My mother-in-law passed away 14 years ago. I was thinking about her yesterday (and many times throughout the year of course). Fourteen years ago, she passed away peacefully while being surrounded by all her children and grandchildren. The children who were not with her were on the phone because they were all overseas. We witnessed her last breath. My husband, the youngest child among 10 children, held her hand and my oldest son, the oldest son of the youngest child, held her other hand. It was a moment full of mixed emotions.
I took a video to capture that point in time. I deleted it after everyone watched it because it was too heartbreaking. After she breathed her last, I played Amazing Grace on the CD player. We all sang, cried and prayed at the same time.
It was so heartwrenching but beautiful that I wished that when I die someday, I would die like that… surrounded by all my loved ones and to be able to hear all their voices until I can hear and breath no more.
That day was on 21 April 2007, Saturday, at 4:20 PM. She breathed her last. She was 78 years old. She had 10 children, 26 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren, 8 children-in-law and 8 grandchildren-in-law at that time. What a fruitful life!
This is a very memorable event for me and my family because it was the first time that we went home to our motherland after 7 years since we migrated and became citizens in another country. She requested my husband, her youngest son, to show his youngest son (our babyboy who was 4 at that time), her youngest grandson before she dies. So we went home. We told her we were leaving after 35 days with her. She said no. She wanted us to extend our holiday. So we did. We extended our holiday for 10 more days. In that span of days, she died. We spent 45 days with her on her last days on earth. We have no regrets.
All her children came home during her funeral. It was the first and only time that her children took a complete family photo after 34 years. This is so because someone or many would always be overseas due to work or permanent residency when there were family events. Her passing away united the family.
I wrote my first ever eulogy for her. To date, I wrote more than 10 eulogies.
My mother-in-law exemplified a Proverbs 31 woman.
28 Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
31 Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
My mother-in-law had a lot of outstanding qualities. But let me talk about her from the point of view of a daughter-in-law.
I first met her when my husband, then my boyfriend, introduced me to his family. As what is normal for any new relationships, there will be oppositions. They have the perfect idea or mold of who their youngest brother should be with. And that was not me. Both of our families had lots of oppositions for us being together (especially so that we are both the youngest in our families) due to religion, culture, prejudice, status in life, etc. My mother-in-law said, “You should be thankful that Zenaida likes your brother.” (“Agpasalamat kayo pay ta kinayat ni Zenaida ni ading yu.”) Yes! My other sister-in-law said, “Whoever Os loves, I will love her too.” (“Nu sinno ti ayaten ni Os, isu met ti ayatek.”) Another yes! Hahaha… 2 points! And more points as more family members gave their consent eventually.
Fast forward and we got married. My mother-in-law went to America to stay with her oldest daughter. Even if international calls were expensive at that time, she still called me often. I was teaching then. My husband was in the army. He would come home every 3 months for 10 days only. She thought that was not a good set-up.
She said, “Why, my child. Are you not satisfied with what your husband earns?” (“Apay, nakong. Kurangem kadi ti sweldo ni lakay mo?”) I told her I am. She continued, “Lots and less money will still be enough. Your children are more important. Your husband is not with you for many months and you are in school teaching the whole day, what will happen to your children? The care of the parents for their children is still different.” (“Adu ken bassit ti kwarta ket maiyanay. Ti importante ket dagita annak yu. Awan la garud ni lakay mo ti mano nga bulan, awan ka manen nga agmalmalem. Anya ngayen ti maadal ken kas-ano ti dumakkelan ti annak yu? Duma latta ti panangtarabay ti nagannak iti annak da.”)
I followed her advice. I resigned from my teaching job 2 months before I gave birth to my second son. I stayed at home and took care of my 3 children. I did not work for 13 years. I worked when my youngest was in grade 1. All our three sons grew up to be good young men that their grandma would be proud of.
When my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law visited us in Australia, she gave me lifelong advice for our children and for our family. She talked about life. She taught me about cooking. She talked with all gentleness that only a mother can have. I did not feel offended or felt that I was lacking. She appreciated me for loving and take care of her youngest son (“idek”) and her grandsons.
My mother-in-law had this gentle and loving nature that one wants to emulate. And she is the kind of mother-in-law that I want to emulate. I told my children that when I will be a mother-in-law, I will be like their dad’s mom. I will not be a hindrance to their happiness with their wife. I will stay behind the scenes but help them when needed. I will let them nurture their relationship without intruding.
Also, my mother-in-law had the best and softest white hair that I have touched and combed. I dyed my hair once but now I opted to enjoy my silver highlights. With God’s grace, I can grow old and have white soft hair like my mother-in-law.
One of the reasons why mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law (or sons-in-law) have misunderstandings is because the mother-in-law cannot let go of her child. Let go! Once your child gets married, let them build their own family the way they want it. Do not meddle in how they wash their clothes, cook their food, train their children, etc. Just be the support person. You had your time with your child. Allow him or her to start and build his own family with his chosen partner. Do not badmouth the partner because your child will either agree with you or with the partner. This will cause rift between the in-laws and between the couple. As a mom, you should be the catalyst of love and unity in your child’s family life.
I learned all these from my mother-in-law. Someday, not far off now since my oldest son is engaged, I will be a mother-in-law. I will endeavour to be like my mother-in-law whom my future daughter-in-law will treat like her own mom… because that is how I treated my mother-in-law, the role model of how a mother-in-law should be.
To all mothers-in-law, to all daughters-in-law and to all sons-in-law, love, respect and care for one another. Be nice to one another. Be thankful to your mother-in-law. After all, she gave birth, raised, nurtured and cherished the partner that you have.
Thanks for reading this long and sentimental blog, dear reader.
I pray for love and unity in your own family.
PS. I have permission from my husband to write this blog.
Here are 2 videos (Parts I & II) taken upon our arrival to visit my mother-in-law: