Most of life goes on as we plan. We make our to do lists and write events on our calendars, and for the most part we keep with the program. Occasionally I find myself deleting something from a to do list that I realize I am never actually going to do. And relatively often, usually late in the day, I beg off on something I’d wanted to do but is just one too many events for that day.
But then there are those hiccups in life that push everything else aside. Ours came in the middle of the night last week, when our phone rang with the caller ID displaying my husband’s mother’s name.
I was the one who picked up. I knew, as soon as I heard the tone of her home care provider, Pamela, what the news was going to be. My mother-in-law had died in her sleep, simply stopped breathing after complaining of flu-like symptoms at bedtime. The paramedics were unable to revive her.
Her death was not completely unexpected – she was 89 and suffered from a variety of smallish health concerns. But what is smallish in a younger person can be life-threatening in the elderly, and we knew that just as she could conceivably live for years more, she could also go anytime.
Her death was a shock, and we are all saddened and miss her a lot. But given the circumstances, it was about as good a death as one could hope for. She surpassed her life expectancy, nurtured strong family bonds in her very large extended family, and maintained active friendships with people throughout her life—from those she’d known since she was a child to those she had met recently in her years in Florida.
My husband and I went to Florida to pick up the pieces, and found that she’d left us one of the best gifts we could remember: Her papers were in order, with very few questions and oversights. I can only imagine the chaos that we would have stepped into if she hadn’t been so thoughtful and organized.
Life goes on and we continue to make plans and put things on the calendar. But as my husband said on the plane, it was as if a piece of the firmament that our family’s life was built on had dropped out, leaving us all off-balance. We’ll miss her dry wit, her unswerving faith in her child and grandchildren, and especially that quality in her that led nearly everyone she met to consider her a friend worth having. Everyone from neighbors who had recently moved in to the woman at the medical device company reacted to her easygoing Brooklyn charm. And once they got to know her, they were never let down. We hear the same story from everyone: she was a great friend, mother, grandma, and mother-in-law.
We’ll miss her.
My husband writes:
I just realized that I misspoke: the firmament is the sky, thus we could not build our lives on it. I meant to say fundament… although that has the unfortunate alternative meanings of buttocks or anus. My mom would have loved that.
I guess you could alter that sentence to say something about living under that firmament.
I have to say that living “under” one’s mother-in-law doesn’t quite work for me! But I agree that she would have thought the pun with “fundament” quite funny, so please feel free to replace firmament with fundament in all of the above!