On Random Reflections

Before moving on to my regular posts, thought I would put together some random thoughts from last week.

Last week, my MIL’s older sister (from Detroit) was visiting her daughter (in Denver). She was able to change her flying date and destination for $15. Unbelievable, so thank you Delta! She arrived in Cincinnati during a snowstorm, so time awarded me by extending my 40-minute drive from the airport to 130 minutes.

As an in-law, I approached dealing with a death in the family with caution. Given only two siblings, I was there for support, but had judge when it was appropriate to give input and when to stay put. If the family was bigger, I can’t imagine even being part of the discussions.

Over the past ten days, I had many thoughts about mother (who passed away in 1987). Being too weak for the 3-hour ride, she never made it to our new home. As we are planning a move in the spring, another mother will not be able to visit a new home.

I cannot recall who told me this great advice many years ago: When a baby is born, don’t forget to ask about the mother. As an in-law, our role is to support our loved ones during grief – and I did – but that doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t heavy and we don’t grieve. So the next time you have a friend lose a parent, also attend to their spouse. That spouse may simply say they are OK, but I’m betting that they are very appreciative.

We didn’t know a church friend worked at Hospice, but my wife saw her when I wasn’t there. I happened to be in the room early Monday morning when she stopped by. As we talked, she quoted something I said to her three years ago after my dad passed away: “My dad had 84 pretty good years with one real bad day at the end – so that’s not too bad.” To think she remembered that shocked me. Well, my MIL lived 1025+ months, so four difficult months isn’t too bad.

That same Monday morning at Hospice, I witnessed wonderful kindness – let’s call them the flower guild. There are two teams: Mondays and Thursdays. On those days, the flower guild volunteers gather donated flowers from florists. At Hospice, the volunteers create bouquets for the patient’s rooms. My SIL and I smiled watching them work while seeing and receiving the results of their efforts – so this Monday, I took some of the funeral flowers to the flower guild.

58 thoughts on “On Random Reflections

  1. Both of my in-laws passed before I really got to know them. I’ll never forget when my wife’s mom went first. I was sitting around, drifting between my wife and her two sisters, not saying anything (’cause I didn’t have a clue WHAT to say, or who to), just getting things like Kleenex and glasses of water. As I went to fetch something, I went past Tamy’s aunt, who was talking to two family friends (strangers to me). Just as I passed by, she leaned i and stage-whispered “That’s Tamy husband, John.” “Oh!”, says one of the strangers. “I didn’t think he was her brother Terry, but he just fit in so well, I figured I forgot what Terry looked like.” (Terry was living in AZ, so he was late getting in, compliments of multiple flights to get to Indiana.) “Yeah, she got a good one”, says the aunt! 8O :)
    Then again, this was the aunt that goosed me at our wedding, and informed Tamy I had a nice backside, so ya gotta consider the source. ;) (I think the term “great old broad” was coined for Aunt Betsy. I loved her from the day I met her – can’t figure out why! :D )

    • John,
      Although you situation was before you got to know them well, your “fitting in well” situation is a good example of the role of an in-law. At least you were forever endeared by Aunt Betsy. ;) Thanks for sharing.

  2. This really resonated with me since as I told you, I lost both my MIL and FIL within 3 months of each other a few years back. It was painful to watch my husband and his siblings go through that, but after over two decades in their lives, I also grieved their passing. They were wonderful people, and I continue to miss them, as I know you will your mother-in-law.

    • Carrie,
      I’m glad to know that our situations were somewhat similar. But wow …. 3 months apart would be difficult. My parents were decades apart … and we hope that doesn’t happen to my FIL. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Dear Frank,
    I am so sorry for your loss, and for Right Angle’s. I just got off the phone with my MIL — 87 and counting. I thought of you as I listened to her woes.

    Something else you said made me understand why we are kindred spirits. John and I have moved often, and all but our first house has seen a death of a loved one. I can say that it does cross my mind when I move — who will not see this place? Who will pass while I live here. I find it haunting and oh so sad.

    Your wife lost a mother, you lost a friend. I am glad you have each other to help you through your respective losses.

    • Elyse,
      At times we think our situations are unique, but lo and behold it has happened to others. Amazing. Although your MIL is 87, I hope she is well other than normal woes. Thanks for your support during these times!

      • Sure thing Frank. And yes, we’ve all been there. John’s mom is doing OK, thanks. She is a hearty soul — grew up in a dirt floor shack near international Falls Minnesota during the depression. Quite a story I imagine, but she doesn’t like to talk about it.

  4. There are many kind people who know how to extend their hearts and hands to those who need the comfort. Mom entered a nursing home early in 2000 after a stroke. Dad joined her there several months later. They roomed together until he died a couple of years later. Some of the nursing staff brought mom and cried their own tears during dads visitation. Upon moms death, they were there again to offer their feelings and support to our family.

    I’m glad your experience with hospice was so positive. People want to help. They make a difference in our lives.

  5. I only have one in-law in my life, my brother-in-law. He’s a great guy; a very kind and compassionate person. He grieved with us when my mom bought her rainbow 14 years ago. Now my elderly dad is in fragile health. My BIL was orphaned two years ago when his mother checked out following an illness. I know that took a toll on him psychologically. As a member of our team who shares immense mutual admiration for my dad and my dad for him, my dad’s health situation weighs heavy on him emotionally. My BIL is always at the ready to pitch in in the care department for my dad when needed. I know people who loathe their in-laws. I feel very lucky with my one. It sounds like Mrs. AFA’s family is very lucky to have you.

  6. I was very close to my mother-in-law and agree with you entirely about the importance of acknowledging that in times of loss the entire family is affected. We were involved with hospice, too, and I will never forget the many kindnesses. I am not at all familiar with anything quite like the flower guild and think that’s just a wonderful way to encourage families going through such a tough period. I hope you will continue to be surrounded by friends who give you the support you are so often good at giving to others, Frank.

    • Debra,
      Watching the flower ladies work was a joy. When I went Monday morning, they were starting to arrive. One lady had a small SUV-load of flowers, so I felt compelled to help unload them. Meanwhile, the family has been good to me … but it has been interesting observing others. Thanks again for your support!

  7. Frank, once again… big open arm mother bear hugs to you and your Mrs., and family. I so totally ‘get’ everything you are relaying during this time, and life’s experience. I had 18 months to ‘prepare’ for my dad’s departure, on a Valentine’s Day. I’m the youngest, but was the foundation for my mom, sister, kids, and grands. It took me a couple of years before I had the time to face my own personal loss. Maybe it was a blessing that I was tending everyone’s needs but my own. A sort of needed detachment, at that time.
    You are a rock, my friend. Kudos. xo

    • Victoria,
      Even with an 18-month preparation, the finality of the ending is still an emotional drain. Here’s to your efforts for being the family rock, but I imagine you had your moments when you were alone. Thanks for sharing.

  8. To share the pain of a loss is always difficult… we fear, in some way, not to be understood.
    The grief of those who remain after a death, is universal. We share it all, without difference: brother, sister, mother-in-law, friend, father…
    A thought then to those who left us, and a prayer that their Minds can find the right “path”…
    The gesture of the volunteers moved me very much… as well as yours, in giving the funeral’s flowers to whom, once again, will take pleasure in their beauty!
    peaceful day dear Frank :-)c

    • Claudine,
      Well said … every situation is different and each person handles grief differently … yet loss is the commonality and as you said, it’s a universal feeling.

      I can’t say enough about those volunteers, and I enjoyed my interaction with them yesterday. Thanks for taking the time to share your wise thoughts.

  9. My deepest condolences Frank. Will the new move be merely within the city, or further away? I had a wild idea about a “round” trip next summer to see John E, you, and possibly even Rants. :)

        • Frank’s the first one I’ve sprung it on, because it’s still blue-sky. John E. found out about it because he was peering over the fence like Tim Allen’s neighbor in Home Improvement. It started when the daughter asked for a Rantswer to the question, “How far would you go to meet a fellow blogger?” and he showed some interest. Rants doesn’t reveal much about his Army side, but from bits of info, I assume Fort Leavenworth, or near KC. That’s a ten-hour drive west of Cinci. Maybe he would come east, and we could drive John west They plan to move him, although he doesn’t say/know(?) how soon. In what may be the last Real trip we can afford, it would be an honor and a coup, to meet not one, but three fellow bloggers.

  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts at this sad time, Frank. I agree with you that it’s amazing how the Hospice lady remembered your words, even after three years. I wonder how many times she has used them to help comfort the bereaved. :)

    • AD,
      No kidding … and I was wondering the same thing about if she used it. To me, the mere thought of that is comforting. Meanwhile, I hope all is well with your MIL at her spray age of 100. I recall the posts about her celebrations … amazing!

      • My MiL is hale and hearty. We spoke to her on Sunday. She’d walked a mile back from the shops so that she could try out the bench which she has recently donated to her village. I’m beginning to think she has drunk from the elixir of eternal life on earth. :) My own mom is doing much better, and was able to go to my sister’s house last Sunday for lunch. All the family were visiting from Johannesburg, and judging by the photos on FB, it was a very special family occasion.

  11. So sorry for your loss. Grief coupled with awkwardness can lend oneself to bottle things up, so I’m glad you felt comfortable to share your thoughts and feelings with us all.

    • Twixt,
      “Bottle things up” is a good description. In my case not from awkwardness, but from balancing the fine line, supporting, and observing the reactions of others. Thanks for the condolences.

      PS: Have your situation cleared a hurdle?

