I sat in the back of the funeral home visitation room and watched my son walk with his arm around my husband toward the open casket. My Mother-in-Law was in that casket, kind of looking like she was sleeping from where I was. Like most good introverts, I keep my emotions hidden. This is a trait I shared with my mother-in-law. As I thought about her, and watched my son comforting my husband, I tensed every muscle in my body to prevent any tears from flowing. I was going to walk up to the casket with my husband, even though I’m not comfortable with viewings, but my son had him. So, I sat on a small bench in the back of the room and stared forward, looking at the small part of her profile that I could see, and I thought about the first time I met her.
I had been dating Chris for about three months when he took me to meet his parents. My stomach was in knots during the three-hour drive to their house. All I knew about them was that they were very Catholic. Here I was, your friendly neighborhood, divorced single mom, atheist showing up at their door. I was certain that they would hate me.
They were very welcoming and nice. Still, I was waiting for them to pull Chris aside and tell him to find someone else. We had sandwiches for lunch, and Chris excused himself to use the restroom. While he was gone, my not yet mother-in-law gave me a tour of the house and showed me all of the stained glass she had made. At this time, she still had a studio in a guest bedroom where she made angel figurines, miniature houses and framed pieces. As we were walking around the house, I was still nervous.
She stopped in front of a framed stained glass picture of a crane (I think). This picture happened to be in front of the bathroom where my future husband was. As he likes to point out, this bathroom has “no fart fan.” So, he could hear our conversation as he tried to, well, complete the task at hand. My not yet mother-in-law, turned to me with a serious look on her face. “Oh, no,” I thought. I braced myself for her to tell me that I wasn’t good enough for her son. Instead, she told me that she really liked that I made her son happy, and she welcomed me to the family. Then, she hugged me. I was shocked, and so was Chris, who was hearing all of this while still in the bathroom.
My mother-in-law was always very nice to me and to my son. She insisted that I call her mom. She treated my son the same as all of her other grandchildren. She never failed to give him cards, cash or presents on Christmas and his birthday. She hated the word “step.” So does my husband. My son has never been a stepchild or step grandchild. I feel lucky to have known my mother-in-law, and lucky to have my husband, who obviously learned a lot from his wonderful mother.