Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sometimes death comes slowly

My mother in law passed away last night.
I could almost hear her say, "I finally get to be with Grandpa"!
I have listened to many stories of this couple over the years.

Both my mother and father in law were the youngest children of 13. These were not happy healthy families- they were dark and scary. They lived through the depression in the kind of conditions that I cannot imagine- utter poverty. Those who thought the great depression ended in 1940 did not see the real poor. The garden on the land along the train tracks was where my mother in law got the only food around for a long time. I am pretty sure my mother in law was from a plural marriage - all of her siblings are step and she is "sealed" to the other mother. There was lots of hollering and hair pulling growing up in that house from what I understand- that was sort of her "joke".

My mother in law was engaged to a man whom- I think- never came back from WWII. Her brother closest in age, and seems only friend, died in a motorcycle accident. Heart break started early in her life.

She met and married my father in law at church. He had worked on the Anolia Gay during the war and was ten years older than she. They struggled financially for a very long time. Three boys- each born 18 months apart. Fighting over money plagued the household. There were lots of violent episodes from my mother in law's temper. Only my husband seems to forgive that financial worries and improper parent models lead to the paddling with anything from a warped washboard to flyswatter handles. Still, she baked bread and had dinner on the table nightly- no matter what it took.

My mother and father in law mellowed once plumbers at the nuclear plant began to be paid a working wage. They cared for their elderly parents until they died- the only ones who did from my understanding. My sister in law was born and life was better.Unfortunately, the boys were almost out of the house. The other two despised my mother in law - still the one who cannot stand her the most made sure she was cared for her until the end.

My husband left home in 1967 and never looked back. We always had a "chatting" relationship with his parents- but never particularly close. He appreciated that they did what they could to raise the family and came to understand the dire circumstances of his parents' background. I think the one thing I can say that my husband inherited from his father was his ability to just forgive and move forward. I wish I could do it as well as he does.

What I remember about my in laws in their older age was they seemed to have finally fallen deeply in love with each other. They tended a large garden- half of which was given to the "widow women" in their poor community (they never wanted to move). They chatted and watched TV together- still eating their "Samiches" off of plastic plates from the 60's and jelly jars for drinks. They held hands and snuck kisses every time they left the room from each other.

They were married 54 years. My mother in law said that the best years were the last ones because they worked together. She also said that if you can make it past 25years you might be ready to live together for a very long time. I believe her.

I don't think either of them thought it would take ten years for them to be reunited. Her heart was broken the day he died. Then she just proceeded to wait - dying of a broken heart. She stopped taking any medications years ago. She did not attend weddings or blessings of great grands. She simply did not want to be on the earth anymore.

No matter what - there had to be something there in the early years. Each of the children became successful in their own fields. Their children are now marrying and having children of their own. There is a definite sense of taking care of the next generation. There is genuine love and respect for one another. Maybe the cycle of poverty and abuse has been broken by the example of wisdom in older age....

I am sad that it took so long for God to take this soul. We worked hard to find her some type of outlet, but she simply would not use it. I hate to say it- but I really hope to die from a broken heart one day. To love so greatly must be amazing. She would have been 84 next month.

Be at peace Grandma.
We will all gather to give each other one last hug in your honor.
Please say hello to my dad as you pass by his way,
while once again holding hands and smiling with Grandpa.


Anonymous said...


Love you.

I wish you joy and peace and fond memories as you celebrate her life and the Bowen family.


Carrie said...

Beautiful post. Life is so complicated sometimes. May your mother-in-law rest in peace.

Renee said...

Thanks for sharing your mil's story. Praying you have safe travels and may she rest in peace