Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Life after death through the eyes of a three-year old

My mother-in-law, Jeanette, died on Monday morning.   I was at home with Lydia whilst Gary, his Dad and MIL's best friend, Linda, were at her side.  It has been a roller-coaster week; it began with us thinking she was going to be sent home and ended with her not coming home at all.  

I finally did talk to Lydia about her grandmother dying.  I talked to her on Saturday afternoon when we thought my mother-in-law was closer to the end than she was.  We were at the hospital and I wanted to prepare Lydia just in case she started seeing very upset adults around her.  I remember telling her that Grandma was dying, she was sick - different from a simple cold / broken arm type sick, and how sometimes bodies don't work and people die.  Her response was, 'Okay' and that was the end of that.

Gary, Gary's Dad and Linda stayed at the hospital that night.  When I got home and after Lydia's bath, we were sitting in the front room and I asked, 'Do you know what's going on with Grandma?' Lydia responded, 'Grandma's dying'.  I asked, 'Do you know why?'  Lydia said, 'Because her body's not working and she's hurting and she's dying.  And now she can dance and she'll be happy'.  I stopped for a moment, then I said, 'How do you know that?' and Lydia said, 'Because she likes to dance'.  I texted this conversation to Gary that night.  It really had a profound effect on everyone.  So much so that when my mother-in-law finally passed away early Monday morning, they repeated the story to the nurse and it made her cry.  I posted it on Facebook to my friends and many people have commented on how touching it was, or how it's helped them through their grief. 

Of course, I wonder if it's because kids are quite intuitive in situations of deep grief and loss.  Are there spiritual forces at work?  Is it just another example of pre-schooler thoughts jumping from one topic to another?  For whatever reason she said it, it's helped a lot of people thus far.  If you know my mother-in-law, it's even more special because she hasn't been able to walk for a long time.  Even when I met her she had difficulty walking long distances.  She became wheelchair-bound a few years ago.  By the end of her life, she was completely bed-ridden.  So you see, a comment about her dancing is not just appropriate in general about those facing death, but particularly poignant because of my mother-in-law's physical condition.  

There's a fascination about the end of someone's life, but who she was in that hospital bed was not who she was in life.  I didn't call her Mom very often.  Mainly because I can't say it without feeling like I have to put on a strange American accent.  She really was another Mum to me though.  When I first moved over here and couldn't work, she introduced me to sewing and quilting.  It filled my time and I felt more productive.  It really is how I found a passion for DIY and crafts.  Without her, I would never have thought pinterest was the best thing since sliced bread, or taken up scrapbooking, or sewn things for my friends and family.  Sure, I was creative in my own way, but I don't think I'm naturally creative.  I needed to learn creativity and I learned it from her.  She really introduced me to a whole new world of hobbies.  

My mother-in-law also helped me find my first job.  I was fresh out of college, didn't have any connections and I couldn't work until I got a work permit.  When I finally did get my work permit, I couldn't find a job.  I didn't know where to look or even what to apply for.  My mother-in-law helped me out and called her old boss to see if there were any jobs - the next day I was heading in for an interview and training.  

Today, we went out to the house with my father-in-law.  It was hard to walk into the house without her there.  I was slightly anxious during the car ride which surprised me seeing as I'd been all take-charge yesterday with the funeral arrangements.  Our first task was to clean out the sewing room as Gary's Dad wants to rearrange some of the furniture in the house pretty quickly.  Sewing was her passion and she hasn't been able to sew anything for a long time.  She found that terribly frustrating, to love something so much and not be able to do it.  It was hard for Gary's Dad because sewing became such a huge part of his life too; he was always thinking about projects, helping her choose things for her to make, picking out the threads she needed.

Finding what I love to do outside of work isn't the only thing she gave to me.  She welcomed me into the family and supported me and Gary in our life together.  She always wanted the best for us and always told me I was good for her son.  He's good for me too and I hope she knows I appreciate that.  In my old blog, I wrote that Gary's parents raised Gary to be a kind, stable, honest man.  I said he was a good husband and father and I know it comes from his upbringing.  I know she appreciated my comments because she thanked me for it.  I only wish I had said it more, and more directly to her.  When I had the opportunity to say goodbye to her at the hospital, I told her goodbye, that I loved her, and thank you.  Thank you for my life here, for my husband, for Lydia, for my new friends and family.  She has played an integral part in my life since I immigrated to the USA 12 years ago.

We will miss her dreadfully.  The hospital stay is still so fresh in our minds.  The last few months, even years, were difficult for her and us.  I know that after some time, we'll look back fondly at her life.  We had so many good times and memories together.  There were ups and downs, disagreements and disappointments, but she was always there for us.  She loved fully, lived well and shared freely.  She taught me how to show my love to my child and how to express my love to my friends and family.  Being a part of this family has given me an emotional stability that I didn't know I needed.   'I love you' were not words that came easily to me until I joined the Donnelly family.

I love you, Mom.

1 comment:

  1. Aw, this is lovely and is just the way we explained the death of a great-grandmother to our young daughters. Your mother-in-law sounds like a great woman, mom and grandma.