is a member of Toastmasters International.
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