Some background: My mother-in-law passed away the day after Thanksgiving. My husband is an only child, and she was a single mom. She had been sick for many, many years. She first became ill with a debilitating, auto-immune disease when he was eleven years old. By the time we met, she had been sick for many years. We married while still in college. During our last year, we were on rotations in a local hospital. While doing rounds, a man came up to my husband and introduced himself as my mother-in-law’s pulmonologist. He recognized my husband. He is a blunt man and said he did not understand how my mother-in-law was still alive with her various medical conditions. We were a little taken aback but training in the medical field, not completely surprised.
As the years went on and we started our family, we would pray she would live to see the newest baby. We found out we were expecting again in August with baby number six. At this point, my mother-in-law was still able to visit with us, but we all knew she was not feeling as well. She had not been able to work for a few years, and it had become harder for her to leave the house. I am due shortly before her birthday and was so excited she would have another “birthday buddy” (she was a twin, so she had a built-in birthday buddy). In October she was admitted to the hospital. We were hopeful because she had beat the odds so many times, and this time did not seem as serious. However, there was a nagging feeling in my heart this time around. She spent six weeks on a roller coaster of improving and having setbacks. It started to become evident that this time was much more serious as far as long-term implications a week or so before she passed away. The Monday before she passed, two of her doctors took my husband aside and said that they had one last thing to try but that they only expected it to relieve some of her pain and improve her comfort, but that her body was shutting down. This was a hard thing for any of us to accept – she always bounces back (that is the problem with always and never, isn’t it?).
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we had our “big” ultrasound. Because I am “old” (advanced maternal age) this time around, we had a very in-depth ultrasound that included a 3D picture of our beautiful baby (this is a first for us). We currently have one son and four daughters, with our son being our oldest. During this ultrasound, we found out we are having a beautiful baby BOY. My husband took me home and then drove out to see his mom and to show her the ultrasound pictures and to tell her the name we had picked (I had a feeling years ago we would have one more son someday and had a name from then.). She oohed and aahed over the pictures and was very excited at the news of her second grandson. Turned out, this was her last lucid day on this earth. The next day she lost touch with reality, and by Thanksgiving, she was sleeping and barely able to keep her oxygen levels up even with a machine helping her. Friday the cardiologist talked to my husband and his aunt about signing a DNR and hospice orders so that they could keep her comfortable. She passed away peacefully just before midnight Friday. My husband was at her side, praying the rosary and praying over her. He said it was the most peaceful he had ever seen her and felt so much comfort at the idea that she was no longer in pain.
She was able to spend years sharing her love and wisdom with us and her grandchildren that no medical professional could explain. Her grandchildren knew and loved her and carry her with them in their hearts now. Only the grace of God allowed that and then relieved her suffering when it was time with peace and tranquility.
Last week I was looking for a picture for our Christmas card. I came across a picture we took in July while visiting the Indianapolis Museum of Art. We took it with the plan to enlarge it for my mother-in-law for Christmas. It is a picture of a LOVE sculpture. It was her favorite sculpture. She had representations of it all over her house, including a paperweight that my husband remembered getting in trouble for playing with as a child. (I’m picturing young boy and heavy paperweight banging on coffee table – of course the “details” are foggy for my husband now) Seeing the original picture my husband took and the one he had edited in preparation to enlarge it for her Christmas present started me thinking about what other “love” we are waiting to share with the people around us. (Disclaimer: I am not in any way suggesting that buying presents ahead and saving them is wrong – I do and will continue to do that.)
We are now one week into Advent, our season of preparation and waiting for the birth of our Savior. How am I preparing myself and our family for Jesus’ birth this year? Am I sharing His love with those around us or am I keeping it to myself? I’ve learned each time our family grows that the amount of love in my heart increases. Why, then, do I think I should keep the love of Jesus to myself? We should be spreading His love to everyone we meet, be it the cashier at the grocery store or the person who gives us a dirty look as we walk into a quiet place with our brood of small children. Sometimes a smile can go a long way to soften the hearts of those around us, and it in turn softens our heart by not holding on to that anger. Letting go of our fears and resentment from the past helps us to fill in the valleys and lower the hills to make straight the path into our hearts for the Lord.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”