This week marked the start of the 33rd year that I have lived without my Mother in Law. Many of you had her as a Latin / French Teacher either in Lafayette or Skanetaeles, NY.
One of her subtle traits was that she could get things done with out anyone knowing that she was doing it or her intent on why she was doing it. Many of my father in laws successes were because she financed them or pushed him to do better.
I loved her early on in my high school career. I was taking a subject (Latin) many thought i was not smart enough for. She was real good at making you feel accountable for your own success. She also made me want to do well. I wanted to make her happy. I wanted to please her even in high school because I equated pleasing with loving. I love her. When I was a senior, she recognized me as someone that should date her oldest son. She arranged our first date. She was a big part of my decision to accept her son’s proposal three years later.
Changing from calling her Mrs. Fesko to Mom was a huge day for me. When I tried to call her MOM, Nancy, my sister in law, caught it and brought "Mrs Fesko's " attention to it. My heart jumped with joy when she smiled. As a family farm, you often marry the whole family. I loved not only my husband, but my Mother-In-Law as well. Four years after our marriage, she asked me one day, a very personal favor:
“If I ever need to be unplugged from life support, will you promise to do that?”
I was in shock and laughed it off lightly. She said,” I AM SERIOUS.” I asked her if there was something I should know? She said, “No. I just know that no one in this family could do it except you.” I returned the strange request with a request in return, “Sure, if you promise to do it for me if I go first.” She nodded with eyes to the floor. She seemed perfectly healthy to me.
Two years later, my mother–in-law had her first breast removed for cancer. Unlike today, survival from that devastating diagnosis was slim. Chemotherapy was abusive and caused violent physiological and mental reactions. Christmas eve, she had been hospitalized in a weakened state. She grabbed my forearm as her two grandchildren (Ben and Kim) crawled around her bed. “You promised!” she said. My heart sank. What could I do that wouldn’t land me in prison? I decided to use my coaching skills and motivate her to make it home. I expressed that she had tons of love to give. That our two children needed her and the one I was expecting in late February also needed to know his grandmother. It worked temporarily.
She came home and took up residence in the living room in a hospital bed. Mom saw her seventh grandchild in late February. For Easter in April, we had a nice family gathering and my Mother-in-law ate a fair amount of food. The delight lasted one hour when everything she had eaten came back up. She thanked me for helping her to throw up. Oh God, the suffering she endured. Her pain level was extremely high and that was difficult to watch. We knew not of hospice and the strategies they offered.
The following Thursday, her husband took her to the emergency room as she was in and out of consciousness. The doctor informed my father-in-law that she had a few hours to live. The doctor then asked if she wanted to go home or stay in the hospital. She answered, “I want to go home”. I didn’t know that all this had happened until a boy that worked for us and lived with my in laws, came up to the farm and gave us the report that, “the doctor said she wouldn't last the day”.
I quickly swaddled my 2 month old son, Todd, and went to be with her. My father in law was holding down the fort but welcomed the suggestion that he go out and dig carrots that had wintered over in the garden. It was April 26th, the first sunny day we had that spring.
In and out of consciousness, she would ask, ”Where’s George?” when she woke up. Then slumber back into a deep sleep, only to wake twenty minutes later with the same question. When she awoke once and realized that it was I next to her, she again said, with a grip to my forearm, ”You promised”.
I realized for the first time in my life that not everyone could stand by a loved one as they die. I was actually angry with my husband that he couldn't come into the living room to see his Mom. "I can't stand to see her suffer." Now I knew why she asked me to unplug her. It was difficult for me to understand that a husband could not stand to be with his wife as she died. Now that I have been with a hundred people as they die, I get it.. It is the exception that a loved one will be with their loved one as they slip away.
Within hours, Mom began the peaceful journey, skipping heart beats and taking ever so shallow breaths. Our two month old, Todd, lay at her side so peaceful. I could feel a lightness in the room. Everything seemed to be without weight. The smell, so sweet .. that of spring daffodils. It was as if someone had opened a window and let in the spring smell. She passed. Mom’s soul had left. The sweet smell left as well.
I tell you this because it takes a great deal of love for a person to ask for mercy. It takes even more love to give the Mercy they ask for. I am certain my mother in law knew something was up, years before she died. My husband also knew "something is going to happen". Rick was a lot like his Mom: blushing easily, feeling tearful compassion for those who suffer and hurting inwardly to equal the pain of those he loved. Both were people of few words but of strong feelings that were felt but not so often expressed.
I have no regrets with either of these lovely people. I thank Mom for bringing Rick and I together. I thank Rick for bringing me into his life. We were a good... no, a great team.
This is a perfect example of the prayer that goes like this: "Those who God has brought together, let no man put asunder."