42 years of better

Two weeks ago my mother-in-law passed away following an 11-month battle with brain cancer.  It’s not easy to talk about how difficult this year has been for us, and JR’s entire family.

I’d rather talk about the first time I met her.  JR and I had been dating for several months, but we were both nervous for the ‘meet the parents’ step.  It didn’t help matters that I’m a very picky eater and she was preparing dinner for us at her home.  I remember her being very kind and welcoming, and eating the best lasagna I’d ever had.  She was so genuinely happy to meet me, and so pleased that JR had brought someone home to meet them.

Two years later, during the fall of our third year of law school, JR spent the semester interning in Vienna, Austria.  My grandfather passed away and I was heartbroken.  It was particularly hard that he was so far away during such a sad time.  The morning of his funeral as I was making the rounds saying hello to family and friends, and I saw JR’s parents approaching me.   I was so touched that they traveled more than 3 hours to be there for me, and for my family.  It spoke volumes of how they cared for me like I was family already, and my grandmother still talks about it to this day.

When we became engaged, JR arranged a surprise party of our closest friends and family to celebrate the occasion.  Judy was full of smiles and gave me the biggest hug.  She told me she was so happy for both of us, but especially for me – she knew how I had been waiting for that moment, and she was truly bursting with happiness for us and so glad to share in our special moment.

JR is the youngest of the family, so you might think she was reluctant to see another woman become his priority.  That wasn’t the case with her – she just made more room in her heart and home for me, and wanted to include me in all of the family functions.  All she ever wanted was more time with us, to know more about what we were doing, so she could proudly share it with everyone she knew.

Her children and her grandchildren were her greatest accomplishments and shared the spot with her husband as the loves of her life.  She was present for the births of all eight of them, including our Abby.  This past April, Judy had brain surgery which we hoped would remove the tumors.  It was a long, hard surgery and her recovery was slow and difficult.  In spite of that, less than 3 weeks later she was in the hospital waiting room the night Abby was born, and one of the first people to hold her several hours later.

My father-in-law spoke so eloquently at her funeral, I was amazed at his poise and strength.  He shared the story of how they met and fell in love and then he said something that will stick with me forever.  He said at their wedding, they vowed to stay together for better and for worse, and that they shared 42 years of better, and only 11 months of worse, and when you looked at it like that, he couldn’t complain.

I’m trying to focus on those positive things, to be grateful for the love she shared and the time we had with her.  We are very thankful that we were able to come home when we did and spend time with her before she passed.  It’s hard though, not to be angry and sad that Abby will miss out on having Judy as a grandmother, that my husband lost his mother, and that the world lost such a caring, beautiful person.  It does not seem fair, but Judy lived a life full of love, and for that we are grateful.

Judy our wedding


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