      • Having to be the support when you need support yourself is a tough situation to be in! Be sure you find someone sturdy you can lean on in these times.

        My situation has cleared a hurdle, yes, though the race is far from over. It looks like I’m going to be Stateside until Feb, or possibly even June, but from then onward the roads are clear and sunny. Thanks for asking!

        • Feb or June? Wow … no need to pack! Keep your head up.

          It was a tough situation, but it seems that I’ve cleared the hurdle. Maybe writing back it (though without specifics) helped. Thanks for the support!

  12. Frank, I’m so glad once again that you had such a positive experience with hospice and that you contributed flowers to cheer the living. My husband and I had the great experience of living with his parents for six months when we moved back to the area – I got to know his father much better and got to hear all of the funny family stories every night while he sat in his chair and reminisced. A year later, he passed suddenly and I was ever grateful that we had spent time with him; I felt like I was losing my own father and mourned him deeply. And we still laugh about his stories. So, you’re advice is wonderful – always ask the in-laws how they are doing. BTW, “Father Christmas” was written in tribute to both of our fathers who are now gone, with their photo at the end of the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owV82xO_Prw

    • Lynn,
      Thanks for sharing the wonderful story about your FIL. If he’s still causing smiles today, he did well!!! Cheers! … and I recall Father Christmas … and have bookmarked it again. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Rachael,
      Those flower ladies collect the flowers that florists are willing to donate. The flowers are bad, but have a short life ahead … and these ladies put them to good use.

      After we observed them a week ago, we were in the hall as they were distributing them to the room … and they let us pick! What a joy!!!!

  13. Interesting reflections, Frank. I know what you mean about tending to the spouse. I know my husband grieved when my mother died, and I grieved when his mother died almost two years later. Your flower ladies, for some reason, remind me of when my mother was in hospice and someone (we don’t know who) left a vase full of beautiful sunflowers on the windowsill. Perhaps they had some flower ladies there, too. :)

    • Robin,
      Interesting how flowers are for any occasion. On a side note, each room had a bird feeder outside the window .. of which I imagine is a ministry by a different group of volunteers. Cheers to pleasant memories about your mother and MIL.

  14. Frank, so sorry to hear of your loss. (I’m visiting from Jasmine’s blog). That’s good advice, though, to remember the in-laws and spouses. When a family grieves, it grieves together (all grieve in their own way, of course, but all grieve). I hope the good times and memories will provide consolation for all of you.

    • Debbie,
      Welcome first-time commenter to my little corner of the world. From the Categories in the sidebar, you will notice that this is a very eclectic place. On the About page, the Schedule subpage will also let you know more about my typical schedule (to which I’m in the process of trying to re-establish after a week away).

      The family was very good to me, so no complaints at all, but my message is directed more to those outside a family. Nonetheless, I’m a firm believer in pleasant memories and time serving as a wonderful healer. Thanks for the condolences. :)

  15. How nice there was a bird feeder and flowers. A connection to the world’s beauty when boxed in. It makes a difference.
    Glad to read your posts. Wise words about being a spouse. Been there, too. Best just silently do what you can when asked, be observant, and be considerate enough stay out of the way. I think it’s easier if you’ve already lost a parent or close family member. Difficult time for all.
    Hope some sunshine dances your way to brighten the world a bit. You’re a good person, Frank.

    • Mouse,
      One more thing … there was a television channel showing nature scenes with peaceful music and nature songs in the background. I had in on that Monday morning when I was alone in the room. After all, it was doing me a lot of good, too!

      Just looked out the window, sun is shining and the clouds are moving out after leaving a few inches of snow (which I’ve already shoved). Life is good.

  16. I know exactly what you mean… Also, when I was younger I used to think that a comforting word from a friend – relative [or anyone really], wouldn’t make any difference. But it does and a great deal too. As this is probably the strongest feeling any of us would ever experience [losing a loved one], any support, i know now, helps a lot. Thank you for sharing those thoughts. We lost my FIL [a remarkably kind man] last year and I can relate to those feelings.

  17. Great thoughts on spousal care following an in-law death, Frank. Sara’s mother died before I knew her, but I remember the death, as Sara’s mom was a close friend of my mother’s. It will be painful when Sara’s dad goes. I hate to think about it–though he’s pretty healthy for now.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Kathy,
      Dealing with the moment and looking back is bad enough, let alone thinking ahead. But I know what you mean because all of us cringe with the thought when the phone rings … especially in today’s world of caller ID. Thanks for sharing!

  18. After reading this – if I could reach out & just give you a big ol’ hug – I would.
    I love that your friend remembered what you said about your dad & that you shared that in this post.
    Gosh that last sentence came out awkward. But – I think you know what I mean.

  19. on southwest airlines, it’s free to change a flight as often as you want. and – if the new flight is actually less money – then you get a flight credit. and no baggage fees. and, cool colors. i dig that cornflower blue plane.

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